Getting Back in the Swing: 4 Tantalizing Tips for a New School Year
Coming back to school after summer break can be demanding for both the students and the teachers.
Get back into the swing of things and motivate your students as you approach this new year! Follow these four tantalizing tips to jump start your school year and students will be anxious to come back for more.
How to Start a New School Year: 4 Tips
The more organized and prepared you can be, the better you will feel about the first week back to school. It is important to have yourself and your lesson plans organized, but even more essential is having your classroom and your first week of ideas clearly arranged. Depending on the age of your students you’ll want to think about how you can make the most of your classroom space and what would make your students most comfortable. Some things to consider are:
How you want the desks or tables assembled.
What books and supplies will you have available for student use and how will they be organized. You may have a whole bookshelf of textbooks, dictionaries, resources and classroom supplies. Devise a system for their organization and also for student use.
Creating bulletin boards or other areas where you will post student work and class information.
What else can you do to the classroom to make it inviting and comfortable for students? Will you play music, have fun messages on the white board, or have subtle surprises waiting on each of their desks?
Student Survival Kits
One tactic to welcome students into their new classroom and to the new grade is to provide them with a survival kit. First you will want to define what survival is for lower levels. Then you can distribute the kits which can be adapted for any grade or level and even work great for adults. Here is an example of things to include in the kit that each student will receive:
to help you lick your problems
to wipe your eyes after sleeping during class
to soak up knowledge
A Tootsie Roll
to help you roll with the punches
so each day you can start with a clean slate
A paper clip
to hold everything together
to “write your wrongs"
for when you're up late studying
A piece of string
to help you tie up loose ends
A pack of gum
so your class can stick together
A cotton ball
for when you can't hear yourself think
to heal your wounds button
to remind you that sometimes you should "button your lip"
so you have enough "cents" to realize you are a valuable person
A safety pin
for little emergencies
A pet rock
to become your homework rock that will remind you to always do your homework
The student survival kit is a lot of fun and generally gets a lot of laughs, but it also comes along with a lot of explanation about new expectations. By providing them with concrete items and catch phrases you can begin to set the tone of the class and put systems in place. For ESL students you will have to explain some of the play on words you have used. You could make that into a game to see if the students can explain to each other the double meanings of some of the phrases. Once the students understand all the language of the survival kit, you can transition into setting some of the rules for the group. Talk about each item and what rule or class ideal it relates to. You can have the students brainstorm a list. For example, “We always help each other solve problems” or “if the teacher says be quiet, button your lip”. Also, you are doing the survival kit to approach the students right away with some humor and good intentions so don’t be too serious. A good follow-up activity to this one is to have the students devise five to ten items that they would put into a teacher survival kit and why!
Pringles Time Capsules
Pringles time capsules are a very unique way to start off any year. It takes some forethought and some eating or emptying out of Pringles cans assuming you are in country where you can find them. They are just the perfect size for this type of activity, but you can use any medium sized container with a lid. Time capsules are a wonderful team-building activity for the first week of school. You can form lessons around time, specifically future and past and explain what a time capsule is. Students create them in pairs or individually. Ideas for things to include inside can depend on what you have topics you will covering over the year or what is happening at the moment. Some things to think about including are: A current news article, a current photo of the student making it, a tracing of your hand and/or feet, a treat that will eat when you open the capsule, and some kind of writing. Students could write themselves a letter about their hopes for the year or explain what is happening in their lives at the present time. They will seal the capsules and you will store them (lock them up) for the year. When the end of the year comes, students have the pleasure of opening up their time capsules to see how much they have grown and how much has changed in one short year!
Break the Ice
It is imperative during the first week of classes to have plenty of warm-up and ice breaking activities prepared (check out Busy Teacher’s latest bestseller: Top 300 Ice-Breakers!). Anything to get the class loose and speaking is applicable. Name games are always popular. A favorite standby is having the students choose an adjective with the same letter of their name (Joyful Jane, Naughty Nat) and then getting to know them by playing a memory game until everyone would be hard pressed to forget the names. Another way to get them talking is to do some mingling activities like find someone who (always wakes up early, likes pizza, eats sushi, etc.), or class surveys where they have to find out basic information. Examples could be: how many students have a birthday in December, Which students don’t like rice, etc. The more lighthearted the icebreakers are, the more successful they will be! Also, don’t get caught up making any of them too complicated. You want to spend the class getting to know the students, not explaining confusing activities.
The start to a new school year can be exhilarating, exciting, and inspiring.
Welcome your students with open arms with encouraging activities for the best results! Do you have any tips on how to make the first week of school particularly special? Share your ideas here.
I am an ex-ESL teacher who has transitioned from that industry into the field of adult education. I have a long history of teaching ESL in numerous countries and varied classroom settings. I’ve also taught a variety of learners, but found I loved teaching teens and adults the best. I spent three years certifying and training want-to-be teachers in China and the Czech Republic. I am also a writer and editor interested in anything to do with education, travel, and lifelong learning.
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