The first day of school in ELA class is equally my favorite and least favorite day of the entire school year. It’s my favorite because there’s just something magical about a fresh new start in a clean, welcoming classroom full of new students that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting. It’s my least favorite because even after nine years of teaching, I still get major anxiety and butterflies right before meeting and getting to know students. 😅
Over the years I’ve tried to minimize that anxiety by making sure I have my first day planned in a way that will show students my teaching style and procedures right from the beginning. As always, I try to blend fun with rigor and make sure my students’ voices are heard.
fun get-to-know-you activities for ELA:
mAKE bOOK bANNERS THAT REPRESENT PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Put old books or dictionaries to use by creating word search buntings. This is a simple, fun, and decorative get-to-know-you that students love. All I did was tell them to rip a page from a dictionary (old books would work too) and draw attention to three words to represent their past, present, and future in an artistic way. You can also do something like “three words to describe you” or “three words that you connect with” etc.
Not only does this activity help put the ART into English Language Arts on the first day, but it also provides cute and free classroom décor that represents students. If you would like to see more classroom decoration ideas, check out these posts:
- A Dolly Parton Retro Classroom Theme
- Books are Magic High School ELA Classroom Décor
- Nature Themed Classroom Décor: A Calming and Plant Filled Classroom
- High School Classroom Décor: Semi Flexible Seating in a Secondary ELA Classroom
Do a fun ELA WORKSHEET
Since I want to keep with the ELA theme and hate traditional icebreakers, I created a fun ELA worksheet that students can fill out so you can learn more about them. You can grab your free download by signing up for my Building Book Love Letter here:
This get to know you writing activity helps review ELA concepts such as imagery, grammar, and foreshadowing in a fun way!
PRACTICE DIGITAL RESOURCES WHILE GETTING TO KNOW YOUR STUDENTS
When my school went 1:1, I wanted to add a digital get to know you activity to my first week itinerary because I wanted to familiarize students with the digital resources they would be using throughout the year while also giving them a useful and fun language arts project.
These student visual resumes help students learn how to navigate digital ELA resources while helping you get to know students virtually or in person. Students will get to tap into their creativity and reveal their personality through these get to know you templates.
Here’s a video of how it works:
As you can imagine, this resource came in extra handy during the school year that must not be named!
SET UP FIRST DAY ELA STATIONS TO GET TO KNOW STUDENTS
As a last note about first-day activities, I would like to add that I’ve been using stations on the first day of school for years now. I have become a huge cheerleader for stations in secondary classrooms, so I want to show my students how active my class will be from day one. You can read all about my first day stations in detail in this post: First Day of School Activities for High School and Middle School English
GET TO KNOW ELA STUDENTS ALL YEAR LONG
Getting to know students doesn’t have to end after the first day of school. Keep the getting to know you activities going throughout the entire school year to strengthen relationships! Here are some ideas:
- Work in relatable get to know you activities into units. For example, when teaching Beowulf, I have students form their own mead halls based on interests. Read more here: Meaningful and Fun Activities for Teaching Beowulf
- Use anticipation guides with a twist to learn more about students before starting a new unit. Read more here: 10 Creative Ways to Introduce a Literature Unit
- Use “this or that” or “would you rather” attendance questions instead of simply having students say “here.” If you want to help build community AND promote reading, you grab a FREE list of 115+ book themed attendance questions here:
I hope that you have a great start to the year! If you would like more engaging ideas for the rest of the school year, check out our best-selling book: Keeping the Wonder: An Educator’s Guide to Magical, Engaging, and Joyful Learning
-Ashley Bible Building Book Love