Top Strategies for the First Day of the Year

Hello – 

As I started to get ready to return to university this year, my brain couldn’t help but wander to thoughts of what it will be like to have our own classrooms and of what teachers all over the district were doing to prepare for the start of the year.  The more I thought about it, the more I started to panic! There is so much to think about and so much we don’t know! Thank goodness for the post-secondary education system and this assignment – which has led me to do research on this very thing…

For this blog post I will be focusing on the strategies that are the most recommended for the very first day of school. I have done lots of reading and listening to experts and experienced teachers on what they think are the most important steps to take on the first day to make an impression and to start off on the right foot. 

First of all, be very organized! Preparation, preparation, preparation!  The first day is all about setting routines and introducing the students to their classroom community. It’s very important that you establish rules and guidelines of the expectations you have for student’s behaviours. Whether you set the rules yourself or you develop class rules as a group, the guidelines will help students to feel calm and responsibility for their own actions.

Some routines you may want to introduce would be:

  • How you would like to students to move around the classroom.
  • Where they keep their belongings.
  • Hand raising procedures.
  • Where they can find supplies and what to do if they need anything.
  • Bathroom procedures.
  • Beginning/end of day routines.
  • How to move in the hallways/line up.
  • How you will get students attention during class time.

Secondly, the first few days of school are a very important time to begin making connections with your students. Take time during your day to do some “Getting to know each other” activities. Don’t assume all the kids in the class know each other, they need to get to know each other just as much as you need to get to know them. Setting up a safe and friendly environment will help you in the future with management and motivation.  Make your students feel welcome on the first day of school and help them to get to know you as well. Nothing makes a student feel more comfortable than knowing their teacher is excited to meet them and has prepared for their arrival.

Now that you’ve thought about your routines, getting to know your students and how you would like them to behave…..what about the school work?? When is the right time to start students on academic work? It is said that the very first day (second at the latest) is the right time to begin! If you are all fun the first week then that could set an expectation that there will not be any work and students could struggle to transition as well as they could have. Keep your lessons and classwork really simple. You can also use this time to address to students how you would like them to header their work and also where you would like them to hand in completed work. Make sure to have one really great lesson that shows the students what kind of teacher you are and how much fun you will be having together. The lesson doesn’t have to be science or math, try doing an activity that boosts moral in the classroom (diversity, community, respect, or anything from the core competencies). You can also add in small review work such as Mad Minute sheets, or short writing activities to begin taking inventory of what you students are capable of. 

These are some of the things that stood out as the most essential suggestions for how to structure your very first day in class.  I hope this helped you as much as it helped me! Next time I will posting about how to setup your classroom before your students even show up and different strategies for arranging the room. 

Below I have some links to great resources I found in my research. I will be keeping these for the day when I do have my own class. 🙂

– Ms. S


Tips for Beginning the School Year

Join the conversation


  1. Nadine, this is so helpful to read about. I think it’s great you decided to choose this topic as your inquiry questions. I feel it is something that is on all of our minds as graduation is slowly approaching. There is so much we need to prepare for the first-day students arrive in our classroom and having a few tips will be very helpful. The “getting to know each other” activity I feel is very important if you want to establish a community of learners in your classroom. I have often thought of the question, “When is it an appropriate time to start academic work?” It was good to know that it should be on the first day, or second at the latest. I like the idea of first just starting off with an activity that fosters community, diversity or respect. Thank you for the great resources. I will be keeping them to look back on come September.
    I am looking forward to reading more of your blogs regarding this topic.
    -Breanna 🙂 

  2. Awesome topic, Nadine! I am excited that you chose this for your inquiry, I am always stressed about what it will be like the first few days in the classroom. I am always wondering when to start with the academic work so I glad that you mentioned to start it within the first few days to set that expectation! Also I love that mentioned that setting up a sense of community, that is so important to do the first few day! I look forward to learning more, thank you for sharing your resources!

    – Natasha

  3. I thought this was super helpful to read right now, especially because I am freaking out about being in my own classroom and thinking about what I am going to expect from my students. I also found it interesting that you should be introducing academic work on the first day or at least the second. I always hear from teacher friends that you should go over and over routines and expectations for so long at the beginning of the year, and I always wondered how they have any time for anything else. I guess that is something I will figure out the more years of teaching I get under my belt.

  4. Like everyone else said, this is such a useful topic! I think that there are so many things that teachers needs to be thinking about before school starts, and during the first week, that it can be overwhelming! We want to be able to balance making students comfortable, figuring out where they are at, having fun and a number of other things and doing this all for the first time, probably in a new school and grade will undoubtably be stressful! I really liked how you mentioned that it is good to do a fun activity that shows students what kind of teacher you are. I think that things like this will set a positive tone for the rest of the school year.

  5. Nadine, I love this topic! I will definitely be following along to learn from your inquiry/blog posts. As we become more immersed into our placements I continue to wonder where I would start with my own class. Often times we arrive in our practicum classes once the routines and expectations have already been established. I found it very helpful that you talked about introducing academic work right from the get go. That is something that I was unsure about but I liked that you gave some ideas for us to teach such as lessons on the core competencies and writing samples etc. Something else you mentioned that resonated with me was that you need to have at least one very effective fun and engaging lesson to set the tone to show the students what type of teacher you are. I think that this is crucial. Do you think in a kindergarten classroom in the first week it would be doable to focus on routines as well as getting to know one another since the days are much shorter in the beginning?

    1. Yes! I think even more so in kindergarten. You would want to practice having them move from chairs to carpet, or move from chairs to line up to leave the room. Practice putting up hands etc. I would think (although I have no experience!) you have even more routines in your day in kindergarten than anywhere else s you would really focus on that 🙂

  6. Thank you for choosing this as your inquiry project! I was also worried about what and how to start the beginning of the year. We have seen some of the hectic start of school, but haven’t really been involved in the process, so thank you for breaking it down. I really like how you broke it down into three main things to focus on so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming for new teachers. Would you do more ‘icebreaker’ type games, or dive right in to the deep community and community of learners connections?

  7. Hi Nadine, i mean Ms. S…

    Wow great post. That was very informative. I also have been thinking of the first day of school and trying not to overthink it. I absolutely agree with you, I think that there needs to be routines in the classroom, the students need to know your expectations. I think that having fun with the students is really important as well, in saying that I have heard a lot of teachers say how they run a tight ship right away and then gradually release the “strictness” because the students know their expectations by that point. My sponsor teacher has really set a great example. She doesn’t let the students get away with much, but she still jokes around and makes them laugh. She has also taught them when it is the appropriate time to be “silly”, she tells the students that she is still learning too. She is able to do this because the students know her expectations.
    There are so many routines in a day. The students know where to line up for class, they know that they will be reading for the first 30 minutes of class, they know they all have jobs in the class that they do during the day and at the end, they know where to hand in their work, ect. The day wouldn’t go as smoothly as if those routines were not set in place.

    Thank you for sharing, I will for sure be checking in on your next blog. It sounds very interesting.


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