I know what you’re probably thinking. “I’m still on summer vacation!”, and you’re right, but if you’re anything like me, the first day of school can give you nightmares.
Now, if you don’t already know, I’ve taught a wide variety of students at different grade levels and ages. I’ve taught most grades between 6-12 at one point or another throught my 6 years of teaching.
I know that I’m definitely not a veteran teacher by any means, but I’ve learned a few things during my time in the classroom.
My piece of advice about the first day of school: DON’T READ THE SYLLABUS!
I did this my first few years of teaching and reflecting back I feel so sorry for my students. At the time I was just doing what I thought was normal, and you know what? I was right. The students would come in, (There would always be a little bit of chaos as they tried to find their assigned seat) from there I would hand out my syllabus, and I would read it to them AND if I was feeling super innovative I would ask students to read it to the class.
This would ways leave me with so much time left at the end of class that I wouldn’t know what to do with my students. (During ny first few years of teaching I struggled to figure out my pacing, but it’s all good now.)
This was my norm for the first two years and I was just dying (not literally), but it definitely set the tone for my students. They would always expect class to be mundane, and every day the same, and I felt like a lot of them would set their mind on autopilot.
After searching high and low one year for an idea, and idea, of what to do on the first day of school it finally came to me — group work!
Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that I hate icebreaker activities where you have to go around and say something that you like that has the same letter as your name, or come up with two truths and a lie, or anything else you could think of. I figured that I was scared and felt like I was in survival mode so maybe my students felt the same way.
I came up with a survival game for the first day, and it’s what I’ve been using ever since it was born via PowerPoint.
I break my students up into groups, I hand each student a list of supplies (all students have the same list) and they, in their group, have to decide what is the most important to surviving in the Sonoran Desert.
I have to admit, I was pretty nervous the first time I did this, I mean, this could have gone either way in my eyes, but to my surprise it worked! The students are loved it!
This type of activity gave my students the opportunity to engage with each other after a long summer break, and it also showed me who my leaders and strong personalities were, and who my more quiet voices were. This worked, because it wasn’t a threatening environment, it was fun, and they truly enjoyed working together.
After the students were done organizing their list of 18 items we discussed what they “used” and “didn’t use” while being stuck in the desert. This was a great ice breaker because after each group had shared their picks our classroom discussion drifted into a deep thoughtful talk about perspectives. It was really cool to see students reach that level of discussion on THE FIRST DAY!
For this upcoming school year I’ve been mulling over what to do. I thought about switching from this activity to something else, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Will I switch eventually? Most likely. As for right now, I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.
Thanks for checking out my blog. To see what activity I’m talking about click here.
Have a great day and rememeber, be you, be confident, be amazing!