What to Include in Your First Day Lesson Plan (and What to Leave Out)

And what to leave outPlease don’t take your first-day cues from any movie where the teacher stands on a desk. The first day of class should be the most structured day of the year, not the most exciting. It’s all about setting the tone so that you can teach with minimum drama the rest of the year. Your first-day lesson plan is really more of a checklist, and it should include the following elements, most of which will take less time than you expect:

  1. Meeting students at the door and quietly directing them to an assigned seat.
  2. Taking attendance and processing no-show students while the class works quietly. (What are they working on? Probably some of these first-day handouts.)
  3. Arranging paperwork for the office while the class works quietly.
  4. Learning as many of your students’ names as possible while the class works quietly.
  5. Collecting parent contact information before students realize they don’t want you to have their parents’ contact information (while the class works quietly).
  6. Explaining expectations to older students and practicing procedures with younger students.
  7. Assigning homework you plan to collect, even if you are only asking students to get papers signed.
Still overwhelmed? Need a starting point? Here’s the first-day lesson plan from my own classroom. Click the file to download to your computer. Then, customize it to your needs. FirstDaySampleLessonPlan_FromRoxannaElden.com

Here’s what to leave out:
That activity where your kids help you make up the rules.

Not everyone agrees with me on this. In fact, this advice gets more pushback than any other advice I share in New Teacher Orientation speeches. Here’s why I recommend that new teachers think twice before doing the rule-making activity: Your first year, you are far more likely to give off a vibe of being unsure of yourself than of being too strict. It’s easy to get nicer over the course of the year. It’s very hard to get less nice. (Not impossible, but definitely hard.) With that in mind, signing on to run a group decision-making activity with a room full of kids you’ve just met is a huge a classroom management gamble. There are lots of chances for kids to argue, or laugh at each other’s suggestions, or get too loud, and it puts you also you in a position where you can’t say anything about it, because until the activity is over, your classroom has no rules. 

More on this in the School Year Starter Pack.