Everyone has their own unique way to start the school year but as I was told on my first day as a teacher some of the best ideas are ones you “borrow” from others with more experience. My first thought was are you sure it’s OK yo use someone else’s ideas? Well it turns out that as long as you give credit where credit is due the person you “borrowed” from will be nothing but flattered. With that in mind here are some ways that teachers across the country are starting their first days of school.
Class-Created Puzzles: Using a large piece of tagboard, I draw as many puzzle pieces as I have students, plus one for myself. I number them on the back and cut them out. I have students decorate their pieces with their names, pictures, and words. We share these as a group and then reassemble the puzzle on a bulletin board to symbolize the importance of each individual’s contribution to the class as a whole. Ellaine Barthelemy, Apple Valley, MN
“I CAN’T” Funeral: A great first day activity is the “I Can’t Funeral”. Distribute a small piece of paper to each student for them to write at least one thing they think they cannot do academically. Such as “I can’t do word problems,” or “I can’t read well.” Collect the papers, place them in a shoe box or paper bag, and bury it in the school yard. Or bury it away somewhere in your school or classroom to pull out at the end of the year. Have a simple service with appropriate words such as “Today, we bury our can’ts. We will miss them terribly but we will learn to live without them”. Nadine Poper
True or False: This activity is always fun, and we all learn something interesting about one another! I start. I write four facts about myself on an overhead transparency. Three of the facts are true, and one is false. Students take my little true-false test. Then I survey students to learn the results. We go back over each question to see what they thought about each statement. That gives me a chance to tell a little about me. Then, on a sheet of paper, students write three interesting facts about themselves that are true and one that is false. Throughout the day, I ask a few students to try to stump the rest of us.
Tony Stuart, grades 4 and 5, Lanark, Ontario, Canada
Let’s Hear It! I believe students are more interested in school when they have a hand in their own learning. I ask my sophomores to write a few paragraphs explaining what they would like to get out of my American government class. If they could teach the class themselves, how would they make it more interesting and what would they avoid doing? Patty McKenna, The Benjamin School; North Palm Beach, Florida
Jump Into Science: This activity is intended to get high school science students thinking about the scientific process — what is the issue or problem, what do we know, what do we need to know. etc. — and to assess what areas of the curriculum are familiar to them. Issue texts, group students, and provide the following activity: Invite students to scan the first chapter of their text — or the Table of Contents, which introduces major areas typically covered in the course. As a group, select a topic or related issue. Is this a controversial issue? That is, is there an ongoing debate related to it? Identify what you as a group know about this topic or issue. Determine what facts or information you as a group would like to know about this topic or issue. How would you go about answering the questions that you have just raised? Discuss in what way(s) this issue is relevant to you? After about 20 minutes, I stop the discussion and invite each group to share its responses. Alan Sills, West Essex Regional High School; North Caldwell, New Jersey