Here are some forms you may want to prepare for the first day of school.
Before you make these on your own, ask around. These are pretty common activities, and there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. The benefits of having these forms is (a) they help you get to know your students, (b) they set a structured tone for the first day of school, and (c) they keep students busy so you can handle all the unexpected things that will demand your attention on the first day.
You can also find a ready-to-edit Word document containing all of my own first day forms here.
If you really want to be a superstar, make 20 extra copies of each of these forms. Paper-clip them into packets and keep them handy in a file for new students who arrive mid-year. Then, when new students arrive, just hand them the forms, find them a desk, and ask them to get started. Not only will this help you get to know everything you need to know about your new student, it will buy you some time in case you can’t give them your full attention right away.
Papers You May Want to Give Out on the First Day of School
Student Contact Information Sheet
Schools require parents to fill out emergency information cards, but you may still want to make a form of your own. Older kids can fill this out in class. Younger students should take it home. This paper should include any information that might be helpful in reaching out to parents later in the year, like home languages or after-school activities. You should also collect as many forms of parent contact info as possible. You can put these in a binder, or tape them to the front of manila folders to create the individual record files described in the “Piles and Files” chapter of See Me After Class.
Student Interest Survey
The student interest survey serves two purposes. First, it helps you get to know your students as people. Second, it keeps students busy and quiet while you juggle the demands of the first day. Ask questions that require long answers, but don’t expect the survey to take up too much time. A two-page survey can take as little ten minutes.
Parent Letter or Syllabus
A letter to parents or a syllabus can explain your expectations, rules, supply list, grading scale, and what you plan to cover in the class. Don’t go into more detail than you can be sure of.
If your list of supplies is too long to include in your parent letter or syllabus, send it separately. Talk to coworkers for an idea of what families are used to sending. For younger grades, include classroom supplies like tissues and hand sanitizer—a class of 30 runny noses and 60 dirty hands goes through these things quickly.
If you already know how you plan to handle certain common classroom procedures, you can make a handout to go over with students. If you need ideas for classroom procedures, ask a colleague—or check out the “Procedures that (Probably) Prevent Problems” chapter of See Me After Class.
A “Flotation Device” Activity
If your students are old enough to write on their own, have a long writing assignment prepared for the first day. A well-planned prompt can help you get to know your students, their writing, and their motivation levels. More important, it will take up at least half an hour of class time. If you have other things planned and don’t get to it, that’s fine. However, if you are stuck with an empty half hour after you finish your first-day lesson plans—trust me—you will wish you had a writing assignment. If students are too young to write, make an activity packet based on the letters of the alphabet to keep them coloring for a while.