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Activities for Your First Day Teaching Middle School

September 10, 2016 4 min read

The first day of school. It’s a whirlwind few hours that leave us ready for bed by 7PM and longing for the carefree days of July when all your “worries” revolved around finding a beach towel and some sunscreen. But, let’s face it, that first day of school is also incredibly exciting! We certainly get a rush from showing off our semi-“Pinterest Perfect” classroom to our new students. We love passing out our stack of syllabi and having students place them in their brand-new binders! Honestly, all those school supplies make us feel like it’s Christmastime! And many of us are all too familiar with those night-before dreams/nightmares and lack of sleep.

To make that first day back a little less stressful for you, we’ve outlined a few must-do’s activities for your first day teaching middle school. Hopefully you can squeeze some of these in among the usual chaos of unpacking FIVE THOUSAND tissue boxes, thirty-five bottles of hand sanitizer (that you probably don’t need anymore of!), labeling every notebook and folder with students’ names and numbers, reassuring students that they do, in fact, have the correct composition notebook, and yes, it will get used!

We sincerely hope these activities inspire you and get you excited for that first day back!

These are great to promote a classroom climate of collaboration where everyone’s voice is heard, we have our students work together in their table groups to solve a logic puzzle. It’s a fun icebreaker for kids, and it provides a genuine challenge! The old “Fox, Goose, and Bag of Beans” puzzle is a great one to start with. Click here and scroll down to #5 to read the puzzle!

For students, the first day back means lots of sitting, which can be SUPER  boring! We like to get our students up and moving around, which helps break up the day and can help students learn some of your classroom procedures and expectations in a fun way. (Warning: Before embarking on this activity, clearly set the parameters for students, i.e., no running or loud voices. Let them know that when you ring a bell or designate another signal, they must immediately return to their seats, etc.)

Once time is up, we end the activity by discussing the answers as a whole group and go into much more detail about each procedure and expectation. The activity lasts for about 15-20 minutes, and it’s a great way to get students up and moving about the classroom!Pass out a Classroom Scavenger Hunt handout with specific questions whose answers can only be found by exploring your classroom. For example, we always ask our students a question about the checkout procedure for a library book in our classroom. They walk over to our classroom library, read a mini-poster found there and write down the answer on their Scavenger hunt handout. We include 6 questions on ours about some of our more important procedures – such as how to ask to use the restroom, how to check out a book from our class library, etc.

You can make your own for your classroom, or grab the one we use each year by CLICKING HERE.

It doesn’t matter what grade or subject(s) you teach, kids love read alouds! “The Mary Celeste: An Unsolved Mystery from History” (affiliate link) is one of our absolutely favorite picture books to read on the first day of school.

If you aren’t familiar with it, we highly recommend checking it out. Our fifth graders LOVE this book, and we would get reports back from parents about their kids discussing it at the dinner table and wanting to do additional research online to share back at school the next day. Pretty awesome way to start off the school year if you ask us!

Quick Synopsis: The story is about an abandoned ship found drifting in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872 with absolutely no one on board. The eerie thing is that there are no signs of foul play. So, what happened? There are a bunch of theories included in the book, but make your students play detective and try to figure out what happened!

We use our Evidence Tracker and ask students to come up with their own theory and provide evidence from the text! We promise your students will be engaged and enthusiastic about this book (and you’ll be thrilled that they’re already using critical thinking skills and analyzing evidence!). Take it a step further and have them write a Response to Literature on it.

We like to include a fun writing assignment over the first few days of school that lets kids be creative and allows us to assess their writing ability at the start of the year (NOT writing about what they did this summer!). This year, we used our Back to School Mini Writing Unit that has students write about the history and meaning behind their name. It was the perfect way to build classroom community, get to know our students a little bit better, have fun, and stay heavily focused on academics!

What are some of the activities that you do with your students on that first day back? We’d love to know!

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Hi there! We're two middle school ELA teachers with a mission to share ideas, tips, and tricks for effectively teaching reading and writing in the secondary classroom. We're so happy you stopped by!

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