10 Things to Expect the First Day

As you enter planning for the first day of school you may think, "Oh my! What in the world am I going to do?!" or maybe you are calm and cool and have it all planned out.  Either way, as the start of the past thirteen years has taught me, there will always be surprises or unplanned events that occur.  Today Beth and I want to put you at ease and prepare you for those things with some unexpected areas to prep in for your first day.

Throughout your college career, through student teaching and everything else you do to prepare for the school year, you are told so many things to help you to be successful! There is always just one more thing to learn though.  The things we are talking about here are things that are simple and easy to do, but may be things you haven't thought about for the first day.


The first day of school is a crazy busy one and it will fly by and leave you exhausted! Take heart though, because the farther you get into the school year the easier it gets as you build the routines of your today. Building those routines helps students to anticipate what is coming and reduces their questions.  It will majorly improve the flow of your day.

On the first day of school parents bring students.  The older the kids the less parents you typically have.  You will have parents that want to talk briefly with you and may have questions. Sometimes, especially with younger kids you will find that students have anxiety and made need some extra attention.  The problem is that you have anywhere from 15 to 20 students in your class, all in a new place, with new kids, and no procedures in place yet.

This is a great time to introduce that first procedure!  If your students can read, have a checklist on the board of things they can do.  It is always good to put picture cues with this for your struggling readers.  Even in older grades it is possible that you will have kids below grade level in reading and you want them to feel as comfortable as possible.  Don't give them too much to do. I usually list 3-4 things based on their age and our district requirements.

My go to 3 things to do for students are...

1. Put up your backpack. (DO NOT have them get out supplies yet. They end up playing with them and it can get disorganized really quick.)

2.  Find your seat  (or choose your seat).

3. Complete activity ______________ while you wait to start class.  When it comes to activities while you wait you want to make sure you choose things that all students can do fairly easily. Beth will talk more about this in her post.

Why I wait to fill out student names


I would recommend waiting to put names on things as well.  I remember my first year of teaching.  I had everything labeled from cubbies, desks, backpack area. You name it, I had a name on it for a student.  All on these super cute little tags I'd bought at the teacher store for WAY too much money. I think I spent about $30 just on different cute labels to put on things...mostly because I love cutesy things. lol.  To the point though...I ended up having 8 students that didn't show up. I have 5 new kids in their place, who of course all had different names.

I ended up back at the teacher store buying new name tags to replace the old written on name tags, and then had to rewrite and replace them all.  If you wait until the end of the first week to label things, you will save yourself some headache and some money.  I also hated that feeling that some students didn't feel as welcome because their name wasn't on something and everyone else's was.

There are a couple of solutions to this besides just waiting, because you do need students to have places for their things, especially in the lower grades.  So instead, have students write their own name on a sentence strip or index card and have them tape it to the desk.  I like to let students choose their desk for the first day. This makes it easy to see who knows who and also gives them a little freedom on the first day. By the end of the week I have chosen their groups.  Below are some alternatives to putting labels on desks.

ways to display names other than desk plates

I have become a big fan of editable desk tags because I can print as many or as little as I need and it doesn't require me to go and buy them over and over again every year. I prefer to use the editable desk tags  linked below or you can get them here.

There are lots of styles and options.  If there is something else you would like, you can email and get a different style by making a request in the Q&A section of the TpT Store.


important lunch tips for the first day of school


It's really important to be keep your strength and energy up in the first days.  If you have yet to teach you may not realize how tired you will get. Every year, by the end of the first day I am ready to head home for a nap.  It will wear you out, but as I said it gets much better!  A lot of anticipation and work goes into the first day. I don't say this to make you nervous, but to let you know to expect it and know that it is normal.

Ways to help with this are to make sure you eat a good breakfast just like we tell the kids. Also, plan for a short lunch. If you teach kindergarten or Pre-K remember that this may be the first time this students have eaten a meal away from home if they haven't gone to daycare. It takes a while to get them through the line and older kids don't always know their lunch number etcetera.

You can help with this by arranging a time to walk your younger students down to the cafeteria and letting them practice (without the food) just walking through the line.  Set them at their seats and show them where they will sit and review lunch procedures.  This will cut down on what you have to do at lunch time.

No matter how you prep, your lunch is likely to be cut short.  Plan on bringing something that doesn't need to be heated and can be eaten on the fly.  I usually opt for a sandwich, protein bar, or a quick salad. The key is LOW PREP.  You will thank yourself for this later!

Avoid stress the first day of school by being flexible


One of the biggest things you will learn to deal with outside of classroom management is pacing.  Every time I change grade levels I have to adjust my pacing.  Different groups of kids require different pacing too.  If you are just starting out this will take some time. Some activities you expect to take longer will not take as long and others will take much longer than anticipated.

It is okay to go with the flow on the first day or two. You want to make sure to establish procedures.  Go over them, model them, and practice them.  Spend your time on these things and it will make your year go much more smoothly.  Have activities planned, but be prepared to push them out to other days.

I usually plan some short activities as well as some longer ones. I set out my day varying the activities. As time permits, I may slip in a small activity between the gaps of the bigger activities or before I transition kids to Co-curricular activities (P.E. & Music, etc.) or Lunch and Recess.

Some great activities to keep on hand for fillers are:  procedure review games, ice breaker activities, and content review.  We will talk more about procedures next week and you will be able to find some games there and activities to use in that post. There are tons of ice breakers you can do by searching Pinterest.  As far as content review goes, what I mean by this is to think back to the prior year for your students.  That is level your students are really at.  You won't have time to get to new content in the first day with all the procedures.  You can review content by having students do math centers and activities that are from the prior grade level.

Wrapping up the end of the first day of school


The end of the day will sneak up very quickly!  You will want to make sure students are packed up soon enough to figure out how they will get home, to make sure you have checked folders if you are in lower grades, there may be papers to go home. There is a LONG list for that first day.  The best way to handle this is to make a checklist of the things you need to do before students leave.

Start packing students up about 15-30 minutes before dismissal.  The younger the students, the more time you are likely to need.  Once students are packed up, based on the amount of time you have, complete and end of day activity.  This is a great time to review the day, tell students how excited you are to have them in your class, and to review dismissal & morning procedures.  Reviewing dismissal procedures will help all the students to know expectations and where to go at the end of the day.  Reviewing morning procedures as the last activity will help students know what is expected in the morning and set you up for a good second day.

I hope you have found these tips helpful today! Next week, tune in to discuss all things procedures!  Don't forget to hop over to Beth's blog post to learn 5 more tips of things to expect on the first day!

I love connecting! Please leave me a comment and feel free to share this post.


No comments

Back to Top