5 Essential Strategies For The First Day Of School

Smart Classroom Management: 5 Essential Strategies For The First Day Of SchoolIn the past, I’ve written about the importance of ensuring a happy first day of school experience for your students.

There are many reasons for this, but the biggest is that it gives you leverage.

You see, when students like being in your classroom, your classroom management plan will matter to them.

It will have meaning and relevance. It will have logic and purpose.

It will have the power to dissuade misbehavior before it can gain a toehold.

Everything we do here at SCM, one way or another, supports this approach.

What follows are five strategies that will establish your classroom as a place your students will look forward to.

And prepare you for the best year of teaching you’ve ever had.

1. Connect

As your students enter your classroom for the first time, stop each one at the door and say hello. Smile, look them in the eye, and introduce yourself.

This simple act puts nervous students at ease and sends the message that you care about them. It’s also a quick and easy way to begin building rapport and reciprocal kindness.

2. Share

After a quick welcome, dive right into a funny or quirky story about yourself. It can be an anecdote about your childhood, your own school experience, or anything else that allows you to show your personality.

Your likability is crucial to effective classroom management, and nothing breaks down walls, creates ready-made leverage, and draws students into your circle of influence faster or more powerfully than telling a story.

3. Show

Your first routine of the year is the most important routine of the year. You’re setting the bar of expectations exactly where you wish it to be, so you want to make your teaching and modeling of it remarkable.

You want to make it experiential and highly detailed. You want to make it more exacting than any lesson your students have ever taken part in. After all, well-taught routines transfer excellence to everything you do.

4. Boundaries

After proving to your students that yours is no ordinary classroom, you’re now set to introduce your classroom management plan in a way that will resonate with them, that will cause them to agree with its supreme importance.

To that end, explain that the sole purpose of your rules and consequences is to protect their right to learn and enjoy school. The plan is meant for them, not you. It’s meant to safeguard that special something that they’re now all a part of.

5. Lesson

To further establish the tone and tenor of your classroom, jump into a challenging academic lesson on the very first day. Just be sure and teach the heck out of it. Show them what great instruction looks like.

Let them experience legitimate success—perhaps on a scale they never have before—and a deeper appreciation for learning. Send the message that in your classroom fun and hard work are one and the same.

Give Them Something To Talk About

Your students’ first impression of you and your classroom is important, critically so.

It can either set you on a path to a rewarding school year or throw you into a ditch from which you may never recover.

The key is to give your students a reason to get excited about being in your classroom.

It’s to set your expectations precisely where you want them to be so you don’t have to struggle for the rest of the year trying to prod, beg, lecture, bribe, and implore your students to get there.

It’s to give them a sweet and satisfying taste of what’s to come, which, in turn, will give you the leverage and freedom to really love your job.

Note: If any of topics above prompt questions, we’ve got you covered. Each has been written about in detail on this website.

Everything you need to prepare you for the start of school, and more, you can find in our archive (bottom right sidebar).

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please join us. It’s free! Click here and begin receiving new-article updates in your email box every week.

24 Responses to 5 Essential Strategies For The First Day Of School

  1. Linda July 30, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    How Do these strategies work with preschoolers?

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

      Hi Linda,

      They work very well–although you’ll likely make some (minor) modifications based on your experience.


  2. Karen Peterson July 30, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    I am an elementary school librarian. I have read your book (several times) CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT FOR ART . . . I would love to see more articles for “specials teachers”! We are in a very unique setting.

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion, Karen. I’ll see what I can do.


  3. Terra July 30, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    This is awesome advice! Except I teach middle school, and our first day of school is always a minimum day. I have thirty minutes with each period.

    I assume, in that case, that the challenging academic lesson can wait until day 2 or 3?

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

      Hi Terra,

      Yes, I should think so. 30 minutes isn’t much, so you must prioritize.


  4. Luz Eneida Sanabria July 30, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    Thanks for the tips, but will be a better way to do stategy #1 in High School with 6 diferent clases of 30 – 35 students?

    • Michael Linsin July 30, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

      Hi Luz,

      Just make brief eye contact and say hello. No need to take up too much time.


  5. Susan F August 5, 2016 at 7:39 am #

    Good Morning,

    Over the last several days I have been reading your articles. I wish I found your web earlier. I have been reading about giving a student a time out. How do that look in a fifth grade classroom? A separate space, table away from others? I have tables in my classroom with very little space. Any suggestions?

    Thank You

    • Michael Linsin August 5, 2016 at 7:55 am #

      Hi Susan,

      Please read through the Time-Out category of the archive (lower right sidebar). You’ll find your answers there. 🙂


  6. Edwin Holland August 23, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    Thanks so much for the article. I followed your advice and made sure I connected with everyone as they entered. I usually do, but your article helped me to make sure that I didn’t overlook it and just rush everyone to their seats.

