First day back at schoolAside from the administrative demands that must be fulfilled on the first day of class, what do you find are the best ways to start the year off with students in a...

First day back at school

Aside from the administrative demands that must be fulfilled on the first day of class, what do you find are the best ways to start the year off with students in a literature class?  What engaging activity(ies) do you use to learn more about your students and their abilities?  I usually start with a poem but am looking for suggestions.

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ajmchugh's profile pic

ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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I start every year off with a review of the literary terminology we'll be using throughout the year.  I have students work together to come up with examples of the terms from popular films, rather than from literature; the kids really seem to enjoy this.  (They particularly enjoy the review of the term "allusion"--they all get to show off their movie-quote knowledge, as I ask them to construct a conversation when they allude to a film/quote/character.)  I find this to be a good way to make sure all the kids are on the same page with regard to terminology before we get into the literature.

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kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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I always like to start the first day of school with a presentation about my classroom expectations, the supply list, a "tour" of the classroom (how it will be managed), and then ask my new students to write me a letter addressing their expectations of me. Along with a student "bill of responsibilities," I present a teacher "bill of responsibilities" in my original presentation, thus demonstrating to my students that education is a transacation, and I am not one-sided.

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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A writing assignment I've used for elementary through high school lets students go wild, giving me a chance to see, not only the level of their writing skills, but also their personality. Instead of the usual essay, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," I have them write on "How My Big Toe Spent Its Summer Vacation." They write about an activity from their summer, but from their big toe's perspective. It gives them a different twist on point of view. This is also a good lesson to teach the trait of Voice.

  This is a very good idea and I would like to give it a try this year!  Thanks for the advice and I'd appreciate any other little tips you have for writing assignments.  Good luck in this school year!

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copelmat | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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I begin each year with the "All about Me" portfolio. On the first day I model it for students. In a grocery bag, I have a collection of objects that I gathered from around my house that I feel reveal something about who I am and my interests. I lay these objects out on a table in the front of the room. Student then make a two-column chart where they write down each object in the left-hand column and make a guess as to what they believe it reveals about me in the right hand column. After they've all made their guess, we go through each object sharing their guesses before I reveal what it is that I think it reveals about me. After the discussion I ask one or two students to then introduce me to the class incorporating both some of their guess and some of what I revealed.

Then, I divide the class in half. One half of the class brings their grocery bag full of items the next day. The other half brings their bag the day after the next day. On each of those days, someone who brought their bag is interviewed by someone who did not bring their bag and then that person introduces this student to the class.

It's a great way to get to know one another and introduce the concept of a portfolio which is what my students spend the semester creating.

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I start off with a quiz.  I hand it to them as they walk in the door.  It is 10 questions (mostly true or false but some multiple choice or fill in the blank) all about ME.

I give them 5 minutes to make "inferences" about me (as I like to call it) and I tell them the grade counts.  *Most know I'm joking but some get really offended by that.

Then, I go over the answers to this quiz as a means of introducing myself to them.  On the back of the quiz I have them write 10 things about themselves they think I should know - or I have them write a quiz about themselves for their classmates to take.

This is a fun way to start the year - allows me to connect personally with my students, but in the form of "quiz" also gets them thinking about the seriousness of my class.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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All of these ideas are great!  While I do different things each year, I like license plates.   This lets me see just how creative and fun my students can be...I give them a legal sized piece of construction paper (some light color) and tell them they have 8 letters and/or numbers to work with.  Money is no object, and they are designing the plate for their dream car.  There should be a message in the plate which identifies some or several special qualities about themselves, and they are to include the "state" and their date of birth on the plate.  Of course, they do not have to stick with the 50 states of the US...I have had "state of euphoria" "state of paranoia," etc. before.  It is their choice to use color or not, but each student will present his/her plate (of course with a picture/magazine photo of the car it will be a part of) and we display it on the wall for a time.  It gives a look into the life of the student that might not otherwise be explored, it's quick, and most students find it very fun.

