Here are some forms you may want to prepare for the first day of school. Before you make these on your own, ask around – they are pretty common activities, so no need to reinvent the wheel. The important thing is they help you get to know your students, set a structured tone for the first day of school, and keep students busy so you can handle all the unexpected things that will demand your attention.
Student Information Sheet: Schools require parents to fill out emergency information cards, but you will 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 you might want 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 record files described in the “Piles and Files” chapter of See Me After Class.
Here’s a sample sheet from my own high school classroom. Click to download. Then you can change it to suit your needs. StudentInfoSheetSample_FromRoxannaElden.Com
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 10 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.
Supply List: 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.
Procedures: Make a list of procedures you expect students to follow. Write at a level they can understand. 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.
Long Writing Assignment or Activity Packet (Also known as the “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 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.
Want to really be a superstar? Make 20 extras of every form you gave students on the first day. Staple them into packets or put them in individual manila folders. When new students arrives mid-year, just hand them the forms, point them to 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.
(C) Roxanna Elden