Getting Started

Sample of Classroom Rules: Rules to help guide class to discuss and make together:

  1. Come to class on time with all material and ready to learn.
  2. Follow directions the first time they are given.
  3. Keep hands, feet, and other objects to yourself.
  4. Complete assignments on time.
  5. Refrain from using inappropriate language or using inappropriate comments.

"Get to Know You" Activity

Tell the students-Everyone needs a piece of paper and pen for this one. Down the left hand side, write the following categories:

  • TV Show
  • Singer
  • Food
  • Animal
  • Color
  • Place
  • Type of car
  • Sport
  • Famous person
  • etc.

Read out a letter, and people have to quickly write down something that matches each category.

For example, the letter M:

  • TV Show = Mash
  • Singer = Madonna
  • Food = Mashed Potatoes
  • Animal = Monkey
  • Color = Mauve
  • Place = Melbourne
  • Type of car = Mitsibishi Magna
  • Sport = Marbles
  • Famous person = Michael Jordan

Depending on the size / age / competitiveness of your group, you can either have people in teams and make it the first team to finish, or do it by individuals, etc.


Tell kids that they are going to form different groups or "clans."  Ask group members to choose from the following list of animal they most identify with. Keep choices secret.  After everyone has chosen a clan, have group members walk around silently shaking hands with everyone else in the room.  Each person should shake the number of times specified by his or her clan.  Have students continue shaking hands until they've grouped themselves according to their clans.  Name enough clans to form small groups of five to nine members each.  For example, if you have 25 kids, name only five clans from the following list.

  • Bear Clan: one shake.
  • Turtle Clan: two shakes,
  • Wolf Clan: three shakes,
  • Raven Clan: four shakes, etc.

Then have kids follow the instructions for the five rounds of play described below.

  • Round 1: After group members are in their clans, direct them to introduce themselves.  Then have each member tell about one beautiful place her or she has seen in the world.
  • Round 2: Choose one clan to be chief clan.  Instruct the members of this clan to make sure that every clan has an equal number of members. After the chief clan has evened up the clans, ask everyone to talk in their clans about places they have had to say good-bye to in their lives.
  • Round 3: Direct each clan to trade one clan member for a member of another clan.  Then have the traded clan member ask their new clans three questions.  For example, kids may ask about hobbies, interests, or favorite foods.
  • Round 4: Instruct each clan to trade two clan members for two members of another clan.  Then have the old members of each clan ask the new clan members three questions.
  • Round 5: Gather the clans together and have kids share new things they learned about each other through this activity.

Review and Ideas from the book “First Days of School” by Harry Wong

"Clueless" may be the best way to explain the plight of many neophyte teachers. It conjures up an image of a person sitting at life's crossroads with a suitcase full of information, but no idea how to use it. Their bags are brimming with a five- or six- or seven-step lesson plan, boxes of activities, the state performance appraisal instrument, five interpretations of educational foundations, nine theories of child development, conflicting advice from a plethora of educational specialists, and a collection of buzzwords and current educational fads. But they have no clue as to what to do in the first days and weeks of school.

I do not remember this teacher's name, but had it not been for her, I never would have made it this far. Bless her! Something happened to me before the first day of school when I began teaching 26 years ago in Los Angeles. I was standing in the teacher's lounge when this experienced teacher came to me and said, "You don't know how to start, eh?"

I said, "How can you tell?" "If you can only start my class for me and get them rolling I'll be able to carry on." No one had taught me how to start the first day of school.

Gail Sutton
Portland, Oregon (from The First Days of School, page 15)

A First Day of School Action Plan

Imagine starting the first day of school with a specific action plan. So often we hear from people who tell us that their college classes in education offered nothing practical, concrete, or applicable. This was not the case with Sarah Jones, who we talked about in our September, 2001, column http://teachers.net/gazette/SEP01/wong.html. At Western Kentucky University, where Sarah Jones was a student, they help their preservice teachers "get it all together" just before they go out to teach. As part of her classroom management class Sarah Jones prepared a First Day of School Action Plan. This one-inch thick binder proved to be a Godsend as she began her teaching career.

