Heading into a new school year means a new group of students and unpredictable behaviors. You’ve just left a classroom of students that are independent and know how things run in your classroom. It’s intimidating to enter a new school year not knowing how the new group of students may be. There are some activities you can use on the first day of school to set a foundation for a fantastic year. The key? Implementing routines & building relationships.
Establish Expectations Using a Voice Level Activity
We all know that kids talk loud. It’s a fact! Encouraging appropriate voice levels at all times of the day allows students to work better and to listen better. When everyone is doing their part to keep an appropriate voice level, your concentration and the concentration of the students is unparalleled. It’s also more peaceful and administration will be impressed when they enter the room.
I like to use visuals to show students how our voices should sound during the day. They come to recognize that a voice level 0 means no voice and a voice level 4 is their outside voice. The number visuals are helpful to students who don’t quite understand the difference between a whisper and a normal voice. I use these Voice Level Posters to refer to when they need reminders.
To further reinforce this classroom management strategy, we complete a voice level chart activity on the first day of school. Students each get a sheet to brainstorm times when they can use each of the voice levels. I like to have students brainstorm their ideas independently and then I put them into groups to discuss what they came up with. They not only come up with tons of great examples to share, but they also dive into WHY it’s important to use different voice levels. What many students don’t know is that teachers not only use this strategy to keep their classroom quiet, but also to show students how to present to others with a strong voice.
Get to Know Every Student Using Relationship Building Name Tents
An activity I always do on the first day of school are these Relationship Building Name Tents. I love them because they allow students to share things about themselves that they normally may not want to share. They’re extremely helpful for students that are more introverted and may not come up to me when they need something. The name tents help me learn my students’ names quickly, and they also allow me to get to know them on a deeper level. On the underside of the name tents are spaces to write things that only the student and myself can see.
They can note that they can’t see the board where they are, or they might just want to share something about themselves. The name tents create a safe space for students to share what they need to share, without being judged by other students. I do the name tents once a quarter so students have opportunities later in the year to share as well. They are always begging me to do these because it’s like having a little secret between us!
Practice Using Levels of Understanding
One of the worst feelings I ever felt as a student was not knowing what I was doing and being too afraid to ask for help. Chances are, you have students in your classroom who feel like this on a daily basis, too! As a teacher, we all want to create an environment where students feel comfortable approaching us to ask for help when they need it, but sometimes this can be tough.
The Levels of Understanding system creates an open invitation for students to discreetly tell me how they are understanding the content being taught. Here’s how it works:
- I teach the students what each level means.
- After assignments, I ask students to write on their papers the number corresponding to their level of understanding.
- On occasion, I have them flash their number (using their fingers) for a quick assessment during instruction.
The information you gain in doing this is so valuable in making your decisions in future instruction, and it is so quick and easy to implement.
Hopefully these resources and ideas will set you up for a fantastic school year with your new group of students!
For more activities on the first day of school, check out my post about Affirmation Stations and 3 Game Changing Was to Build Community in the Classroom.