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January 8, 2016

​Two Easy Teacher Tips for a Seamless First Day

It’s almost the first day of school, and you probably have a list of things to do and consider before the morning bell rings.What will my students be like? Is my classroom set up in the best possible way? How will the first day go?

Whether you are a new teacher or a veteran, the first day of school is always a little bit stressful. Here are two easy-to-implement tips to help make your first day a little easier.

Get the most out of your meet and greet

First, take a deep breath and relax. Students know which teachers are happy, which are stressed, those who love being there, and those who don’t. Next, take a moment to think about your favorite teacher. S/he was most likely happy, warm, outgoing, and engaging. As you prepare for the first day, think about how you will demonstrate your personality to your students. It will make a difference!

At the beginning of the day and/or during the passing periods, stand at your door and greet each entering student with a smile and a hello. Engage in small talk and compliment each student about something (e.g.,their name, hair style, t-shirt, binder, etc.). Greeting your students effectively starts the school year because:

  • It helps students feel welcome and noticed, which will immediately put them at ease.
  • It makes each student stand out in your mind, which will help you learn all of your students’ names (especially for middle and high school teachers who can have 100+ new students). Here are more tips for remembering names from Forbes.
  • It allows you to direct each student to where you want them to sit, which brings us to our second first-day-of-school tip!

Take control of seating arrangements

More than likely, you won’t know all of your students before the first day, so you can’t effectively make a seating chart based on personality or learning needs. So how do you seat your students? Here are a few examples:

Collaborative Grouping

Collaborative (i.e. cooperative) grouping is one of the most effective teaching strategies because it encourages academic conversations and collective problem-solving. By seating students in groups on the first day of school, you will take all the guesswork out of choosing who will be in which group, and you will eliminate transition time when you want to switch from independent to group work.

To set this up, arrange the desks in groups of four and color code each group. Create a set of color cards and as you greet each student at the door, hand them their color card and ask them to find their group.

The Horseshoe

The horseshoe is another effective way to arrange your room. To set this up, arrange your desks to form a “U” shape with all students facing inwards. This arrangement allows all students to have the same view of the front of the classroom, and it’s great for facilitating classroom discussions.

The easiest way to facilitate first-day seating in this pattern is to number each desk. Similar to the collaborative group scenario, as you greet each student, hand him/her an associated number card.

Stadium Seating

This arrangement combines elements of the horseshoe and collaborative grouping. To set it up, group desks into rows of four. Instead of facing desks towards each other (as in a traditional grouping arrangement), angle all desks to face the middle of the room (very similar to a horseshoe). Since desks are in groups of four, there is more room for you to walk from student to student than in a horseshoe setting. This arrangement also has the advantage of creating ready-made teams for collaborative learning.

Benefits of Preplanned Seating on the First Day

  • Choosing a seat on the first day of school can be a very stressful scenario for many students. You will eliminate this stress by choosing their seating for them.
  • It allows the more reserved students to sit in a group without intimidation.
  • It separates groups of friends and gives them the opportunity to meet new people.
  • It prevents students who gravitate to the back of the room from choosing the most remote seat.

As the year progresses, your seating chart will most definitely change, but having a plan for seating on the first day will help set your students up for success and productivity!

So remember, the first day will have its share of challenges, but try not to stress out. Focus on the excitement of getting to know your new students, and you’ll be on your way to a great school year!


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