    I also made sure I connected with them by telling them which elementary, middle, and high schools I attended as a student. Two students, in separate classes, were excited to share with me that I attended “their” schools. One shared the elementary school and the other had just transferred from my old “junior high”. If it wasn’t for that tidbit of information, I don’t know if those two students would have had much else to say to me.

    Last thing. I have never shared personal info with students on the first day other than my name. (It’s usually “not that kind of party”) – but after reading your article, I decided to try it.

    I shared my #1 Best and #1 Worst teaching experiences with them. Although they were a lot more entertained by my Worst Experience than my Best, they were engaged and listened to my every word!

    My FDOS went great – thanks for your articles – They are a big help!

    • Michael Linsin August 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

      That’s great to hear, Edwin! Thanks so much for sharing your first-day experience with me. I hope it will begin a more influential relationship with your students. I’m sure it will.


  7. Celeste August 24, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    I teach K-5 music and I started off the year playing a folk song on my guitar for the older kids. The kids loved it so much that I worked it into my lesson plans once a week. I discovered that my kids enjoyed hearing stories through song, and I’m going to try it again now that I’m in a new school. Just an idea for music teachers looking to make a great first impression 🙂
    Thank you Michael for your advice. I can’t even begin to describe how helpful it’s been for me!

    • Michael Linsin August 24, 2016 at 1:56 pm #

      I think it’s a great idea, Celeste. Wish I could do the same!


  8. Lynn August 24, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

    I teach 8th grade ELA at a Title 1 school. I was hired after school started, my room was left a mess from the summer, the kids had to sit in chairs (no desks) or on the floor for the first two weeks because we only had a few desks, and the AC was broken until last week, so in the afternoon we went into someone else’s room for class.

    Needless to say, despite my best efforts I have NOT made a good first impression, and it is starting to show in the kids’ behavior. Am I now in a “ditch from which I may never recover”? If so, it’s going to be a long year. Do you have any advice for me? This is my 10th year teaching but I’ve never had such a rocky start to the school year, and I’m concerned.


  9. Michelle September 3, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    I am a little confused on the order of events. If it is the first day of school, should students be greeted, come in find seats, listen to a story, THEN you go back and teach the routine of entering the classroom? Or do you just start right away with teaching the routine of entering the classroom and once the know it go through the rest of what you suggest above? I am just struggling with making sure to start the year off right with teaching entry expectations and balancing that with welcoming them into the classroom. Thanks for any input!

    • Michael Linsin September 3, 2016 at 3:02 pm #

      Hi Michelle,

      Yes to your first question.


  10. Susan Molloy September 9, 2016 at 7:23 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I teach PreK, 3s and 4s. I understand what you’re advising. I have one particularly difficult child. When I can, I ignore his behavior. At the drop of a hat, he’ll storm off, throw toys, scream or push toys across a table when he doesn’t get his way. I’ve been very consistent with him. He’ll get a warning, with choices, “you either pick up your toys or you sit”, then timeout which he may or may not stay on his chair. If he walks off, down to the office we go. After sitting in the office for a few minutes, I always review, “Why are you here?” He gets himself together until the next thing that’ll set him off. He can be so disruptive, how can I ignore his behavior and continue to teach. I’ve got 13 other students watching me to see what I’ll do, will I follow through. I praise and tell him how proud I am of him when his behavior is good. Sadly, it isn’t often. Moms supportive but she’s exhausted with him too. Any tips when behavior can’t be ignored?

    Thank you

    • Michael Linsin September 10, 2016 at 7:05 am #

      Hi Susan,

      I wish I could give you just a couple of tips, but you need a comprehensive approach involving several areas. Also, I would have questions for you before being able to give accurate, reliable advice. I recommend spending time in our archive, beginning in the Difficult Student category and going from there. We also offer personal coaching.


  11. Amalia September 20, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Hi Michael,
    I’m a preservice teacher at the University of Illinois gearing up for my last semester of student teaching and my first year of teaching. I was very excited to find your blog and its extensive library of classroom management articles. This article stuck out to me because I know how important it is to set clear expectations on the very first day of class. I read through this article, some of the linked articles, and through the comments and I wanted to express a concern that I didn’t think I saw elsewhere. Step 3 where you “Show” the students the routine was a little unclear to me, so I read the linked article for clarification. It seems like this is a great idea for younger classes, but I’m going to be teaching in high school classrooms and I think going through the routine in such fine detail might seem like overkill to high school students. Would you agree and have suggestions for how to scale it back a bit? Or do you think you should still go through with as much detail as you specified despite the possible negative reaction from high school students?

    • Michael Linsin September 21, 2016 at 7:46 am #

      Hi Amalia,

      For high school students you would be clear, certainly, but not as detailed. Also, there are far fewer routines. I’ll be sure and cover this topic in a future article.