Three Tested Activities For the First Week of School and Beyond

This past week I welcomed my students back into my classroom. I’ve always loved the first week of school for the ability to just focus on talking to and listening to the students without having to worry about covering the content. I know some teachers will start with content right away but for years I’ve put the content on hold the first week and take the time to learn about my students.

Allowing Student Choice From Day One 

Having a place to sit on the first day is important. A seating chart can help some students not be so anxious about where to sit and who to sit by. So there’s nothing wrong with that approach. I find it more valuable to see students choose who to sit by and where they sit. This tells me who their friends are or if they lack friends in the classroom. So in my classroom I let students pick seats the first week. This lets me figure out which students I don’t want sitting next to each other the second week of school. I can also place the students who might need to make new friends where I think this might happen. Giving students a chance to sit where they want also shows the teacher is willing to allow student choice.

Most students choose the same spots each day to sit during the first week. By the middle of the week I start to encourage students to sit in different places by playing musical chairs. I didn’t really play music (although I think you could) but the name gets across to students what you hope to accomplish. So on this day I asked students to find a different place to sit before sitting down to start bell work. It’s a great opportunity to send out compliments to students who not only choose a different seat but sit by someone new.

Creating Mindfulness With Students

This past summer I read about a widely used method to allow students the chance to clear their minds and be ready to process new information. I picked a few classes that I thought would benefit the most from this too. For the middle school students I teach the early and late afternoon classes can be some of the best times to help students create calm and get minds ready to learn. At first I started out with just 30 seconds of quiet music and breathing. The next day I went a full minute. Slowly I want to work up to three minutes. I think this building up will allow students to become comfortable with something that is so new.

“Appreciation, Apology, Aha!”

I found this strategy through my network on Twitter. I figured I would try it out after I had been with students for about a week of school. The procedure is simple and starts with the class making one large circle. Explain to students that this is an opportunity for them to share something with the class. I offered examples of each and then asked for volunteers to share with the class. Some students didn’t want to speak so I let them just listen to others. After a few students went there was a lot of students who wanted to share their ideas. I plan on offering this once a week or once a month to allow students a chance to reflect.


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