There is nothing faster than a teacher’s summer vacation. We just head giddily out the doors of our classrooms and then, before we know it, we’re back in, setting up our bulletin boards and planning our first day and week activities.
If you’re a high school teacher like me, the first day is fast and furious. We’re giving out lockers and schedules and whatever forms the admin has decided we must add this year. On top of all that, we need to introduce our courses to our new students while setting the tone for what’s to come. It’s exhausting just thinking about it!
Today, I’d like to share some ideas for ways you can handle all of this in a way that will keep you organized and will make your students excited to meet you on the first day.
Call me crazy, but I like to put a whole lot more effort into my students than all the administrivia. It’s the first day of a whole semester where these students will become “my kids”. Many will spend more time with me than they do with their parents every day. Because of this, I want the day to be a special one, one that is more than me droning on at the front of the room about my syllabus and my rules and regulations. If it’s last period in the day, my students will have sat in three other classes already, listening to three other teachers drone on about the same stuff — just after coming back from two months of vacation! Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?
Last year I used this free getting to know you activity, and it worked really well, but this year I’m kicking it up a notch. After a successful year of using learning stations in my classroom (and a customer request), I decided to create some stations that will get the first day jobs done in a far more effective and interesting manner.
One station focuses on the syllabus in a way that makes it more likely they might actually read it! One option at this station has them answer questions after reading a copy of it; the other has them use this sheet (and another) to create their own version of the information.
Other stations have students talking with and getting to know each other, as well as giving you some information that will help you get to know them.
My favourite stations, though, are the Classroom Expectations and the Making Suggestions Stations. These allow students to have a voice in the creation of a classroom code of conduct and to make suggestions for the class, based on activities and assignments they’ve enjoyed in the past.
At the end of the period, the students will still come away with all of the same information that they would have if I’d been in droning mode. They will have had a chance to move and talk and think, and I will have been walking around among groups, chatting and getting to know them better. Sounds like a great plan to me!
OK. As much as I’d like to ignore the adminsirivia, I can’t and neither can you. However, you can do a few things to not only keep it all organized, but also spend less time on it with your students.
We always have multiple forms to give our homeroom students: schedules, demographic info, technology consent forms, etc. I used to pass these out one at a time, but now, the day before, I make make a pile for each student, with each form stapled together. This serves two purposes: I only have to pass one thing to each student and, because they are all stapled together, they can hand the pile to their parent or guardian to get signed at once – and hopefully return them back to me intact. You can also add a little incentive to this task: return the forms tomorrow and you get a candy treat!
Another thing I do to save time – usually later in the first week – is open a new mail message and have students come to my desk one at a time to type in their (or their parent’s email address). After class, I will type up a welcome message to send to everyone, with a link to my digital syllabus and class website.
I hope some of these ideas will save you time and help you have an amazing start to your semester! If you have any tips to share, please do so in the comments!