First Things First On the First Day of School

I have this theory about the first day of school, and for the last twenty-two years, it has proven correct.  My theory is my students walk in the door in the first few minutes is an absolutely scientific indicator of how my entire year is going to go.  

I have had more than my share of years where a handful of fifth graders walk in with a little smirk and a jaunty step calling out, "Yo, dude! Sup?!" to their buddies across the room.  High fives and loud laughter ensue, as I think to myself...Oh boy, here we go.  Now I must admit that some of those students did turn out to be my favorites (secretly, of course), because I do have a special place in my heart for the mischievous fifth grade boy with a sense of humor.  But those years inevitably require much more effort in the management department.  

The other (usually preferable) scenario is this...the students walk in quietly, look around shyly, and seem a little bit frightened to be entering fifth grade.  Of course, I try to immediately put them at ease and welcome them to my room, but those years do tend to require less of me as the disciplinarian.  

Either way, I am always glad to get the first day of school under my belt.  I am at least as nervous, if not more nervous, than the students.  I don't know why, because I have yet to have a class I couldn't handle and ultimately love.  I guess it's the fear of the unknown, the source of all my summertime dreams (nightmares?) where I am standing in front of a classroom of kids who could care less what I am saying or doing to try to keep them under wraps.  It just takes me a day or two to feel better, to know what they are going to throw my way, even if it's a chair!  At least I know what to prepare for each day.  

For as long as I can remember I have started my first day of school in the same way.  At the end of the previous year, I have my students write a letter to a student who will be in my classroom the next year.  It is a great way for them to review what fifth grade has been like for them.  Feel free to grab this great freebie to use at the end of this year!

So, when my new students walk in on the first day of school I have a welcome letter on their desk telling them to read the letter from last year's student.  Then I direct them to do some sort of writing activity, thoughts, feelings, questions about the first day.  Below is my latest version of this First Day Welcome Warm Up, and you can grab that for free as well!  I also include a version that does not mention reading a letter from last year's student (since you may not have done that yet!).

After the students arrive, do their warm up, and I take attendance and lunch count, I play the Name Game.  With this simple game, I am able to learn all the students names in a manner of minutes, and they are able to learn each other's names as well.  

1. Have the entire class (including you) sit in a circle.  

2. Tell the students that you are going to play the name game which will help all of you to learn each other’s names.  

3. Explain that the first person to begin will be the student sitting immediately to your left.  That student will simply say, “Hi, my name is ___.”  (I don’t do last names, because it’s too hard!)

4. The student to that person’s left will go next.  He/she will say, “Hi, my name is ___, and this is ___.”  At that point he/she repeats the name of the person that came before him/her. 

5. The next student will say, “Hi, my name is ___, and this is ___ and ___ (naming the two people that already went).”

6. At this point, the students toward the end of the circle realize they have to name everyone that came before them!  I always assure everyone that we will help them out if they need it, and I am going to go last.  So, I have the hardest spot in the game.  By the time the students' names have been repeated 30 times, I know them all by heart!

Find the Name Game and more activities in my First Week of School Activities set.

Check out all the free printables and tips at the Teaching Heart Tuesday Link-Up!

Teaching Heart Blog

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