In the whirl of the first day of school, remember something fundamental: you are a TEACHER. The students are there to LEARN! They are hungry to learn! Think how disappointed they will be if they don’t have exciting new knowledge to share that day when their families ask, “What did you learn in school today?”
Promise yourself that you will teach something on the first day of school. Don’t get too ambitious because there are a lot of interruptions on the first day and everything takes forever. You can teach two or three things, for sure.
It’s very important that what you teach on the first day be achievable for all students. If you are a new teacher or are new to this grade level, run your ideas past a veteran teacher.
Examples of things to teach in elementary school:
> Learn about your school supplies: the history of Crayola crayons and history of pencils
> The difference between it’s and its OR you’re and your (not both!)
> How to multiply by zero and one (great for third grade)
> Cursive! (A good third grade activity—it’s what they’re dying to learn. Teach lowercase E and L)
> How to make a flower using a compass (5th grade and up)
> The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
> Learn a lot about one animal (just pick a book from the library and learn, learn, learn!)
> Start your Social Studies unit (make sure they LEARN something the first day rather than flip through the book)
> Start your Science unit (make sure they LEARN something)
> Gather fun facts about anything and let the kids share them. Just Google fun, random facts and share them.
> Learn about a famous artist and imitate his style. (Create a PowerPoint of pictures you found using Google Images. Show this, play music in the background, teach about the artist’s life, and then make some art! Remember, whichever artist you pick will be discussed at dinner tonight, so choose wisely. This activity will take all afternoon.)
> Teach color theory using the color wheel. Learn about primary colors, secondary colors, etc. Talk about how this applies to art, room decorating, fashion, designing print ads, etc.
> Pick an interesting picture book from the school library and teach a mini-lesson with it.
> Learn the difference between commonly confused things (tortoise and turtle, toad and frog, dolphin and porpoise). Let kids work individually, in pairs or groups to make posters about what they learned. (Do quick web searches before school & you’re ready to go. Teach directly—you won’t have time for the kids to “discover” through cooperative learning. It’s enough for them to work in groups to make posters about these things.)
> Learn a few persuasive techniques (bandwagon, celebrity endorsement, snob appeal) and create ads persuading people to follow rules, keep the building clean, eat healthy—whatever.
By all means, build community and teach procedure on the first day of school. It is important, and it will make a difference. Just realize that all your community-building and procedure-teaching doesn’t have to happen on the first day. However, you must set the stage for a year of LEARNING.