Here are my favorite first day of school activities for high school and middle school English:
Use Rhetoric to introduce Yourself on the first day
Do an ELA THEMED GET-TO-KNOW-YOU ACTIVITY
sET UP FIRST DAY ACTIVITY STATIONS
Get ELA students excited about reading
This back to school activity is my favorite because it helps build excitement around reading from day one! I implement 10 minutes of free choice reading at the start of class every single day, so naturally, I want my students to choose a book on our first day of English class. I allow students to browse my classroom library and check out a book on the spot, or they can try their luck at one of the new and exciting books that I have in the book raffle! The book raffle works like this: display your new or highly sought after books and have a cup under each book. After you talk up the books, students can come through and add their name to the cup if they want to enter for a chance at first dibs on checking it out. This would work extra well if you had one copy of the book for each class, but I didn’t and it still built excitement for reading amongst all of my classes!
Here’s a close up of the process:
I start this book raffle tradition on the first day of school and then continue it throughout the year. It’s really fun to do themed book raffles, and you can take a look at my Halloween and Valentine’s Day themed book raffles in the linked posts.
Promote classroom ownership on the first day of ELA
First day activities for middle schoolers or high schoolers provide the perfect opportunity to signal classroom ownership. You can do this through décor and norm which I’ll outline below, but another fun way to add ownership is by having students brainstorm your classroom playlist. Music in the classroom can create cues and change energy levels. In our book Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning, we even discuss how music can serve as flashbulb prop to help students remember a lesson.
Set up a worry or “I wish my teacher knew” box:
Back to school can be an exciting but also stressful time of year for many students. To get them in the practice of acknowledging their stress and worries, set up a worry box based on this article from Harvard: Two Techniques for Reducing Stress . However, be warned. Some silly answers you make you laugh while other serious answers will make you sob. You can decide if you want this to be anonymous or not, but if they leave a very worrisome anonymous note, you will have no way to address. it.
Go on a classroom scavenger hunt
While going over procedures and classroom materials is a necessary first day of school task, it doesn’t have to boring! Simply turn it into a scavenger hunt instead! Students in this station walk around the room to find all of their supplies and will even complete a few subtle icebreakers along the way such as “find Mrs. Bible and tell her your favorite time of year.” If you want an editable version of this scavenger hunt, you can find it in my First Day ELA Resource.
Condense Boring First dAY eNGLISH cLASS aCTIVITIES
There are lots of housekeeping items that need to be taken care of on the first day of middle school or high school ELA class. If possible, condense these tasks into a first day station stop.
Cutting my syllabus down to a one-page infographic has ensured that I relay all of the important information AND that my students actually read it. For this station, I have students read their syllabus and do prompts that it says such as “Sign up for Remind.”
Make classroom decor with ELA STUDENTS
While I love creating a magical place to learn for students, I also think that it’s important for each student to be represented in their classroom. For the past five years or so, I’ve done a dictionary get to you activity that turns into a book page banner that I leave displayed all semester long. You can look at the pictures below for an idea, and also read more about how to make this craft here: Get to know you activities for secondary ELA students
Have students help you create the rules
When I implemented some flexible seating last year, I knew that I would need to have rules, but I wanted my students to come up with the rules. This honestly worked out better than I could imagine. You can read all about how this element of surprise add more joy in my room throughout the year here in: Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning .I just set up a station in the living room area and let students write down the rules they thought were fair. I then went through each class and tallied the opinions. The majority won in favor of rotating days for flexible seating. Therefore, I just had to make an easy system and follow it. Since I had group tables around the room, each group had their day to use the flexible seating. Monday was table one and so forth. I was able to accomplish this because I made sure that every student had a desk. The flexible seating was extra seating. This type of rule brainstorming works with other classroom rules as well!
If you want to save time and enjoy the rest of your summer break, be sure to download my First Day ELA templates here! This bundle has everything you need for a fun, stress-free first day that sets the tone for the rest of the year!