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scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I've tried the getting-to-know-you activities in the past, but I find that those only seem to be effective if you teach younger students or students who are in their first year at a school (ninth graders).  I teach mainly juniors and seniors, and if I tried the typical introductory activities, they would see it as a waste of time, and that would be their first impression of me as a teacher.

In my AP class, which is based on argument skills, I give my students a prompt from one of the AP exams.  A paraphrase of the prompt is: Choose a controversial topic from the local, national, or global level, and take a side.  Support your argument with a variety of examples. This writing assignment is applicable to traditional students too.  In fact, sometimes I have better written responses from my college prep juniors than I do from my AP students. This assignment not only gives me an idea of my students' writing skills and logic, but it also provides me with a glimpse into their personalities and worldviews.

Students seem to like to be busy on their first day of school; so whatever you choose to do, I would make sure that it is class-related.  This establishes that you mean business, and that your class is not going to be a throwaway.  This doesn't mean that you can't have fun or that your class will be boring.

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besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

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Ice breakers are great to start off the year with because they help the students to feel relaxed. I also think that it is important to establish rules and expectations as well. It is very important that students know what is expected out of them.

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dastice | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I have students partner up and interview one another.  Then they introduce their partner to the class.  Many students are less shy when speaking about someone else than they are when introducing themselves.  This activity can be adjusted for age and ability levels, and can include a writing component if desired.

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Michael Foster | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

A writing assignment I've used for elementary through high school lets students go wild, giving me a chance to see, not only the level of their writing skills, but also their personality. Instead of the usual essay, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," I have them write on "How My Big Toe Spent Its Summer Vacation." They write about an activity from their summer, but from their big toe's perspective. It gives them a different twist on point of view. This is also a good lesson to teach the trait of Voice.

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I always begin by asking students to write an introductory letter to me. I use it to introduce/review reflective writing, and to give students a chance to let me know anything about themselves they want to share. It's also important (especially when teaching AP/honors classes) because I ask students to tell me why they're taking the class and what exactly they expect. I ask for any rumors they've heard, or what their impression is going into the new year. In the advanced classes, this helps me establish who is committed from the beginning, and who has enrolled in the class because their parents thought it would be a good idea, or because their friends are taking the class. Since it's an informal writing assignment, I can also gauge writing level, grammar skills, etc. from the letters as well.

These letters also allow me to develop a personality for the new students in my class. This speeds the process of remembering names too, because I can attach characteristics, interests, etc. to the names and faces.

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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I usually use some "ice-breakers" just to get people to say their names and build a little familiarity.  I teach grades 10 and 11, so often some of the students already know each other from previous years.  If it seems that they already know each other, I've just jumped into some acting and discussion prompts (I used an excerpt from August:  Osage County last year and the kids loved it).

marbar57's profile pic

marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

I like to dive right in the first day with a writing assignement about what the students did over the summer and what their goals are for the year.  I just let them write anything they want for five minutes and tell them not to worry about spelling, grammar, or punctuation.  Then, I file it away in my drawer to compare with their writing at the end of the year.  It's a way of letting them know just how much they improved in my class.

Then, we start our reading circle with a cute little book called Secret in the Maple Tree by Matilda Nordveldt, a Norwegian author.  Every student I've taught reads it, likes it, and tells their younger brothers and sisters about it.  So, the anticipation and reputation about the book has been built up so they eagerly look forward to it.  As we read each chapter, we write down any words the students don't understand, look them up in the dictionary, and then use them in grammar, spelling, and reading comprehension.  So, it becomes a total learning experience for them. 

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demonic790 | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) eNoter

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I'm no teacher, but I think that everybody is missing one crucial thing.

Students don't want you to know about them.  Most of the time, we're very conservative and tend to keep things personal untill we get to know our teachers.

We want to know about our teachers.  Open up, tell us what you're about and what's going to make you a special teacher when compared to all the others. 

melvin900's profile pic

melvin900 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

You got a unique question that what do we find are the best ways to start the year off with students in a literature class? well this is very simple first of all we should read our students mind that who want to learn seriously and who want to waste own time.

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