First Day Activity Part 1: Seating Charts: Stand at the door and welcome students to "OUR" School and YOUR classroom. First day: If you use seating charts, put yours on the overhead or whiteboard. That way, you're free to greet students at the door, yet students can find their seat quickly. If their name is not on the overhead, they're in the wrong classroom.
First Day Activity Part 2: Reading Maps. By year two, this lesson ended up being taught by every class at the same time no matter what the subject on the first day of school for kids new to the school. It works for both incoming first year Junior High and incoming first year High School. As social studies teachers, we always start the year with a mini-unit on the five themes of geography and maps. This is one of Mr. Donn's lessons, and it is a winner.
Prep: You must clear this activity with the office prior to implementation. If you have 30 kids in your class, you need to prepare 15 different maps of the school and make copies so that all your students in all classes have a copy, working in pairs. You must have spotters (students, teachers, friends, at turn points, to keep kids safe, to block any attempt to leave school, and on map track, spotters approved by the office. On each map, draw a few empty boxes for kids to write in what is there on their map - the nearest exit, the cafeteria, the library, the office, possibly the nearest bathrooms, and a blank wall. Somewhere on that map, have their map dead end at a wall. Have a spotter nearby to get them back on track. (Part of the map lesson is that it is important that maps are accurate.) Post a piece of white poster board at each key point, with the heading I WAS HERE, and have the spotter at that point hand out crayons, pens, colored pencils, and direct each student to sign their first name anywhere on the poster board - upside-down, sideways, angled, whatever. Collect the pens, crayons for the next group. For all teachers, you need signatures on the poster boards so you know kids followed their maps and didn't team up in the halls somewhere. The map ends back in your classroom. For sixth grade social studies, you will be teaching a short unit on Early Humans, so keep the signed first name only poster boards, and bring them back later in the year as examples of cave art - "I was here."
Here's how it works: Break your class into two halves. With one half, divide the kids quickly into pairs. Give each pair a map to follow and send them out your classroom door to follow their maps. They can't believe it actually. You'll get questions like: You want us to leave? You say: And return. Get going. Do not run. They won't know about the spotters or signing their name. They'll find that out while doing the activity. With the half remaining, give them a short lesson on reading maps. When the first group gets back, send the other group out, and give the first group the same mini-map lesson.
The office liked the idea of having the kids review or learn key points in the school, especially the nearest exit (where of course you placed a spotter.) Mini-lessons fit subject taught. For us, it was maps. You will have kids come up to you after class, every time, and ask if "we" are going to do other weird things this year? You respond: This is Junior High. This is the big time. (Or, hey, this is High School.)
It sounds complicated, but it is a very simple lesson and it works.
Second Day Activity: Time Capsule: First Day/Last Day: Time Capsule: This is a lesson plan used by many teachers for many years. Bring boxes of envelopes. Have students answer a list of "time capsule" questions on a piece of lined paped, and make lots of copies. This is a maturation awareness activity - they will change over the year. Direct students to write their name on the outside of their envelope, place their list into their envelope, and seal it. Collect all envelopes, and put them away in a box marked TIME CAPSULE. On the last day of school, pull out the TIME CAPSULE box and distribute the envelopes to their creators. This is a quick activity, so you will have class time available to do all the normal things you do at the beginning of each year. This site will give you some ideas on questions to ask.
New teachers, teacher tips:
Don't waste any minutes, especially early in the year. If you finish a lesson early, have a few ready-to-go lesson ideas on hand on topic, that you can grab. Mark them 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 8 minutes. You don't want kids to think you are willing to waste minutes. They will spend a great of time trying to get you off topic; that's just kids. Don't let them. The lesson we do at Halloween, Chillalley, you can do anytime on any topic, for example.
Easy desk arrangements for the classroom - I move my desks around all the time, depending upon the activities I'm doing that day. It took me forever to realize I can have the kids move their desks, after I mark the spots with masking tape. You don't want to have the kids moving desks all the time, but occasionally it's a smart thing to do. Tell them you need their help prior to movement. That's trust. They will want to help you.
An important thing to have: Some sort of timer. You will need it all year long to start and stop activity pieces. Mr. Donn's timer is a musical greeting card I gave him years ago. When you open it, it plays a piece of a music from the islands. He likes it because it is soft, it gives the kids more time - the whole time the song is playing, and they have to pay attention to even hear it. The kids love it.