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Young girl concentrating on writing with pencils in each hand

It's the end of summer. Kids' minds have been on autopilot for three months, yet we expect them to walk into school on that first day ready to learn. It used to take me weeks to develop a relationship with the kids and get them engaged in class. After a few years of frustration at the time wasted getting them psyched for school, I came up with a plan to get the kids so excited that they'll be breaking down the doors to start class. Here are some of the ways that our staff is firing up the kids for their first day.

1. Exciting Podcasts

The biggest question on each student's mind at the beginning of the year has to be, "What is my teacher like?" I try to answer this question the moment they show up for registration in July. Each student receives a flyer welcoming them to the school and directing them to a website with links to podcasts. Through this medium, the teachers introduce themselves and explain why they love teaching. The kids love hearing their teachers' voices and quickly learn that they'll be working with adults who are energetic and excited to work with them. I don’t post the podcasts all at once -- instead I stagger them throughout the summer to build student anticipation.

2. Welcoming Web Page

Most teachers load their class websites up with a wealth of resources, web tools, apps, and videos. During the school year, this is a valuable practice. During the summer however, this can be overwhelming. Students want to see what makes you excited to teach your content, not the link to the dictionary you want them to use. The website that we share with kids at registration is simpler than our usual website. It's a welcome page with pictures, videos, and links to sites that show how much fun our students will have in the coming year. I also include things like a timer counting down to the first day of school, the introduction podcasts with a picture of each teacher, and a quick video tour of the school. For an example, check out my school’s welcome website.

3. Snail Mail Invitation

Kids love getting things in the mail. It doesn't matter what it is. There's just something special about opening the mailbox to find something waiting for you with your name on it. A week or two before the school year begins, we mail a letter to all students telling them how excited we are for them to join us in August. It's also a great way for us to include a few quick reminders about upcoming dates (our "Meat 'n' Greet," the first day of classes, etc.).

4. Delicious Welcome Event

My school uses the power of food by hosting an event called "Meat 'n' Greet" the week before school starts. We provide hotdogs and chips and take the opportunity to meet the students for the first time. We also use that opportunity to meet their families. This builds some excitement with younger siblings and shows the parents that we're all working together to help the kids succeed. The goal is giving the students and their families a chance to meet the teachers and staff in person, scope out the building, and see where they'll be spending a large portion of their time this year.

5. Email Blast or Phone Message

The kids have been primed with the podcasts, welcome website, letter, and "Meat 'n' Greet," and they're ready for the first day -- almost. They just need one final push. The day before school starts, I send out an email reminding each student how exciting that first day is going to be. I keep it short and to the point. By this time, most of the students have met me, watched or listened to intros to all of the teachers through the website, and toured the school. When they get to school the next day, they're bursting through the doors ready to tackle the school year.

6. Bonus Tip: Keep It Going

It's easy to start losing students if you don't keep the momentum going. Energetic lessons and exciting classrooms help, but during the first month of the school year, nothing makes a kid beam more than coming home to find out that their teacher called or emailed their parents with news about what a great job they're doing in class. That one phone or email call can make a difference in your interactions with both the parents and the student for the rest of the year.

How do you get and keep your students excited about the new school year? Please share your tips and tactics in the comments section of this post.

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Greg Schnagl's picture
Greg Schnagl
Founder & Editor of TeacherCentricity.com

Josh,
Your suggestions are relevant and effective. With the digital world being so prevalent in kids lives, I believe the snail mail approach to be the most impactful. Kids are not used to getting anything mail. Kids will keep that note as a souvenir fo their educational experience. Consider sending them something to do in that mailer, as well. I used to send an "All About Me" page of myself, along with a blank one for the student to complete and bring with them on day one. Single page. Simple to do.

(1)
Josh Stock's picture
Josh Stock
Teacher, Innovator, and Awesomeness Expert

Greg,

I love the idea of sending something for the students to do in the letter. It makes it a much more active experience.

Scott Bedley @scotteach's picture
Scott Bedley @scotteach
Teacher, Creator, Un-Maker, Foodie, Global School Play Day

Josh Stock-
Amazing ideas! I always send a postcard out to each student before school begins. I'm always amazed how many students bring it in and are shocked that I sent them mail. I've even seen some keep it in their binder the whole year. I do like your idea about podcasts. I might have to set that up for the year!

Josh Stock's picture
Josh Stock
Teacher, Innovator, and Awesomeness Expert

Scott,
That's awesome that kids keep the postcard. I think getting something in the mail addressed to them, lets them know that their education is all about them. It makes them a part of the process and also lets them know you care.

Josh Stock's picture
Josh Stock
Teacher, Innovator, and Awesomeness Expert

Sue-

Absolutely! But Veggie N' Greet just doesn't have the same ring to it. :-)

TODD SENTELL's picture
TODD SENTELL
Author of the hilarious schoolhouse memoir, "Can't Wait to Get There. Can't Wait to Leave"

I was planning to give them a test on the first day of school on the eighteen most popular Georgia state symbols. I just had this deep-down rookie teacher's feeling that they'd appreciate it. One of the state symbols is a largemouth bass.

I gave them their Georgia History textbooks and then told them to turn to page 505 and start memorizing the eighteen Georgia state symbols because in a few minutes we're going to take a quiz on them. Honestly, nobody freaked out. They seemed giddy about the idea to tell you the truth. They wondered what the heck staurolite is. A largemouth bass was easy. It's a gross looking, mouth breathing fish.

While they were studying the symbols page, a brown-haired girl with bright green eyes named Petal was busy looking at the opposite page, page 504. It was a map of Georgia that showed the geophysical provinces. Petal asked what a fault line was and even though I wanted her to be studying the symbols list, I was impressed that she was really interested in her textbook. I told her, and the rest of the class, what the fault line in Georgia was and they couldn't believe that most of Georgia was under ocean water a whole bunch of thousands of years ago.

Petal asked me what the state bird was.

I said the mosquito.

Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA's picture
Katie Schellenberg, JD, MA
Advocate, Lawyer, Teacher and Founder of Beyond Tutoring

Just love this! So many simple and effective ideas to get school off on the right foot. I particularly like the snail mail thing because as a student I was OBSESSED with snail mail. I had like 11 pen pals at any given time. I would have thought it was the coolest if I got something from a teacher.

Josh Stock's picture
Josh Stock
Teacher, Innovator, and Awesomeness Expert

It's definitely unique. I can't remember the last time I received something in the mail that wasn't a bill or an ad. Plus it's something the kids can hang on the fridge.

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