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First Day Jitters Activity Guide

Defining Our Class; Student Dictionary

I found this idea on ProTeacher from a user named UrbanTEacher. If your students could have their own dictionary entry, what would it look like? This activity will let them express themselves using definitions, synonyms, and even pronunciation and pictures! Click HERE to download the form. You can make a bulletin board from these dictionary entries, or even create a "Student Dictionary"!

Math About Me

Students create Math About Me posters. The Math About Me information might include birthday, address numbers, phone number, sports number, favorite number, number of pets, number of people in the family, etc. When the students gather together to share their numbers, they see what numbers they have in common with their classmates, and everyone learns a little bit about one another. I take a snapshot of each child for the center of the poster. Then the kids design the math facts in a colorful, interesting presentation.

The Important Book

  • We read The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown together. This book follows a pattern through the story, and focuses on different objects and their importance. Take students pictures, and have them create their own "Important Book" as a class. Each student will have their own page, with their picture at the top, and will follow the pattern of the book.

"The most important thing about Brad is that he's responsible. He's caring, smart, and lovable, but the most important thing about Brad is that he's responsible."

Take a class picture for the front cover, and bind it together. I always put it on display for Back to School Night. This book is always a big hit with the kids, as they love looking at their classmates' pictures and learning more about them.

The Perfect Classroom

Ask students to write a paragraph that tells what they think the perfect classroom should be like. (This is not fiction/fantasy writing; they should describe the atmosphere of an ideal real classroom.) Arrange students into groups of four. Ask each student to underline in his or her paragraph the "most important words or phrases." After students have done that, they should pass their papers to the person in their group who is seated to their right. Students should continue passing papers and underlining important words until the original writer has her/his paper back. At that point, students will share with the group some of the important words and phrases in their own writing; a group note taker will record the words and phrases that might best describe a perfect classroom. Group members will review the list and decide on five words or phrases to share with the class. When the class has a fully developed class list of words and phrases, they will use some of those words and phrases to write a "class statement" that will be posted on the wall for all to see. When things are not going "perfectly," it is time to review the class statement.

Get To Know You Graphing

There's always the default "Birthday Graphing" activity that you could do, or....my favorite...as a class, brainstorm questions that they'd like to know about each other. (You usually get questions like favorite ice cream flavor, favorite sport, favorite food, etc...but you can always make up the questions for them and be more creative) Each child (or small groups of children) will be assigned one of those questions and must go around and interview everyone in the class with that particular question they were assigned. They will use tally marks to collect their data. Then, as a group or independently, students will create a graph that shows their collected data, and then present it to the class.

A List of Misc. Things I do on the First Few Days

  • My name is _____, and if I were an animal I'd be a _____ because....
    I demonstrate for my students: "My name is Mrs. Gold, and if I were an animal, I'd be a turtle," I say, "because I'm always rushing around. Sometimes I wish I could slow down." Then students repeat those who went before them. Finally, draw pictures of themselves as that animal.
  • Class Names Word Search (a great Do Now on the first day of school)
  • Teacher Test: Tell students that they will be taking their first test. Pause to hear the cheers and boos. Then, tell them it's a test about you, to see if they can guess different facts about you, your life, and interests. Then, go over the answers. They love seeing if their guesses were right! As a follow-up, allow students to create a 10 question multiple choice quiz about themselves. Then, have them switch with a new friend!
  • ABC Order Sort: On the first day, students wear nametags with their first and last names printed on them. I have them get in ABC order by their first names, and then a second time by their last names without talking! They must use their nametags to sort themselves. This is a great exercise in dictionary skills, as well as a cooperative learning activity. The best part...it's silent!!
  • Sticker Partner Venn Diagrams/Interviews:  I give each child a sticker. Each sticker has a match, somewhere in the room. They must find their match, and then complete a Venn Diagram, showing the things they have in common with each other, and where they are different. As an alternative option, students can do an interview of each other.

 Back to School Checklist & Procedures List

Share Your Garbage

Fill a brown bag with things that tell about yourself. Some examples from a teacher might include a receipt from Barnes and Noble (she loves to read), a wrapper from a chocolate bar (she is a self-confessed chocoholic), an empty yeast jar (she enjoys baking bread), and a few crumpled pieces of paper (she likes to write). She sends students home to pull together their own garbage collections, which they share on the second day of school.

