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.