The Joy of Teaching – An Evan-Moor Blog

Sharing creative ideas and lessons to help children learn

The All-Important First Day of School: A Back-to-School Guide and Free Printables


back to schoolThis excerpt from the book, How to Plan Your School Year, may reduce the first-day-of-school jitters and help you establish routines and rules that work for the entire school year. Get the free printables for classroom rules and team-building ice breaker ideas!

Make the first day of school one that students will remember!

Greet the Class
Welcome your class warmly and let them know that you are looking forward to a year of exciting learning. Do something active—sing a song, read a poem, tell about yourself, or introduce the class mascot. Plan a team-building activity, such as the classic icebreaker game where students move around the room and write down names of students who fit specific descriptions. Here are a few team-building ideas for the first day of school.

Present an Attention Signal
Decide on a signal that will be used only for this purpose and explain what the signal means. For example:

  • “Give me five” means eyes on me. Ears listening. Feet still. Hands quiet. Voices off.
  • “Attention, please” means you stop whatever you are doing and look at the person giving the signal.
  • Raising your hand in a particular manner means when my hand is up, your eyes are on me and your voice is quiet.

Practice giving the signal and having the class respond. Repeat this practice throughout the first day and week.

Set Expectations
Outline your expectations in positive language. For example:

“Does anyone know what expectations are? That’s right, expectations are the things you believe will happen. I have three expectations for our class this year:

  1. We will learn together.
  2. We will recognize that we are all unique individuals and respect our differences.
  3. We will be positive and polite.”


Establish Rules
These pages from How to Plan Your School Year provide important guidelines for implementing a set of rules for your classroom.

Introduce Routines and Procedures
On day one, start to establish important routines that will help your classroom run smoothly throughout the year, such as sharpening pencils, lining up, using the bathroom, and turning in homework.

Locate Restrooms and Tour the School
This also provides the opportunity to practice your line-up routine and hallway rules.

Get to Work!
It’s important that the first day be productive. During the first period of the day, be sure to conduct some type of lesson such as solving a math problem or reading a story together, or doing an art project that will be displayed in the classroom.

 How to Plan Your School Year book coverTeam buildingour class rules




For more ideas on first-day-of-school lessons and activities, see How to Plan Your School Year and this blog: Survival Tips for the First Day of School.




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