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What is the purpose of the first day of school?

Thursday was my first day of school with students. Each class was only fifteen-twenty minutes long(yikes). I plan my activities in the first day for very specific purposes. When the kids came in the room was darkened, my string of lights around the ceiling on, and everything is day 1 quiet. I walked to the front of the room and took out my guitar case, took out the guitar and hit a couple of strings—haven’t said a word at this point. I start some simple strumming of songs chords and then stop and say—“oh I forgot, welcome to the greatest class you will ever have.” Start up the strumming again and play an original song welcoming them and giving them some insight as to what will occur in the class, and inside themselves.

When the song is over I briefly talk about how this class will be different from any other class they have ever had, and that they will struggle in the beginning—but not to be afraid. The struggles, the tears, the joys and the smiles will all be worth it. I then played a video showing them quotes from last year’s kid’s final evaluations to drive home the point to stick with me through the struggles, because great things will happen.

I then hand out their million word assignment and explain how it is one of the most important assignments of the entire year.

Then I ask them if anyone is allergic to giraffes. I explain to the baffled faces that I needed to know for tomorrow’s class.

There is a lot of “unwritten” stuff that goes on between and during each thing, especially before I start playing the song—but hard to describe in words the “body motion” sorts of stuff done to draw them in.

So what is the purpose of those activities? I want them to know that I like them. I want them to like me. I want them to be desperate to come back tomorrow. I want them to begin to wonder why I did those crazy things, and wonder what will happen tomorrow. I want them to find my room to be a safe, trusting environment in which smiles are accepted.

What was the purpose of your first day with students? If you don’t have kids and you work with adults—what is the purpose of your first contact with teachers?

8 comments

  1. What a great first day you provide your students! Just reading about it makes me want to come and join your class. When I taught in a regular class I made sure the first day was fun and tried hard to make everyone feel welcome. In the lab I have 6 first days. Last year I’m sure the 6th first day was better than the first 1st. I learned a few things just in those few days. Other than the kids like computers I doubt anyone was eagerly awaiting the next class. I’m working on a presentation for my first days starting next week. This post has given me something to think about. I will be making some changes to make sure they are eager to return the next scheduled day. Thanks for the great post.

  2. So, did you bring a giraffe the next day?

    I don’t talk a lot the first day because kids get tired of listening to all the rules. Each period has a certain page from the student handbook that must be covered. It kills me.

  3. Your first day seems to be very productive. We are fighting a “first-day-of-school” syndrome, where very little teaching is done in many of our schools. I can certainly use this posting as an example of what could be done; thanks for sharing it.

  4. I would love to be a student in your class! Thank you for giving students a reason to believe that originality and fun are part of the learning experience. It helps them relax, but it also opens their minds to everything else you want to help them discover.

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