First Day Activities for High School English

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The critical first class meeting 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 about their teachers as well as their classmates. Many high-school students start the semester dreading English class, but a creative teacher can make great strides to ensure the first class s starts the school year off on a positive note. What she will need in her teaching arsenal is some interesting activities for the first day of English class.

1 Learning About the Teacher

High-school students have a decent understanding 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 get to know them. An interactive way to introduce yourself is to do a KWL chart. A KWL chart is a three-column, visual-learning method, where students brainstorm what they already KNOW, what they WANT to learn and ask themselves what did I LEARN after the class. 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. The teacher can also complete one about the students and share it with them at the end of the class.

2 Learning About the Students

Critical thinking is an important part of developing good writing skills, and some fun activities for the first day of English class include playing the game Balderdash. Have each student tell you 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.

For younger children and especially in classes with lots of new students, one of the first day of school games that's sure to get them talking is called Switch. One child stands in the middle of the circle and asks a "Yes/No" answer question like "Do you have a brother?" or "Have you been to the Aquarium?" The students who answer "yes" move to the middle of the circle and talk about their shared interests and experiences before a new question is asked.

3 Setting Class Rules

One of the most important activities for the first day of English class includes exercises which clearly set out your class rules and expectations for the year. You can get students to make up their own class rules and debate why these are important, whilst also sharing the rules you would like them to abide by. During this time it's a good idea to get the class to complete their first sample of writing for you to assess their baseline level and have them set goals for the year.

One of the sweetest first day of school ideas is to have your class write themselves a letter 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 in regards to all you hope they will accomplish.

4 First Day of School Games

The very first day of a new academic year shouldn't be all work, work, work. There is plenty of time for that during the rest of the year. Start the semester off with a bang by choosing from any of these first day of school games:

A scavenger hunt- Have students look around the class for all their supplies, including new textbooks, exercise books and stationery.

Summer Quiz- Test the kids on their summer knowledge and tailor the questions to the age and interests of the grade level.

Decorate Namecards- as everyone starts to learn their new teacher and classmates names have them all design and decorate a name card and then display them for all to see.

Other first day of school ideas include having students complete journal writing about their summer breaks or get really creative by encouraging them to write fantasy summer journals of all the things they wish they had been doing during the long summer break.

Having a fun collection of first day of school ideas at hand will temper any nervousness some students may feel and will start the year off in a fun and lighthearted way.

Rebecca Bagwell is an educator with a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Trinity Baptist College. She has taught in China and the United States. While overseas she started writing articles in 2006 for bilingual trade journals. Now, she lives in the South where she homeschools and writes freelance articles encouraging creative approaches to education.