Tips For Start Of The School Year For Teachers

Start of School Guide

The First Two Weeks Of School

The first two weeks of a school year is chaotic, at times, a weighs a great deal on teachers and students alike. Here are a number of things you can do to make your year start off right:

1. Talk to your friends and family - Make sure that they are aware that you will be very busy during this time.

2. Don't Panic, Plan-it - If you plan well, every thing should fall into place. Just make sure your plans cover all variables.

3. Create a Checklist - Write down everything you need to do to have a successful first time weeks. Work your way down the list.

4. Get Your Room/Space Ready to go! - Do this days before students come in.

5. Self Reflect - Ask yourself "Are the kids going to like this lesson." Make revisions until you find a format that is both educational and engaging.

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Teaching Idea

"Parent Rolodex"
Theresa, Grade 7 Science Teacher

"On the first day of school (for homework), I assign the students to come to school the next day with all the information I would need for them (parent names, address, home phone, work phones, e-mail addresses, etc.). The next day I hand out a blank index card to each child. I walk them through each line to fill in the card. I also have them include their homeroom number and their birthdays. I then collect them alphabetically and place them in different sections on my rolodex for each class. I always have my student's contact information close ate hand. I am also able to easily find a student's homeroom. I use the birthdays to makes a monthly chart of birthdays for the month. It works so well the other teachers on my team come in to get the information."

Teaching Idea

"How Many Marbles?"
Tara, Grade 2 Teacher: Lexington, KY

I always start the first day off with my half day marble activity. I put a jar of over 100 marbles in front of the class and ask them to guess how many marbles are in the jar. After they guess, we ask them to write a short description of why they think there is that many marbles. The student who comes closest, I usually give a prize to.

Teaching Idea

Breaking the Ice
7th Grade Language Teacher: Portland, Oregon

Find 5-10 really interesting pictures or posters about 8"x10" in size. Laminate the pictures and then cut them into 4 equal pieces. Depending on how many students you have in your class, pick out the number of pictures that you need to equally distribute each piece to all students. For example, if you have 20 students, you will need 5 pictures which will yield 20 pieces. Shuffle the pieces and then randomly hand each student a piece. Ask the students to find the other pieces to complete the puzzle. It's a great ice breaker; it gets students to interact!

Teaching Idea

Informal Survey
5th Grade Teacher: Poughkeepsie, NY

Create an informal survey polling your students interests, i.e., favorite subjects, favorite hobbies, number of family members, cultural background,etc. Collect responses and use findings to create a frequency distribution leading to percentages, etc. Show students the similarities and celebrate the differences. It's a great way to get to know your students and share the knowledge with the whole class. It's also a great way to introduce a mathematics lesson.

Teaching Idea

Getting Organized
High School Teacher: Montreal, Canada

Set the tone on the first day by giving your students ways to stay organized during the year. Give them an organized plan that helps them to keep track of assignments, projects, responsibilities. Also give them a list of resources that they can access and use that can help them with any of the assignments, etc. It's also important to give them a way to get in touch with you if they need to; an ideal way to do this is through e-mail.

Teaching Idea

Opening Day Book Sharing
3rd Grade Teacher: Bangor, Maine

On the first day of school, share your love for reading by describing some of your favorite books with your students. Ask them to share their favorite books. Tell students that you will reserve a special place in the classroom that will feature favorite books and that these books can be shared with everyone. The books are for classroom use only to prevent lose, or damage. This can be done every month or every quarter. Introducing it on the first day of school sets the tone and emphasize the importance of reading.

Teaching Idea

David: Philadelphia, PA

"Each day as students enter my classroom, I greet them with a smile and their name. After the daily morning announcements I mention some type of positive comment regarding just about anything in their day so far, and looking around at the students say "Good morning class." The children are accustomed to responding with a good morning message. It is amazing how these 2 simple things work."

Teaching Idea

"Sizing Them Up For Cooperative Learning"
April Mason, 4th Grade Teacher: Canton, Ohio

"During the first week of school, I don't start teaching any content. I begin by playing educational games with my students and this helps me understand their skills. On Friday of the first week, I sit down and write a list of the level of students' preparation for my style of teaching. I assign number one on the list being the student who is the most prepared for my class and number 27 being the student who is the least prepared. You'll notice I purposely just base this list on what I observed in a week's time. I don't take what past teachers have said, just what I personally have seen. I then take this list and break it into three columns. Let's say I have 27 students: I assign number 1-9 in column one, number 10-18 in column two, and number 19-27. I then read straight across the list to determine the cooperative groups for the year. #1, #10, and #19 work together.

For some reason, the five years I have been doing this always works for all classes."

