The first few days of school take careful planning. Middle schoolers need some time to adjust back with the daily schedule, the academic demands and the classroom rules. It is especially important for children who are embarking on their first year of middle school to understand their new responsibilities as older students. You will want to take the first week to learn the rules, help the class get to know you and each other and evaluate what each student has already been taught.
Don't have a set of class rules already posted to the wall on the first day. Your students are now old enough to have a voice in the classroom, so begin your first day with an open discussion to brainstorm rules. Lead the class toward settling on five or six comprehensive rules. This will immediately give your students a feeling of value and responsibility.
Now split your class into small groups, and assign each group one rule. They will plan and perform a quick skit that demonstrates what rule they were given and why that rule is important in the classroom. This activity can also serve as an icebreaker to get the students to converse with each other.
Now that your students are interacting, let's get to know them a little better. Assign partners, and ask them to conduct a "celebrity interview" where one student plays the reporter and tries to get as much information about her partner as possible. When the first interview is completed, switch roles. Have the students turn in their interviews as their first assignment.
The Time Capsule
This activity will help you learn more about your middle schoolers, both as people and as students. Give them a worksheet to fill out that asks personal questions such as favorite movie, favorite song or dream job. Try to choose questions that are likely to change as the year progresses. Intermingle these personal questions with questions that cover your curriculum for the year. Reassure them that this is not for a grade, this is only to see what they already know and measure how much they'll learn this year. Once you have collected all the completed worksheets, put them in a special time capsule. Tell the class that at the end of the year they will fill out an identical worksheet before reopening the time capsule and discovering just how much they have changed and learned.
The Goals Board
Tell your class that now that they are in middle school it is time for them to take more control of their futures. In elementary school teachers and parents may have guided them in certain directions, but now they are responsible for setting some goals of their own. Give them some sample categories their goals might fall in, such as academic, musical, athletic or charity work. Instruct them to choose two or three goals for the school year, and help them write out the steps they will need to accomplish their dreams. Post these goals on a bulletin board, and spend a little bit of time every month reviewing their goals. Has anyone accomplished a step that month? Does anyone have a step they need to add?
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