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First Day, First Grade! Set the Tone for the New Year

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 7/29/2013

It’s the first day of a new school year and you have just as many jitters as your students. The key is to be prepared! Here is a list of ideas and activities for the first day of school. Included is information about creating a chart of classroom rules.

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    Preparing for the First Day

    The First Day of First Grade The most important objective for the day should be to ensure that the children feel safe, comfortable and important. Your next objective should be that you have clearly presented the classroom rules and procedures. Children feel more secure when they have boundaries. Then make sure you have some fun! At the end of the day your students should be eager to come back again.


    • Books: Below is a suggested list or use your own favorites. Select at least two for the first day.
    • White board next to your chair where the students gather
    • Chart with class rules *
    • On the wall all year: Calendar, ABC’s, shapes, number line
    • Student nametags placed on the desks (first and last names)
    • Coloring paper on each desk
    • Crayons, pencils available
    • File box with hanging files numbered 1-25 (or whatever number of students you have in the classroom)
    • 26 pieces of construction paper with an upper-case letter of the alphabet on each
    • Blank 12-piece puzzles, one for each student with a few extras.
    • 9"x6" envelope with clasps, one for each student
    • Counters (chips, buttons or similar) and Number flash cards
    • Print out worksheets for your students (download here).
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    Creating Classroom Rules

    For over twenty years I have used techniques from the Assertive Discipline Program by Lee Canter. Here is a sample of classroom rules for first grade. You can adapt them to your situation.

    1. Follow directions.
    2. Raise your hand and wait to be called on.
    3. No put-downs or teasing.
    4. Keep hands and feet to yourself.

    You must decide on consequences for those who do not follow the rules. At the second warning I ask the student to write his name in a spiral notebook. If the behavior is not corrected the student puts a checkmark by his/her name and loses recess or free time minutes.

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    It’s Time! Here They Come!

    iStock 000017899649XSmall Greet the youngsters with a smile and a welcome. Ask each one to find his or her desk by looking at the nametags. If students bring supplies, provide a place to store some items (tissues, paper towels, glue) and instruct them to put the daily supplies such as crayons and pencils in their desks. Show them where to hang coats and book bags. Students may color the paper on their desks while you are greeting the other newcomers. Then use the ideas below based on your schedule. It’s good to alternate activities back and forth from desk to floor to keep it interesting.

    When everyone is settled, ask the students to gather on the carpet by your chair and white board. Say, “In order for us to become a classroom family, we need to get to know each other. So to do that, I am going to put you in pairs and I want you to find out about your new friend. You need to learn his or her name and one thing about your friend. For example, what did your friend do during the summer or does your friend have any pets. I will give you five minutes to chat and then I will call everyone together so you can introduce your new friend to the class."

    Take time for introductions. Then play a short game by asking what the students remember. For example you might ask, “Who went to Florida this summer? Or who has two cats and a dog?"

    Now do the morning routine that you will typically do first thing every morning. Here are a few suggestions:

      1. Mark the calendar day and say it out loud.
      2. Name the shape of the day (choose a different one each day)
      3. Correct a sentence on the white board, for example: my name is miss white (discuss capitalization and punctuation.)
      4. Sing a morning song.

    Next students return to seats. Ask the students to look at the last name on their nametags. What letter is at the beginning of his or her last name? Say, “I am going to put you in alphabetical order by using the first letter of your last name."

    Using the alphabet letters you wrote on construction paper, hold up the letter A. “Is there anyone in the class whose last name begins with the letter A?" If so, Have that person or persons stand together and hold the letter A. Continue this until everyone is standing with their letter.

    Organization Tip: Put the students in a line in alphabetical order. Assign each one a number. The first person in line gets number 1 and so on. Tell the children to try to remember their numbers. Those numbers go in the right hand corner of every paper they turn in all year. Make a list of the names and numbers. When collecting papers it is easy to quickly put them in number order and see whose paper is missing. Also filing the papers is easy using the hanging file folders.

    Ask students to return to their seats. Then ask them to get up again and stand in number order. Do it again and time them! How fast can they put themselves in alphabetical order? It’s fun!

    Return to the carpet and discuss the Classroom Rules chart. Why are rules important? What are the consequences if a rule isn’t followed?

    Take time to explore the room and play with some of the learning tools in the room.

    Return to the carpet and gather to read a book you have chosen.

    Give the students 10 counters. Then hold up number flash cards and ask the students to gather a set of counters representing the number on the card.

    Next place a 12-piece puzzle upside down on each desk making sure it is still put together. Instruct students to write their personal number on each piece. Then turn the puzzles over and coloring a scene or design on the front. Encourage the children to fill up the entire puzzle.

    Give each student an envelope with the student’s number on it in the top right hand corner. When their puzzle is complete the child can break it into pieces and put it in the envelope. For those who are finished they can complete each other’s puzzles. If a stray piece is found just check the number on the back and you will know whose puzzle piece it is! Provide a plastic basket to hold all the envelopes and use these puzzles all year.

    Read another book.

    Discuss going home procedures. Complete the sentence on the printable worksheet and color a picture at the bottom.

    Have a great year!

    Book List:

    Canter, Lee. Assertive Discipline 4th Revised Edition. Solution Tree, 2009.

    McNamara, Margaret. First Grade Bunny. Alladin Paperbacks, 2005.

    Maccarone, Grace. The Lunch Box Surprise. Scholastic, 1995.

    Rodman, MaryAnn. First Grade Stinks. Peachtree, 2006.

    Borden, Louise. Off to First Grade. McElderry Books, 2008.

    Quackenbush, Robert. First Grade Jitters. Harper Collins, 2010.

    Carlson, Nancy. First Grade, Here I Come! Viking, 2006.

    Preller, James. A Pirates Guide to First Grade. Feiwel and Friends, 2010.

    Brenner, Emily. On the First Day of Grade School. Harper Collins, 2004.