You’ve arranged the classroom desks in dyad groupings…You’ve plastered your bulletin boards with growth mindset slogans—like “I can learn. I will learn. I must learn.” and “I embrace challenges and mistakes because they help me grow.” You’ve thought about the rules and routines you want to establish. But any teacher worth his salt has the “jitters” the day before school starts!
Instead of planning your first day around school housekeeping tasks---passing out books, reviewing syllabi, reading class rules…, consider planning your kick-off activities around one goal and only one goal: Getting the students so excited about you and your class that when they go home and are asked, “How was your day?” that they respond, “I have the most terrific teacher!”
If possible, strive to do your best lesson on Day One but even quick, simple, interactive games can set the tone for a wonderful year. One opening day game, the Round-About Name Game, has students introduce themselves with an adjective that corresponds to the first letter in their first name. begins subtly teaching study skills. For this game, students stand in a circle and the first person says her combo; then the second repeats #1’s combo and says his own; next the third student repeats #1’s and #2’sand then introduces herself…As the game progresses and they prompt each other, they are learning that they will struggle and learn together. Along the same lines, the metacommunication behind a game of “Twenty Questions” is that everyone’s questions leads to productive learning and that you can learn as much from a “no” as from a “yes.”
For dynamite first-day lesson in a math class, you could have students create a Human Graph by grouping themselves by the number of letters in their names and then taking a picture for a Parent Night bulletin board. For a more diagnostic flair, post pictures of someone painting, camping, singing/playing an instrument, using sports equipment, reading a book, …. And ask them to line up under the activity they would enjoy the most. The kids will be learning about others who share their interests and you will be gaining insight into their predominant learning styles! Again take a picture and post for Parent Night.
Imagine how surprised your students will be to enter your English or History classroom to find desks pushed back and blankets strewn around a “campfire” (a lamp with a red bulb) or beach towels and noodles strewn around a pool (tub filled with water). Have each student share his best experience over the summer. Once they have completed this “prewriting” stage, surreptitiously teach the writing process with the Campfire/Poolside Opener by having them “roughdraft and then revise” their stories in a format of their choice (ie…short story, cartoon, play, press release for the classroom paper…). Continue with peer “proofing” and the “publish” for parent night. While this is obviously not a 40 minute opening lesson, it is a terrific way to spend the first week of the year!
During my decade of co-teaching literacy skills in the health career academy, I was only in each class for a maximum of an hour a week, so every class needed to impart a skill. My nursing instructors always want my first lesson to focus on outlining chapters of a text since this was their classroom requirement. In terms of excitement, I just about wanted to pluck my eyes out!!!!
So, I opted to postpone this lesson until Week 2 and even then do it in somewhat of a game format. Because Week I’s lesson needed to impart a skill, I would introduce myself and my role in their program and then distribute and explain the editing sheet we’d be using. Next, I would pass out shuffled cards with either an editing mark/abbreviation (ie.. RO) on it or the definition on it (run-on sentence).Then, in the spirit of differentiation and accommodating my social and kinesthetic learners, the entire class would get up trying to find their matches.
Once done, I’d have the pairs link arms, and we would form a big circle around the room with the kids hiding their definitions and letting the others guess what each abbreviation or symbol meant. Finally, I would then pull out three or four “difficult” ones-generally the ones where they have not made a match and have ended up in the “doghouse. ” Students would stand stand back-to-back and link arms to make a live front/back index card. With great fanfare and drama, the front students displayed their cards and the rest of the class, now seated, wouId provide a definition or symbol; then I would ceremoniously beep-beep-beep and turn the pair around to reveal the answer. If correct, the pair would receive a check, and we continued laughing, beeping and checking until each index card pair received three checks and the students are clear how to apply the “Three Check Study Method” for the extensive vocabulary they’d need to become nurses, paramedics…. By being willing to play and teach at the same time, I introduced myself and my subject—Technical Reading and Writing- as something they could enjoy!
I hope you’ll share your best opening lesson below. Let’s inspire each other this year!!!