The first day of school is a hard day for students. Not only do they have the end of summer blues, but anxiety is ringing exceptionally high-- there are new classes and schedules to get adjusted to. Below are some tips to make sure the first day of school is an easy transition for students.
1. What’s in a name?
Students love hearing their names. If you haven’t memorized each student’s name yet, have cue cards on the desk. Let your class write their own names down on these with a Sharpie marker. Calling students by their names creates familiarity and students, when called, are active listeners.
Students need rules. But lists don’t have to be entirely negative. Explain what ideal classroom conduct is and the things that are permitted. It’s okay to have some “don’ts” in that list, but emphasize the positive.
With the stream of new movies and TV shows released aimed at children, chances are your students have seen Frozen, Kung Fu Panda and Cars. All of these blockbuster movies made billions of dollars at the box office and with merchandise. Lunch boxes, backpacks, pencil cases are covered in advertising for these movies and their favorite characters. To capitalize on this opportunity, teachers can create a classroom theme involving these shows.
For Disney’s “Cars”, animated racing automobiles inspire children and although this may lead to children running around like they’re on the track, this can be used to a teachers advantage. Displaying classroom rules with signage at the front of the room and using acronyms:
R - Respect - everyone in the school, yourself, your peers and the school property.
A - Attitude - have a positive one, treat others with kindness and work hard.
C - Cooperate - work together with one another and always try your best.
E - Excellence - use this as the key to succeed!
Review these classroom rules each day and using movie characters will keep students' attention and interest.
For Disney’s “Frozen” use this acronym as a guide for your classroom environment:
F - Fun - make lessons fun and unforgettable.
R- Relaxing - make classes relaxing and stress-free.
E - Enjoyable - allow students to enjoy class and opportunities to hang out with friends.
E - Educational - create informative, creative lessons that improve the knowledge of your students.
Z - Zealous - show a strong and energetic desire to teach and see the success of your students and their motivation will come full circle.
E - Entertaining - be silly, make your students laugh as it will lead to a successful school year.
3. Share Skills.
Students love hearing funny and fascinating stories. Draw in their interest with why you became a teacher. Don’t introduce yourself--introduce your story. Tell students why you are a teacher and what the path was like to get to where you are. It will be more personal for students and make it easier to connect with them.
If you have an impeccable memory, use it to show how fast you can learn students' names. Make introduction videos or share magic tricks. Let students feel your excitement and they will become excited too. Share your love of being a teacher and students will be captivated. Promise to give your best and in turn, students will be at their best. Demonstrate self respect and the value of learning. It will be returned full circle.
4. Assigned seating.
Think about when you were in school; did you ever have a time when you started to sit somewhere only to be told the seat was being saved for a friend? To an adult, it’s no big deal, but to students, it can be an embarrassing moment.
When students have freedom, it can lead to amazing creations and ideas. With too much freedom, it can be chaotic. Before day one, create a seating chart. Knowing which students learn best at the back of the room and who wants to sit near the teacher’s desk. Friends love sitting with friends but for many, it can be distracting. Keep in mind shy students with quiet voices and students who use glasses. As a teacher, be willing to move students around but stick to your gut when a pair of students may be more focused on themselves than your lesson
5. Have fun. Be flexible.
Understand that anxiety is really high, and fears are sometimes higher. Some students are coming back to school after the summer, and others are starting new schools entirely. The first day of school can be exciting but scary for students. For many, they want summer to continue as it was relaxing and not stressful. Accommodate their needs to make the transition as smooth as possible.
One activity that can welcome students back to school is writing and drawing. Give students a chance to be creative, express themselves and have fun. Draw funny faces, write about their summer and what they want to do this year with friends, sports and music. Have them color a picture of their favorite memory from the summer and have students present these to the class.
The teacher who assigns homework on the first day of school is nobody’s best friend! But getting students working on projects as soon as possible will get them comfortable and into the swing of things much quicker; start with something easy. For younger students, it might be a puzzle or coloring name tags; for older students, it might be something like a short essay on what power they would have if they could have any super-hero power.
7. Time capsules.
Time capsules are a fun way for students to see how they’ve changed at the start of the year. Have them write about their favorite TV shows, movies, what they want to be when they grow up. Keep the essays until the end of the year and then have them repeat the exercise. To make it more personal, do a time capsule yourself that you’ll share with the class.
Many students come to school with just a pencil; as much as every teacher would like for the resources to be there to give students what they need, the fact is, it won’t be. Amazon and other online retailers sell supplies in bulk. A pack of 60 glue sticks, for example, is about $16; 150 #2 pencils is less than $13; 72 pencil sharpeners is less than $9. Make a list of what your students will need. If you don’t have the money, then put up a message on social media and ask if anyone would like to make a donation to invest in your students.
Alternatively, if students don’t have the tools they need to succeed, provide them. Having a tin of pencils at your desk shows students they can always succeed and eliminates anxiety if a student forgets their writing equipment. Give your students freedom to quietly walk up, take a pencil and never worry about negative attention or embarrassment. After class, speak with the students about the importance of better managing their supplies and being responsible. If a student enjoys breaking classroom tools or loses their equipment, have a conversation with them too. Brainstorm solutions together.
Plain walls don’t give students a lot of inspiration. Think about what you can do to your classroom to make it more lively and kid-friendly. Once students arrive, you might even get them involved by bringing in something they’d like to see every day.
10. Welcome Sign.
If your school has installed digital displays on the campus, the posters below can be used with your digital signage to make sure students see a warm and welcoming message as they roam the campus.
Welcome Back to School Digital Signage Posters
If you have other ideas for how to make students feel welcome on their first day back to school, we’d love to hear them. If you are interested in learning more about digital signage CMS solutions for your school, read about some of the best practices here. We also have a list of over 50 things schools can do with digital signage (including lunch menu boards).