Teaching Idea

"Give Me A Foot!"
Kelli, Pre-K Teacher: Dover, MD

Each child traces their foot, cuts it out, decorates it, and puts their name on it. On the bulletin board are several tasks listed on a chart. I attach the feet to the board in a random order, so that you can't see the name. This decides the jobs for that week.

Teaching Idea

"Notebook Requirement"
Professor Jim Nichols, Chair El Ed: Nyack College, NY


All students must maintain a three-ring loose-leaf binder, which will be brought to class daily, unless the teacher specifies otherwise.

This notebook may be used for all classes. However, the notebook must have a separate section for social studies or language arts materials. The social studies/language arts sections must be subdivided in a logical fashion, i.e., thematic or historical units (Grammar or Civil War) in order to make it easy to locate information.

Each notebook must contain an organizational system such as a table of contents or content journal as determined by the teacher. Pages need to be numbered and dated in sequence. Dates, topics, and page numbers must be included in your organizational system.

The notebook will be checked on a monthly basis. Students will be given a notebook grade at least once per marking period. The notebook grade will be the equivalent to one test grade. This grade will assess organizational skills, neatness, completeness, and appropriate implementation of notetaking/notemaking skills, i.e., the process of learning.

Students will be administered at least one open notebook test per marking period. This test is to impress upon students the importance of up to date, well written, properly organized notes as a critical element of success as a student. This grade will measure content understanding, i.e. the product of the learning process.

This requirement has dramatically improved student study skills and grades in the 20+ years it has been used.

Teaching Idea

Beginning of the Year Paperwork
Karen Lawrence, Middle School Math Teacher

"When you receive all the paperwork back from your parents at the beginning of the year, make a file folder with a copy of the form stapled to the front and a copy of the class roster stapled just inside the front cover. When that form comes back, you can file it in the correct folder or (for the older more responsible students) have a student responsible for collecting the paper for that particular folder. All you have to do then is check off each individual's name. It's easy to tell who hasn't turned in what and to keep up with it all."

Teaching Idea

"Opening Day"
Jason Beggs, High School English Teacher

"The first thing I do with my English classes (that is on the first day of school) is a cooperative learning activity. First, ask students to individually write out a brief definition of the word "expectation". After 30 seconds they must share this with a partner and come to some agreement. Then I call on them at random to share the definition. We then check this with a dictionary. Afterwards, I line them up across the front of the room by either birthday, or height, or by how far away they live from the school (this also works as a good ice breaker for the students) I then count off groups of four and have them sit together. Each is assigned a role to play (a recorder, a materials manager, a referee, and a presenter). I then ask them to make a list of their expectations of "ME" as their English teacher and what things the expect me to do with and for them this year. Students must keep the list on chart paper. This takes time...You may get a bit of "no homework!" but kids usually get down to business and you get to know who the possibly challenging students are right away. After 5-10 minutes stop the activity and share each list aloud with the teacher keeping a "master" list on the board. This gives you an opportunity to get their voices heard, and anticipate any problems which may occur, and possibly avert them. Discuss this with your my experience it can easily eat up a full class period. Let it...because tomorrow's lesson is all yours...when the teacher lists their expectations of the students. 9 times out of 10 if you respect their expectations of you and allow them some input, you will have less problems throughout the year when you review your expectations of them."

Teaching Idea

"Start Your Day With Joy !"
Nell Clark, Computer Teacher

"Start your classroom rules with:1. With Enter the room with a smile.

Discuss how important it is to spread joy and it starts with them.Take pictures of your students smiling.Select different students weekly that are smiling and display them in an area of the hall.Donot tell them who will be selected as "Students of Joy!" for the week. Include classroom behavior for the month and smile before displaying their picture.You may also have other students take pictures if you have a digital camera."

Teaching Idea

First Day Bingo
Heidi Riche: Grade 6 Teacher

"I always start of the beginning of the year with first day bingo. I create general knowledge cards for my grade level. I also include a lot of current events from the summer. Another fun bingo idea is to give students a blank bingo card and have them travel the room to get the signature of every student in the class. The teacher then pulls the names of the students from the bingo hat. I usually use homework passes as prizes. Students really enjoy this activity."

Teaching Idea

Draw Yourself On The First Day
Milton Rays, 4th Grade Teacher

"On the first day of school I always play "Draw Yourself" with the kids. It serves as a great ice breaker. I have students draw themselves. I collect all papers and post them at the front of the room. Students the try to identify who was the artist for each picture. The activity also helps you get an instant sense of each students self concept and work ethic."

Teaching Idea

Getting To Know You Activity
Helen Myers, Teacher

"Just thought I would take the time to share a first day of school activity. It can be done with just about any grade level on the first day of school. I cut out pictures from a magazine / newspaper of someone or something famous that all the kids at that age know. I have students come up to the front of the room and tell the class one thing they did that was interesting over summer. As they are speaking, I tape the picture to their back.

