The critical first class of the semester can be intimidating, especially for a high-school English class. For students at a new school, the most important lesson that day is to learn who their teachers are and who their classmates are. Many high-school students start the semester dreading English class, but a creative teacher can do much to make the first class a time to start the year in the right direction.

Learning the Teacher

High-school students have a pretty good idea of what their English class will entail but usually are somewhat wary of a new teacher. Greeting students at the door, shaking hands with them, looking them in the eye and asking questions are all ways to let them get used to you. An interactive way to introduce yourself is to do a KWL chart. A KWL chart is a three-column, visual-learning method, and using it the first day of class will let the students see how you interact with them. On the board or a large chart, write down what the students say they already Know about you. Students pick up information from siblings or other teachers who have talked about you, and their perspectives can be quite interesting. As students speak, let them know your procedure for conducting class discussions--raising your hand, no interrupting and so on. Then find out what they Want to know. They can anonymously write questions on slips of paper or just continue the discussion. Spend as much time as you want discussing yourself. At the beginning of the next class, see how much they remembered by finishing the last column, what they Learned.

Learning the Students

Critical thinking skills are an important part of having good writing skills, and a fun way to practice these on the first day of English class is by playing Balderdash. Have each student tell three things about themselves that are true, and one thing about themselves that is false. Their classmates usually have a good time guessing which statement is false, and it is a fun way to get to know one another.

Learning your Goals

An important part of the first day of English class is getting an assessment of your students' writing levels. Just as important is getting your students to set goals for the year. Have them write a letter to themselves to be read on the last day of school. In the letter they should write down specific goals they want to accomplish this year, as in what grade they hope to get; how they have improved as a student; and what will have changed in their lives. Near the end of class, read them your letter showing them your goals for the year with all you hope they will accomplish.