2023-24: Are You Ready For The First Days Of School?

2023-24 First Days of School

It's barely August,  but many of my teacher-friends on Facebook and Instagram have been posting memes and asking questions about this year's lesson plans since the middle of July. I just finished my quantitative analysis class a couple of weeks ago and am still in recovery, so I thought this would be a good time to reset my brain by writing about the first days of school. 

My favorite meme so far this year though is the one about the importance of learning to pronounce each student name by Leading ELLs.  

Pronouncing Sudent Names

I finally, after a few years in the classroom, discovered a way that worked for me to make sure I heard my students pronounce their own names, but not in front of the class where my quiet students might be embarrassed.  You can skip forward and read more about it out here.

Preparing for the First Days of School

Some of the things I have done to prepare for this school year include:

  • Hosted the first writing center workshop at a local high school. The cooperating teacher and I spent a few hours on a Friday training new writing consultants and I can't wait to help them work with writers this year. I'll be piloting the writing center this semester and then conducting research for my dissertation in the spring semester. 
  • I finished quantitative analysis over the summer and am taking a mixed methods class this semester. I think this is where I'll lay the foundation for the type of research I'll need to do within my writing center context to figure out both how I can bring writing centers to high schools, but how I can bring writing center pedagogies to English teachers. Anyone have any ideas you'd like to share? 
  • I'm working on several presentations for the fall conference schedule. You can read more about what I'm up to this year on my 2023 fall conference schedule post.

Almost every year, I recommend you check out Cult of Pedagogy's icebreakers, and while I still think there is a place for them in the first couple of days (making sure that you're honoring the students in your classes who are introverts and dread talking to people they don't know or being put on the spot), you also need to make sure you're spending some time engaging your students in written or verbal conversations that will help you understand who they are and what they might like to read and write about. My First 5 Days of School Quickwriting prompts can not only help you set the tone for the year, but also help you gain insight into who your students are.

Resources for the First Days of School

The first and most important focus of the first two weeks of school is to build positive relationships with your students. This will make or break the rest of the year. Getting to know them goes beyond just assessing their skills, but really focusing on learning who they are and what motivates them.  To help you do this, I've developed a few free resources you can sign up for that includes the activities I've created and curated over the years to to help facilitate this process. Not only are these activities classroom-tested, but they are also introverted student/teacher approved! No embarrassing activities or conversations for people who don't like large-group discussions.

Before They Walk In

RTE Seating Chart Groups Template

This activity helps me get to know students (and just as importantly, their names/pronunciations) before they walk in the door. As an introvert who gets to know people better one-on-one or in small groups, this helps me connect with students right from the first moment.

Name Cards

Student Name and Hobbies Cards

I can remember faces easily, but I'm terrible with names. I'll remember my extroverted kids by day two, but will struggle remembering the names of the  shy ones who never say anything for months. So this name card activity helps me put a visual name with a face — along with some details that will help me get to know the student.

Virtual Lockers

Virtual Lockers

You may remember this from a couple of years ago when teachers were designing Bitmoji inspired virtual activities like crazy. I thought this one was worth mentioning again since it will give you a change to both learn about your students interests and also their comfort level with using Google Apps for Education.

Student Inventory

Student Inventory Form

My student inventory includes questions to help you discover the talents, interests, hobbies, and other relevant contexts of your students' lives so you can design learner-centered lessons and units. I have also included a video tutorial to help you modify the form to suit your needs and school context.

 Sound like activities you can use in your classroom? Just register for access to these activities and more!

Note: If you signed up for these resources last year -- or even the year before -- they are still in your member's area, along with a couple of new goodies I'm adding. Just login here!

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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