The first days of class in high school can be strenuous for both instructors and students. To this end, you may consider trying a number of first-day activities to help ease the tension as well as ease the students (and yourself as the instructor) into a learning environment.

Introductions

Try a "Who Is Your Teacher?" chat on your board.
Try a "Who Is Your Teacher?" chat on your board.

If it is the first day of a student's high school career, it is unlikely that he knows who you, the teacher, are. Even returning students, depending on the size and structure of your school, may never have encountered you before. Try creating a "Who Is Your Teacher?" board for a quick introduction. The board can consist of two or more areas, one with what they already know about you, and the other with what they would like to know. You can allow them time in class to fill this out, or take questions and fill it out yourself.

Icebreakers

In addition to introducing yourself, you may also wish to have your students introduce themselves to both you and each other. This will help both you and your students learn everyone's name and perhaps something about them. There are many forms of icebreaker activities. You can try having students pair up with the person behind, in front of, or beside them. Get each person to list an interesting (and appropriate) fact about themselves. Have each partner introduce the other partner to the rest of the class by name -- and by the interesting fact.

Introduce Your Course

Setting aside getting to know the instructor and one another, the students also need to be familiarized with what it is you'll be teaching them. This doesn't have to be tedious.Try making a game out of key terms for the course. Put them in a crossword puzzle or another word-finding game. You can also try introducing the course topic with video clips from cartoons or movies if your classroom is equipped with audio-visual aids. To engage the students, try asking them what they think the course involves.

Setting the Tone

The first day of school can also be used to set the tone you want for your classroom, as well as establishing expectations. There are many ways to set a tone and establish expectations. Try having a seating chart prepared when the students enter the classroom. After everyone has settled, give them a textbook preview. Hand out the textbook and have the students fill out a questionnaire or worksheet on it. After this, you can move onto a pretest to help you and the students discover their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, try going over what supplies the students will need. Give justifications for each one.