New Teacher Tip #4: Bring something ALIVE on the first day of school

One year, I brought roly-polies (or pill bugs).
The next year, I caught a tiny fish in a local pond and brought it in.
Another year, I brought C. elegans into class.
And one of my favorite things to bring in: Termites!! Each time, I tied something interesting about each organism to experiment design and the scientific method, the first topic I teach in my biology classes.  You can check out my free Termite Lab here.
And each time, my students loved it!  High school students love going to school for the first day because they want to show off their new clothes, see their friends they haven’t seen since May/June, and check out who is in their lunch period.  But they hate most of their classes.  Here’s why?
Because most teachers will hand out expectations sheets and huge heavy textbooks.  Most high school teachers start droning on about rules and regulations and why you can’t do this and why you can’t do that.  And few teachers will get into actual learning on the first day.  And I think this is sad.
Rules are important.  Expectations are important.  Textbooks… not so much (in my humble opinion).  What is most important is that students get excited about your subject and they get some idea of how great your class is going to be.
So excite them!  Bring something that isn’t made of paper and tie it into your first week’s lessons.  Get them to ask questions!  Grab their attention with a little mystery.  If you teach history, bring some historical artifact or a family heirloom with a “secret story”.  If you teach English, bring in a prop from a play you were involved in or have a friend in.  If you teach art, let the students get their hands dirty on the first day!  Math?  Get out some toddler toy blocks or other geometrically simple toys and have your students experiment with equations to describe their shape!  Physics?  Use those toddler toys to have your students measure how much they weigh and calculate how much they will weigh on Mars when you send your toddler there (with all his toys) when he is driving you crazy!
On the first day, I make sure my students do something fun, hands-on, and exciting!  That way, on the very first night when they go back home, when their parents ask at the dinner table, “What did you do in school today?” They will talk about your class.  In a good way.  From the very beginning of the year, your class will be the one your students think of as exciting, interesting, worth going to.  Your class will be the one they pick as their “favorite”.  Especially if you make hands-on and investigative learning a constant theme in your class, it will definitely be their favorite class.
(Is there a time for expectations? Yes, but I have them take the sheet home overnight, read it, sign it, and bring it back.  Then we discuss it on the 2nd or 3rd day, after they are already hooked!)
Want more Teacher Tips? Check out:
New Teacher Tip #1: Power of Good Morning
New Teacher Tip #2: Give a Quiz on Friday
New Teacher Tip #3: You’ll get sick a lot.  Make Emergency Plans now!
New Teacher Tip #5: Get Organized from the Start!

Best Classroom Management Tip EVER: How to solve the Bathroom Request Conundrum


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New Teacher Tip #3: You’ll get sick a LOT! Make Emergency Sub Plans NOW!

New Teacher Tip #5: Get Organized from the Start!