I don’t know about you, but I get anxious about the first day of school. I don’t get anxious about what I’m going to wear or what will happen if my alarm clock doesn’t go off (because I set three), but I always wonder what am I going to do with 32 strange kids for almost an hour?! Do you feel me? Put your mind at ease. With the right first day of school science activities, you’ll set yourself up for success!
Students don’t know you. You don’t know them. They need to know rules, procedures, expectations… but you don’t want to bore them to death. Yet, you’re also not ready to jump right into teaching that first day. So, what do you do?
No longer do I worry about what to do the first day of school in science! Here’s my secret sauce that I very much want you to replicate!
PART 1 – ABOUT YOU AND EXPECTATIONS
I sometimes hear teachers say that we need to be engaging on the first day of school. “Don’t not go over the syllabus or expectations the first day of school.” I agree… to a point. Which is why this is part one. As in… part one of two.
Your classroom is your kingdom. You are the queen (or king). The boss. You set the rules. Period. So let your students know. (I say this meaning – let them know gently. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT walk around announcing this the first day of school… or maybe ever.)
Setting the tone for your classroom in the first 15 minutes is one of the most important first day of school science activities you can incorporate. It allows students to know what is acceptable and what isn’t. New students in your room know nothing about you or your classroom. Addressing a few important procedures lets students relax a little bit.
I’ll highlight a few things, but there’s a picture of the list I go over on the first day below. Feel free to send me a DM on Instagram or email me if you have questions about any of the things on the list!
Before those kids walk in, have a seating chart ready. Let them sit where they want for a minute. Introduce yourself with your name and then switch their seats. Immediately. This sets the tone that they’re not in charge. And while classroom management is different than controlling everything, you should not let them sit where they want (and with who they want) at first.
As soon as they are settled, tell them a little bit about you! Maybe you have a (brief) powerpoint with some photos or share something you did this summer. They want to know who you are. This is a good time to briefly tell them what topics they’ll cover over the year.
Next, you’ll want to touch on classroom expectations. This is not on the exciting list of first day of school science activities, but it might just be the most important. This is where most of teachers tune out and say that this doesn’t belong on the first day. “We should be engaging and talk about expectations later!” Let me persuade you otherwise.
Do students sharpen a pencil on the first day? Do students have to throw things away?
Again – this is your kingdom and your classroom. They will spend the next nine months with you. Below you’ll find list of things I tell students on every first day of school. This list is limited to what they need to know in general. I wait to introduce specific procedures and expectations as we use them but on the first day, they need to know:
- Where the pencil sharpener is.
- How and when to sharpen their pencil.
- What they can and cannot touch without permission.
- Where to keep their backpacks (and their phones)
- How to throw away trash (yes… they need that reminder!)
- Where to find daily information and bell ringer.
There are a few more, but for those of you needing an idea – there you go! This part should take no longer than 10 minutes, leaving you about 30 to get them working (and packed up properly)!
Procedures and paperwork shouldn’t exactly count as first day of school science activities, but
PART 2 – GRAPHING
Yes. I said it. Graphing. Some (most) students have a hard time making graphs. This activity doubles as an ice breaker and a formative assessment!
You can snag this worksheet here for free! Students spend a few minutes introducing themselves to each other and asking each other all three of the following questions:
- Which animal would make a better pet?
- Which sounds cooler to explore?
- Which type of ice cream is better?
Students collect data by gathering tallies for their peers answers. Give them a time limit to do this.
I use grouping cards (click here to read about them and here to just buy them – I live and breathe by these!). Students visit a group with their same number, color, and letter (for a total of three different groups for about 2 minutes each) before I send them back to their seats. They get to talk to 12 different people in the class and have some structured freedom to move, while not giving them complete freedom.
Students choose one question to make a graph using their data.
Use The Graphs as Assessments
This is my favorite first day of school science activity because you are formatively assessing students. Look for a bar graph, intervals that are equal and on the lines, labels, and a title. These simple graphs pretty quickly give you an idea as to how capable they are of creating their own accurate graphs later.
I usually find that students need some remediation. Based on what I see, my next several weeks of bell ringers target skills they are missing.
This first day of school gives you the balance of structure while allowing students to start building relationships and friendships immediately. Whether you’re in need of an idea or just a refresh, this fool proof first day of school will set the standards and engage your students, build relationships, and balance jumping into content with setting expectations.