The first day back to school after summer break can be nerve-wracking for students and teachers. New names, new faces and a new classroom setting are enough to push anyone outside of their comfort zone. Our ideas for welcoming everyone back in style can put you and your students at ease, build a sense of community and acclimate youngsters to the classroom setting.
Before the First Day
1. Send a Welcome Email or Postcard. Start welcoming students while it’s still summer vacation. Middle school to high school students might enjoy a short email through the school’s email program. Younger students would enjoy a postcard that introduces you as their teacher.
2. Post a Voice or Video Message. Welcome students and parents by recording a voice or video message and posting it on the school site. Students can start to feel familiar with you before the first day.
Welcoming Class Decor
1. About the Teacher Bulletin Board. Students are always curious about who their teacher is and what his or her life is like outside the classroom, so let yourself be the first star of the week.
2. Add a Cozy Nook. If space allows, create a cozy reading or activity nook that shows students there is room for enjoyment in your classroom and not just work.
3. Community-Building Seating Arrangement. Strong community spirit can make the school year enjoyable for everyone. Arrange desks in a horseshoe, squared-off U or in small groups. Try to situate your desk so you don’t appear to be far removed from students. These seating arrangements allow students to get to know you and one another more quickly.
Activities to Welcome Students
1. Create Student Time Capsules. Take a picture of each student in your classroom. Have students fill out a worksheet to share how they feel on the first day, who they know in the classroom, what their goals are, as well as likes and dislikes. Use large envelopes or decorated paper towel tubes with the ends sealed off as individual time capsules. Repeat the activity during the last week and open time capsules for comparison.
2. Develop Classroom Mission Statements. Work together with the whole class to develop classroom mission statements that promote safety, encourage learning and value students as individuals. Even though you lead the students on this activity, they’ll have a sense of ownership because they’ve helped create the mission statements.
3. Ice-Breaker Scavenger Hunt. Encourage students to get to know one another and their classroom with a first day scavenger hunt. Use a bingo-like sheet and fill half of the squares with places and items in the classroom. Fill the rest with student-centered descriptions such as “likes to eat vegetables”, “has broken a bone” or “read all of the Harry Potter books”.