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How to Have the BEST First Day Ever!

Tomorrow I begin year 25 of my teaching career!  How have I been teaching for 25 years?  It just blows my mind!
I still get nervous for the first day of school.  I want this year to be as good as last year.  I want the kids to like me.  I want my students to have fun.  I don’t want any stress or tears {for the children and ME!}  I want to know everyone’s name. I want to remember our schedule and get to recess, specials, lunch and dismissal on time. I want to have ALL the patience in the world and remain calm and smiling the entire day.  I want to make sure I haven’t lost a student.  I want every single child leaving with a smile on their face saying that they cannot wait to come back!
Boy, that’s a lot!  I put a lot of pressure on myself to ensure that the first day is the absolute best day. 

back to school



I want my new students to love our classroom and be excited for learning.  That means I have to be excited for learning!  Children want to learn from teachers who are passionate about teaching. I have to provide activities and lessons that are engaging, hands-on, varied, and fun. I choose activities that launch the classroom routine, community, and expectations that encompass our year together. In this post, I’d like to share what I do to achieve that goal.

When the students come into school in the morning, they hang their backpacks at their cubbies and I teach them how to do morning greetings inside the classroom.  I explain the whole process and then they go out into the hall and we practice.  This is great practice for students to learn my name and for me to learn their name.

morning greetings, back to school

Next, we do calendar and morning meeting.  Calendar is a great time because we sing, dance and everyone participates because it is low pressure.  I have been using my interactive SMARTBoard Calendar and Morning Meeting for years now because the children love it.  I pick and choose different slides to do throughout the first week so students see the variety that is included and do't get bored.  I keep a few constants, such as the good morning song, days of week and months of the year and calendar slide, but vary the rest.  Singing, dancing, being silly and sharing are all part of the morning meeting and calendar and set a tone for how much fun the year will be. It is also a time to set expectations for this time of the day.

morning meeting, first grade calendar, smartboard calendar

Next, it is time to share my love of reading. This year, I cannot wait to read The Pigeon Has to Go to School by Mo Willems. I created a fun resource to go along with this book.  I am going to use a few of the pages with my class in which they give advice to the Pigeon and help calm his nerves by telling him all of the great things that he will do in school.  



You need to choose that first book wisely.  It has to be one that you love and are excited to read.  A book that will show your students a glimpse into your reading life.  I recommend having a follow up activity so you can help students unload backpacks and take care of lunches, supplies, etc.

Next, I take students for a tour of our school.  My school is a big circle so I highlight the bathrooms and water fountains in our pod, the office, nurse, cafeteria and library.  We discuss what to do if you get lost in the school and how to walk in the halls.  
When we get back to class, we review what we learned.  Then, I give students a blank piece of paper and have them write their name and draw a self portrait.  This teaches me so much about my students development.  I love to see the range of drawings from M&M people to very detailed pictures.

I passed out ME Bags during Meet the Teacher Night.  These are a great way for us to get to know one another.  I only have 4-5 students share at a time but assure students that we will get to everyone by the end of the week.  When we do activities on the carpet, such as this, I always review expectations as we are doing the activity.  This way students get to practice and get instant feedback as they are doing it, which is way more effective than just telling students what you expect.

me bag

If there is time before lunch, students work on their reading stamina.  I put books on all of the tables and model for students how to read the books from one of the seats at the table.  We discuss what I do, what I don't do and how we are going to read the whole time.  I time the students to see how long we can go before someone gets distracted.  I never tell the class who it was and always celebrate how much time we got, even if it is 30 seconds.  This is me modeling a growth mindset.  We can always be better and we will be.  We just need practice.  I usually ask if they want to try again, and we do.

After lunch, it is time for read aloud.  Again, I pick a book that I love.  A book that I am excited to read.  I plan on reading, First Day Jitters, by Julie Danneberg.  Then, I have students practice talking with their elbow partner.  I teach students the procedure for how to quickly find an elbow partner and the language we use.  I want to make sure that students can do this efficiently and without hurting feelings.  Instruct students to share with their elbow partner whether they were nervous or not and why.  Next, have them share if they are still nervous.  I love to listen in and see what the students say.

Next, I am going to teach students how to play a math game. I use the math games from my Beginning of the Year First Grade Math Games pack.  I review the expectations for playing math games and then model how to play using the documet camera.  Tomorrow we are going to play Roll +1, using Target Dollar Spot mini erasers for added fun.  The students can play this game over and over because they are not marking the board.  Then, they can each get a game board to bring home and play with their families.

math games, first grade math games

We have specials after math so I will have students share how to walk in the halls before leaving.  We usually do a few practices of how to get in a line before we go to give students a little movement and brain break before heading off to specials where they will most likely spend the bulk of the time reviewing expectations.

After specials, I plan on reading I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal to show my students my heart.  This endearing book is one I read on the first day and the last day because it just speaks to me.  Perhaps you have one like that, too.  The, I have students write their wish for the year in this activity below.


I like the students to do more getting to know you activities at the end of the day.  They are pretty wiped out by now so I save these team building activites for the very end.  It also helps them leave school in a great mood, wanting to come back tomorrow.  I plan on playing one game from my Getting to Know You resource and ending with chocolate.  I much rather send them home 
sugared up =)


Want this M& M activity?  Download it here for FREE.

Finally, we learn how to pack up and do dismissal.  We give hugs and high fives and share lots of smiles.  I tell parents what a wonderful day we had, how sweet the class is, and send all my firsties home with stories to share.  

I keep it easy, fun, full of small chunks of learning and getting to kow one another. This is how we have a great first day.  This is how you can, too.
Please let me know if you have any questions.  I would love to help!




I hope you all have the best first day yet!  


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