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First Days of School – From a Middle School English Teacher
We’ve hit the second half of July, and it’s almost time. Teachers everywhere are starting to slowly work themselves into back to school mode and beginning to think about what they will do in those important first days of school. For a middle school teacher, those days are a time for setting the mood for the rest of the year. I don’t really prescribe to the school of thought that I need to spend the first days of school acting like a tyrant and then slowly relaxing my iron grip, but I do think it is important to let my students know a bit about me and a good deal about what I expect from them for the year.
First Days of School – Getting to Know You
I use multiple getting to know you exercises during the first days of school. I begin each and every class by having my students complete this All About Me sheet. I then collect them, read them, and display them in my room or in the stairwell outside of my room. It is a fun, low-risk activity that gets students prepared to open up a little and share more about who they are.
I also have them decorate these cute little books (Freebies on my TPT) with the title of their favorite book. I hang these on a bulletin board or around my classroom library.
Getting to know you isn’t just for the kiddos! They need to be able to feel like they are getting to know you as well. For this reason, I always tell my kids about me and allow them to ask me questions. I use this Quiz the Teacher resource for that. I also have a small bulletin board space dedicated to myself. In this space, I share my family, my education, and the things I love with my students.
First Days of School – Rules and Expectations
Rules and Expectations seem like scary words. We often get the idea that our students will come to us predisposed to hate both of them, but I’ve found that isn’t necessarily true. Middle School students are fine with structure. They like to know what to expect and exactly where their limitations are. It may not be 24/7 roses and sunshine, but having a good set of rules and expectations is going to be the best way to start out the year on the right foot.
For your rules, keep them brief. You should have no more than 5 rules. Your students are going to be in several other classrooms this year, and they frankly aren’t going to remember any more than that. Making more than five rules also just means that your rules are getting more complicated than they need to be. Not sure where to start? Find my rules and a free printable here.
To help my students understand my expectations, I got over all of my procedures during the first days of school. I don’t expect them to remember them all. I make displays to help them with the important ones, like our hand signals, and I make sure to review the procedures often as they come up until everyone has learned them.
First Days of School – What else do we do?
1. I take a picture of every single one of my students. I make sure they are happy with it. If they are concerned about their appearance that day, I let them schedule one retake session another day. It only takes a second, and I want them to be happy with the photo because I will potentially use it many times throughout the year.
2. We talk about Growth Mindset. I point out our growth mindset posters. We watch this film and this one, and I tell them I truly believe in them and their ability to learn through both failure and success. I explain that I am also intending to learn through failure and success right along with them.
3. We talk loosely about what we will be doing that year. I’m not too specific because the plan is flexible and depends entirely on them and their growth.
4. Finally, we set goals. Their last assignment on the second day of school is to write their goals for me. This gives me a sample of their writing and helps me to determine where my class as a whole and individually would like to be.
What do you do on the first days of school?!