The Essential First Week of School

The first week of school, before you even begin to teach history, is more important than most teachers realize. It can make or break your year.  Unfortunately, it is the week most beginning teachers have the least experience with and the most questions about. This is the week when you teach your expectations and set up procedures for a smooth transition for your students.  But how do you teach expectations and procedures? And what do you teach your first week?

Here is an overview of how I prepared my my middle school students for success:

Day One 

Make a game for the first day of school – a Scavenger Hunt for your classroom.

I start the school year off with a classroom Scavenger Hunt.  It allows the students to immediately engage with me as well as learning those important class procedures.  An important challenge in the Scavenger Hunt was for the students to come and introduce themselves to me – It helped build our classroom culture from Day One.








Students create an annotated map of the classroom.The students debrief the Scavenger Hunt by reviewing the questions and making an annotated map of the classroom showing what they have learned – a perfect skill for Social Studies!  An added bonus is that I don’t leave school exhausted on the first day!



Day Two

I introduce the Interactive Student Notebook.  We review the guidelines, do a Cookie Quality lesson to showcase my expectations, and then they look at sample notebooks in an activity called The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. And yes – I really do give away cookies!

Help students visualize the concept of quality – Think SPRINKLES!


Day Three 

It is notebook set up time! I allow my students to personalize the outside of their notebook and to personalize an about the author page.  I cover their notebooks with clear packing tape or allow my students to take them home to decoupage the cover (paint with white Elmer’s glue and dry). In addition to the outside cover, they make their Table of Contents and a unit page titled “How to Be Successful in ** Grade”. This day can be exhausting, but it is important to establish expectations for the Interactive Student Notebook from the very beginning.





Day Four

Now we focus on classroom expectations for behavior! I teach my students learning theory as we take notes on Multiple Intelligences.  The students then take a MI Quiz to determine their own strengths and weaknesses.  They process their learning by creating a spectrum ranking their strongest to weakest area of MI.

Students process how to work in a group by creating a mosaic.

Also on this day we look at how to work in a group.  You have to teach this skill every year!  I have  different groups role play a “Good Group” and a “Bad Group”. We discuss what they noticed and take notes on what behaviors to use in a successful group.  They create a mosaic to showcase positive group behaviors.






Day Five

The last day of the week I start on the importance of History – I don’t want to hear 500 times “Why do we have to learn this?” My Why Study History? lesson allows kids to look at the importance of history, as they debate the importance of learning this subject. It also allows me an opportunity to introduce my students to the key terms in Social Studies by examining personal artifacts – a “Win Win” as we work on building relationships with this activity as well.

Learn about the importance of history.


I hope these ideas help you have a successful year!

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