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Know your class through English

Like other "first days" in your life, your first day as a teacher in your own classroom will have you feeling excited and anxious in equal measures. Don't worry too much, though; even experienced teachers feel anxious about facing new students at the beginning of each school year. Just take a deep breath, look around your newly decorated classroom, double-check those lessons plans, and remind yourself of all you've done to get the year off to a successful start. These September start up tips will help you make a positive first impression.

  • Arrive early.
  • Write your name on the board so students can learn it right away.
  • Have a fun activity laid out on each student's desk so students can become engaged as they settle in. For key stage one, try dot-to-dot, matching, or drawing activities. For key stage two, consider an easy writing activity or word search game. These activities are an easy, comfortable way to start the day.
  • Greet students at the door with a smile and a pleasant "Good morning!"
  • Invite students to find their desk or table as soon as they arrive. They can wait to explore the classroom. This helps you create a good working climate right away.
  • Do some fun ice breaker activities to put everyone at ease. For older students, consider creating a class dictionary. Students write a three-part definition of themselves that includes physical characteristics, personality traits, and favourite hobbies or interests. Definitions could also include a pronunciation key to first and last names. Be sure to write a definition for yourself and then host a guessing game. For younger students, give each child a chance to share the story of a favourite experience or why they are excited about starting school.
  • Read a funny first-day-of-school story or a book about making and being a good friend to create a pleasant mood and ease students' fears and anxieties.
  • Introduce the important features of the room and the school with a tour or scavenger hunt.
  • Present the most important classroom routines in a positive way, as you would a regular lesson. Explain, discuss, and give students a chance to practice such routines and opening-of-day exercises.
  • Work with students to develop classroom rules.
  • Post a general schedule for lunch, music, physical education, recess, and class work. Emphasize and teach the routines that will help students move into these periods quickly and efficiently. Remember, they won't learn it all in a day. So, continue to emphasize and practice classroom routines for the first few weeks.
  • Post a daily schedule stating academic goals for the day. Note interruptions in the daily schedule, such as class pictures, programs, assemblies, or guest speakers.
  • Begin with simple academic activities—short reviews that guarantee a high success rate. These will boost confidence and ease fears. And they can serve as trial runs for practicing such routines as turning in completed work or asking for assistance.
  • Monitor and maintain constant contact with students. Avoid spending time on clerical work the first day. And never leave students unattended. In an emergency, get another teacher or school adult to monitor students.
  • Deal promptly with behaviour problems. Offer a lot of positive reinforcement for students picking up on routines quickly.
  • Generate interest and enthusiasm by hinting at exciting new topics you plan to begin later in the week.
  • Issue books and discuss their care.
  • Take students on a tour of the classroom and explain what is in all the cabinets and drawers. Show them what is accessible and what is off limits. Areas in which students will work independently, such as a listening centre, should remain off limits until you've had a chance to fully explain the purpose of the area and model how students will use it.

Overall, you'll make a good impression if your first-day activities involve all your students in ways that allow them to be successful and for you to be seen as a caring, organised leader who is focused on creating a stimulating and cooperative environment.

Create a Class Jigsaw Puzzle

Use a large piece of board to create a jigsaw puzzle that has as many pieces as she has students, plus one piece for you. Number each puzzle piece on the back, cuts them out, and distribute them to students on the first day of school. They could decorate their pieces with their names, pictures, and words. After sharing these as a group, reassemble the puzzle on a bulletin board to symbolize the importance of each individual's contribution to the class as a whole.

Play the Silly Name Game

On the first day, gather the children in a circle. Go around the circle and have each child pick a word to go with his or her name (either rhyming or beginning with the same letter as the name). Each child must say his or her name and repeat the names that came before ("I am Marshmallow Megan and that was Willowy Wendy and Soccer Sally and Jumping Jimmy..."). It's a fun way for young children to get to know one another and learn everybody's name.

Show-and-Tell in a Bag

Write your students a letter in which you introduce yourself and describe some of the exciting activities your class will be doing during the school year. Also give them a paper bag and ask each student to fill it with four or five items that are of some significance, perhaps a photo, an item from a collection, a souvenir from a trip, or a sports memento. In the first week of school, all sit together and open up the bags to show each other something about yourselves.

Guess Who?

On the first day, have students write three unique facts about themselves, such as a pet's name, favourite sport, talent, and so on. Collect the papers and read a description aloud to the class. The students then guess to whom you’re referring. Continue until all the descriptions have been read, including your own.

Two Truths, One Lie

Ask the children to tell the two wildest facts about themselves and one wild, but untrue fact. It is up to the class to guess which fact is untrue. For example, I water-ski frequently. I used to have pink hair. I love the Jonas Brothers. It's then up to the rest of the class to choose which "fact" is really fiction!

Detective Partners

Students are to pair up in groups of two and each group receives a sheet with pictures of a haunted house, music shop, school, supermarket, etc. There is also a circle by each picture. All around the classroom are the same pictures larger with an envelope located beneath. Inside the envelope are strips of paper with a problem on it. The groups have to take a strip and solve it before the other groups. When they solve it, they must come and check to see if it is correct. If it's correct, place a sticker in the circle by the picture that they solved. The first group to receive all 6 stickers win. They receive a certificate for becoming detectives! It's a good way to get to know each other in the process and become familiar with the new classroom.

Classroom Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt the Class and Classroom. Pairs of children are given a list of questions about their class and classroom to answer. First most accurate sheet wins. Some examples are: How many children are in this class? How many girls/boys are there? How many dictionaries are in the room? Where are the games kept? Where can you find a sharp pencil? This activity helps the children get to know each other and their new classroom.

Back to School Time Capsule

Each child completes their own ‘All About Me Poster’ including their favourite colour, book, television programme, sport, animal, school subject, etc. One the children have each completed it, they fold it up and seal it and it goes in a box labelled Time Capsule. In May, the children compete the same form and then they open the one from September and compare their answers. To their surprise many things have changed over the course of eight months. They even notice a difference in their handwriting.

The Scoop on My Summer

In the centre of a board put a large scoop of ice cream on top of a sugar cone which is easily made from construction paper !The title of the interactive board is "The Scoop on My Summer." Place photos from your holidays, summer hobbies, summer discoveries and such on the large centre ice cream cone with labels describing the summer activities. Then involve students on the first days of school by having them complete a smaller version of the cone that has 3-4 scoops of ice cream on their individual paper cut cones for them to list what they did over summer holidays. This enables students to get to know you as a real person and helps the students learn about one another as an introductory activity.

Friendship Web

Everyone sits in a circle and start with a ball of yarn. Say your name and an interesting fact and then throw the yarn to a friend. When the friend catches the yarn, he/she states his/her name and fact then throws it to another friend. It is a great way for everyone to get to know each other. Tell all the children we are building a friendship class web where we are always here to help each other.

One more thing to keep in mind: Getting-acquainted activities aren't just for the first day of school. Experienced teachers recommend sprinkling these types of icebreaker and welcome back activities throughout the first week of school. They know it's the quickest route to building a strong class community.