Mystery Friend

On the first day of school, assign each student a "mystery friend." (Only you know that the students are actually paired; each student's mystery friend has them for a mystery friend!) Tell students that they may not reveal their mystery friends to anyone -- including the mystery friend. Each day, give students a few minutes to write a short note to their Mystery Friend. The note should include something they observed about their Mystery Friend, something they like about them (a compliment), a question about them, and finally a clue about themselves. I've made up a letter format that they can just quickly fill in. You can download it

The "Me" Book
Adapted from http://www.teachers.net/lessons/posts/1310.html

Assignment 1: YOUR BIRTH
1. Homework: Ask your mother or father about the day you were born. How much did you weigh? How many inches long were you? Where were you born? In what hospital? At what time exactly?
2. Write a birth announcement or newspaper article announcing your birth.

Assignment 2: EARLY LIFE
1. Remember your childhood. Tell someone a favorite story from your childhood.
2. Write a poem about many childhood memories or a single childhood memory.

Assignment 3: FAMILY
1. Use a web to describe one family member to whom you are close.
2. Write a character sketch describing that family member.

Assignment 4: SIBLINGS
1. Homework: Use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast yourself to a sibling. If you are an only child, you may compare yourself to a cousin, parent, or any other family member.
2. Using the information from the chart, write a comparison/ contrast paper.

Assignment 5: I'M BUGGED
1. Make a list of things that really bug you.
2. Pick one to elaborate on. Create an advertisement to stop that behavior that bugs you. Use color and an original picture to make your ad creative.

Assignment 6: SPECIAL TIMES
1. Write a short story narrative about a special time in your family.

Assignment 7: I'M UNIQUE
1. Use old magazines, scissors, and glue to create a collage. Make a collage that illustrates you and your personality.

Assignment 8: THE FUTURE
1. Draw a picture of what you predict your life will be like 20 years from now. Will you have a family? What will your job be? Where will you be living?

Shades of Summer

This is an easy activity that students enjoy doing, which also serves as a chance for the teacher to get a quick indication of students' writing abilities. Each student draws a self-portrait, but instead of eyes, the student draws a large pair of sunglasses. In the sunglasses, the student draws something he or she did over the summer...a trip, activity, etc...Attach a paragraph about what is reflected in the sunglasses. This is an opportunity to review the characteristics of a paragraph. I always like to focus on topic sentences early in the school year. This makes an instant bulletin board, too!
(By - Jodi Pomerleau)

Profiles of Our Class

Students use the overhead projector projected against the wall to have a partner trace their profiles on black paper. They cut out their profile and glue it onto white or cream paper to set a deep contrast. Then, they write a "Bio Poem" inside of their profiles. There are several formats to writing a bio poem. Here is mine:

I, (your name)
4 adjectives that describe you
(daughter/son of, or sibling of) ______________
Lover of (3 things)
Who feels (3 things)
Who needs (3 things)
Who fears (3things)
Who would like to see (3 things)
Am a resident of (town)
welcome you to my poem!

If you don't want to have kids trace their heads, click HERE for printable silhouettes!

Wrinkled Wralph

Choose a student, in which the kids will trace his/her body and create a life sized cut-out. Decorate to look like a kid (Ralph). Then, brainstorm all types of mean things that kids could do to hurt each other. Write these things on Ralph, and each time something is written, wrinkle that part of his body. Discuss how Ralph's body has changed after all of the mean things have been done to him. Ask the kids to try to smooth him out, and come to the conclusion that even though you can make him look a little better, the wrinkles will still be there and won't go away- which is a great analogy to hurtful things kids can do to each other Hang Ralph in the classroom as a reminder of what can happen when you hurt other's feelings.

We Fit Together

I buy posterboard and cut it up into pieces, one for each member of our class. The pieces are shaped as "puzzle pieces" and all fit together. I give each child a piece of the puzzle on the first day, and they decorate it with things that symbolize them. Then, I allow the kids time as a class to put the puzzle together.

We have a discussion before they put it together, about what some problems could be that they might run into while putting the puzzle together. They are usually good about bringing up kids who might be bossy and try to do everything, as well as kids who may stand back and let everyone else do the work. We discuss ways to handle these situations, and how kids who are bossy can make us feel, as we're trying to work as a class. Having this discussion before actually doing it really helps to prevent these things, as well, and shows the kids how to handle the situation if it does come up. They're more aware of the children in the background, letting everyone else do the work, and I hear lots of children saying "Come here Sara...why don't you try?" After the puzzle is put together, we have another discussion about the "lesson" of the puzzle and the fact that we'll need to work together this year. It also is a representation of the class...and how without one piece, we wouldn't be complete!


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