This is what her Action Plan contained.

Table of Contents

  1. Academic Expectations
  2. Time Frame For Components of Plan
  3. Lesson Plans & Activities:
    • "Places To Go!"
    • "Numerous Number"
    • "Cultures Camp Out"
    • First Day of School Activities
    • Motivational Activities
    • Books To Use During The First Days of School
  4. Preparation of Classroom Before The First Day of School
    • Be Prepared Sheet
    • Preparation Checklist
    • Getting 0rganized
    • Cooperative Classroom Dry-Erase Board
    • Student Contract For Classroom Materials
    • "Our Class Fits Like A Puzzle" Bulletin Board
    • Classroom Door Decoration
    • "Brag About Me Board" Bulletin Board
    • "All About Me" Bulletin Board
    • Room Arrangement
  5. Collaboration With Students & Parents
    • Letter to Students
    • Open House Activities
    • Substitute Teacher Handbook
    • New Student Folder
    • Parent Letter
    • Homework Policy
    • Homework Tip List
    • Transportation Checklist
    • "Any Beautiful Collectible" Wish List
    • Rules, Consequences, Rewards
    • Volunteer Sheet
  6. Classroom Schedules
    • First Day of School Schedule
    • General Daily Schedule
  7. Maintaining A Learning Climate
    • Reasons for the Management Plan
    • Rules, Consequences, Rewards
    • Procedures
    • First Morning Greeting & Seating Arrangement
    • Housekeeping Idea
    • "Duty Wheel" - Student Jobs
    • Intervention Plan Packet
    • Socio-Gram
    • Form Used to Create a Socio-Gram
  8. Notes of Encouragement
    • Student Postcard
    • "Special News About A Very Special Student" Certificate
    • "Super Job-Way To Go-Great Day" Letter Form
  9. Documentation & Evaluation
    • Documentation of Student Work
    • Contract For Learning Centers
    • Teacher Evaluation
  10. Parent Calls & Conference
    • "Welcoming Phone Call" Planning Sheet
    • "Welcoming Phone Call (to parents of potential problem students)" Planning Sheet
    • "Positive Phone Call Form"
    • Parent Conferences Outline

Sarah Jones's First Day of School Action Plan has been shared with you so that you can develop your own Action Plan. With such a plan she was so effective that a parent shared:

I loved volunteering in Ms. Jones's; classroom because this gave me an opportunity to see how well organized she was and how well behaved were the students. She had her policies, daily assignments, and classroom procedures posted. Her conduct was extremely professional, from how she dressed, to how she communicated with the parents. My daughter was truly blessed by having such a wonderful teacher.

Maria Silva, parent of Laura Silva

The effective teacher plans, then plans some more, and finally over plans. This is no different from a pilot who has a flight plan, a coach who has a game plan, and a businessperson who has a business plan. The ineffective teacher goes from day to day, wondering what to teach the next day, often looking for busy work to keep the students quiet and docile. On the first day of school, Sarah Jones states her expectations:

Academic Expectations (Sarah Jones)

I can promise that I will provide the best school year ever to every student. My academic expectations of my class are simple and straight forward. I expect every student to try their best and do their best work. I expect each of my students to make great strides in their academic success during the school year. Every student has the right and the potential to be successful.

On the first day of school, Christine Neilson, who teaches at Holy Name of Jesus Middle School in Indialantic, Florida, communicates her expectations to her students and parents in the following manner:

Academic Expectations (Christine M. Neilson)

One item that I found to be so helpful during this current school year is that when I sent out letters to parents this year advising them of our expectations for their students, I sent two copies - one for the parent to keep and one to send back signed, to me. I added a space for an email address and 149 out of 150 students have a parent with an email address! I keep all on file and email parents rather than calling. The response time is so much quicker and parents seem to enjoy this type of correspondence.