First Day of School Tips for New Teachers

First Day of School Tips for New Teachers

The first day of school will be here before you know it. The night before my very first first day of school as a teacher I could not sleep because I was so nervous and excited. Even on my eighth first day as a teacher, I still had butterflies! I thought I would share with you some tips that worked for me. If you are a first year teacher, or if you’ve been around the block (hallway?) a time or two, I hope you find these helpful.

1.Greet your students at the door. Stand at your door with a smile. Greet them, welcome them, learn their names. Help them know that when they walk into your classroom, they will be greeted with a friendly face and kind words. This simple gesture on the first day of school goes a long way!

2. Assign seats. I know that some may disagree on this one, but please, take it from your shy, introverted student (me!) that one of the most nerve-wracking, anxiety-inducing, and terrifying experiences in the world is walking into a room and having the pressure of choosing a seat. It takes the pressure off if there is an assigned seat and gives a nervous child a task to focus on.

3. Plan something for students to do when they arrive. It doesn’t have to be big or life-changing, but your students are nervous, too, and they need somewhere to channel their nervous energy. Here are some ideas:

  • Give them a blank sheet of paper, and have them draw a self portrait.
  • Have them write a quick introduction letter to you.
  • Have them write a letter to themselves about how they feel on the first day. (Save the letters and give them back to them on the last day!)
  • Have them create a name tag.

One year, I was so proud of my tech skills that I made some Microsoft word art of their names, but I made it with no fill so they could color them in and decorate them. This served three purposes. 1. I didn’t have to have my name tags ready yet. 2. They knew exactly where to sit. 3. They had something to do on the first day.

4. Introduce yourself. I brought in a pillowcase full of five things that represented me and pulled out the objects to introduce myself. This was a routine I used throughout the year with the Spotlight Student. I also posted a few pics of me (and my pets!) on the Spotlight Student bulletin board. I told a little about myself and why I wanted to become a teacher. I think it helps students feel connected to you and helps ease their minds.

5. Plan some ice breakers. Some students may have a hard time introducing themselves to others, so plan some ice breakers to get them talking to each other and help them get to know their classmates. I created these Truth or Dare Cards and Team Tasks as part of my Back to School Creative Thinking pack. They make perfect ice breakers!

First Day of School Ice Breakers

6. Find out how they are getting home. This seems like a no-brainer, but our admin would always remind us to find out. Some kids may be new, or some kids may have changed how they go home from last year, or some kids may be going home a different way just for the first day. Whatever the case, you do not want to be the teacher calling the front office at dismissal time with a panicked student who doesn’t know how they are getting home. (Trust me, I’ve been that teacher. The shame.)

7. Plan to review and practice routines and procedures. Yes, I am of the Harry Wong generation. Show your students exactly how and where you expect them to line up. Practice coming into the classroom. Practice walking in line. Practice arriving in the morning. Practice turning in papers. Ok, you get the point. For a more detailed list of routines and procedures, read here: Big List of Class Routines. If you haven’t thought about these things, think about them now! It’s ok if you change your mind down the road or decide to do them differently as you get you know your students, but have a really good idea for how you want things to run in your classroom, and teach it on the first day and for the first couple of weeks. The rest of your year will be much better as a result!

8. Break up the monotony. With all of the routines and procedures that you will be going over (see above) make sure you break it up. Don’t just talk talk talk to students all day. Have them get up out of seats to practice the routines. Also, you can collect your supplies, do your read aloud, or play academic games in between the procedures.

9. Read aloud. I tried to make a habit of reading aloud every single day, so for me, it was important to get started right away. Judy Moody Was in a Mood by Megan McDonald {affiliate link} is a great one for the first day of third grade because Judy is actually starting third grade in it! I also love picture books on the first day and during the first week to help talk about class expectations. I wrote about some of my faves here: First Day Books. 

10. Do something academic. Even though the first day is usually jam packed with get to know you’s and routines and procedures, I always try to plan some time to do something academic. This sets the tone for the year that, hey this teacher is nice, but we are also going work. Check out this post to find a simple (and free) STEM engineering activity that also could be a great icebreaker: First Day STEM. Or you could do this measurement activity where students measure their height and other things on the first day and then again on the last day. (This is also part of my Back to School Creative Thinking Pack.)

First Day of School Measurement Activity

11. Overplan. You more than likely will not get to everything that you have planned for the first day of school, but you still want to have a few back-up activities just in case. Have a few extra printable activities on hand just in case you have to handle something that comes up like a surprise new student or a change in schedule.

12. Collect supplies. Before students arrive, figure out which supplies students will keep and which you will collect. Also decide where you want students to put their supplies. Don’t try to collect them all on one table, 25 boxes of tissues alone will fill that up real fast! I would typically give the class an activity to work on and then collect supplies by table or group.

13. Compliment all of the good behavior. On the first day of school, students are notoriously quieter, shyer, still figuring things out. Call it the honeymoon period, call it kids who aren’t used to waking up this early, call it luck. Whatever you call it, it is a brand new year, and they want to please their new teacher. Every time you notice good behavior that you hope to see more of, give specific praise. “I love the way you got right to work!” “You did a great job lining up!” Go overboard with the praise because this will shape the behavior in the future.

14. Don’t worry about bulletin boards. I know, we’re teachers, we’re supposed to have cute bulletin boards. I’m not saying Don’t have them; I’m just saying you don’t have to have them all decked out on the first day. The Thinker Builder has an amazing post about this: Reserved Signs on Bulletin Boards. He gives you permission, and I do too. Don’t stress about the bulletin boards right now. Throw up some pretty paper and some cute borders, and you’re good. There will be plenty to put on them later. Instead stress about routines and procedures 😉



We put a lot of pressure on kids at school these days. On the first day of school, I want to ease any anxiety students had about this coming school year. My number one goal on the first day was to send kids home saying, “I love school. I’m going to have a great year.”

Are you ready for the first day? You might not think of everything ahead of time, and that’s ok. Trust yourself to handle things that come up during the day. Just go in, smile, and have a great day! You got this!


Happy First Day of School!


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  • Amazing ! and great news , really appreciate and glad for that ,
    That’s why I bookmark this page to get more useful information in the next post ,
    thanks for sharing !!!!!

  • Celia

    Thank you!
    I have been teaching over 20 years and this happens every year. New students means new thinking on my part. Glad I read this it will get me motivated to decide how my first day/week will go,
    or at least I will have a plan.
    Again thank you for your reminder. I don’t want to lose sleep over it.

  • Mary

    I love this! I’m on my third year of teaching and my two previous first days were not very ideal. Hehehe… I am still nervous for next week and this gave me a lot of ideas! Thanks, teacher! ^_^

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