When everyone is done speaking, students look at each other's pictures and can ask one yes/no question to each student. We then reconvene and each student tries to guess who is on their back. It's a quick and painless way to have the class feel comfortable with one another."

Teaching Idea

Two True - One False Game
Pamela Evenson, Teacher

"This is a game I like to play as soon as I get a new class. Break students into groups of 5 to 6. Each one in the group must make three statements about themselves. Two of the statements are true and one is false. The group has to agree on which one is false. It can be done as an entire class as well, but it does use up a tremendous amount of time in that fashion."

Teaching Idea

First Day Of School
Tory Benson, Coordinator of Teaching and Learning

"To help make the first day of a new school year a little easier and a bit more fun, I play a game of pass the parcel with the class. With each layer that is unwrapped there is a note with a question. The child who unwrapped that layer reads the question aloud and then answers it. I have found that this is a fun, non threatening way for the students to get to know their class mates. The final layer is unwrapped to reveal a treat for the whole class to share. This provides the springboard to then have a discussion about class expectations / rules."

Teaching Idea

First Day and Picture Roster
Kathryn D. Hawley, Teacher

"Teaching in a High School and having over 160 students in my classes and over 125 teachers and staff, learning names can be a nightmare. Each year I buy a Yearbook. It is not only a way to support your school but a great source for names! During the summer I copy the pages with pictures of Freshmen, Sophomores, Juniors and Staff. When I get my roster I cut out the pictures and arrange them by class, guidance, athletics and offices.

As I greet the students the first day, I am able to refer to my "Picture Roster". Imagine their amazement when I already know most of their names. Usually I have 75% of their pictures. The first day we take digital pictures for a "Class Poster" so everyone can get to know each other. This is put on the wall and stays there for the year! Then I take the pictures of students I didn't know and add their pictures to my picture roster.

When finished this stays at my desk and is a great reference for a substitute or anyone visiting the class! If I have to go to guidance or the office I take a quick glance at the pictures. Everyone is flattered that I remembered their names. All this takes about four hours. There is no way I could learn over 250 names in four hours.

HINT: Every year invest in a yearbook. It supports your school and at the end of the year the students are extremely pleased when they ask me to sign their yearbook and I say "Only if you will sign mine!" The smiles are so rewarding and well worth the money spent for a yearbook! Hope this helps! "

Teaching Idea

Digital Roster
Jared Rodgers, North Jakarta International School

"In the first week of school, we organize to have digital photos taken of every student in the school. This can be done in the computer classes, in the homeroom class or by the counselor. These digital photos are then saved with this first and last name of the student and then organized based on homeroom class. After the completion of these folders of pictures they can be stored on the school's Intranet for later access. They can also be printed in a contact sheet in Microsoft XP's Photo Printing Wizard, with 25 - 35 pictures fitting on one page. This is a wonderful resource for specialist teachers who teach hundreds of students and great for substitutes.

We have also taken these photos and placed them in a Word document chart with a big blank space to the right of each picture. These documents can then be printed for use by the classroom teacher for running records and observations in class. I personally use these charts on a clipboard and write observations about student behavior and progress as I am helping the students. We store these templates on the school's Intranet as well. The blank space on the Word document chart can be filled in with indicators to make a checklist for use during a lab or activity. I find the blank charts or the one with indicators extremely valuable when I am writing report cards or preparing for a parent conference.

This is a big project depending on the size of the school; however, even our headmaster and admission's office has used these contact sheets of pictures as a reference. The uses of this resource are varied, but it all starts with the initial effort of taking the student's picture. In fact, it is a great way of making a connection with each student in the school."

Teaching Idea

Getting it "Write" the first time
Allison Shore, Teacher

"Last year, I made a great discovery. On the first day of class, I have students write a 3-4 paragraph writing sample on a what they did this summer. When I reviewed these samples, I learned more about each and every students' talents, weaknesses, goals and ambitions than I ever have before. To me, this is one of the best ways to get to know your students quickly on all levels.

On the day that followed, I went around the room and told all of the students briefly what each individual student did for the summer. This helped create a bond and really helped kick off the year on a positive note. I would highly encourage using this technique."

Teaching Idea

Photos for Posterity
4th Grade Teacher: Sarasota, FL

On the first day of school, have a camera available to take photos of each student as well as the whole class. Tell students that you will have the photos developed within two days. Paste the developed photos on colored paper leaving room for students to write underneath photo or on the side. Use this activity to get students to describe who they are, interests, birth dates, etc. Tack the finished products on a bulletin board. After the first quarter, remove the products and store them for the end of the year. During the last week of school, repeat the process and then get students to compare the new product with their original listing any noticeable changes!