Advice for the First Day of Middle School

 Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Erin makes some good points about the best way to spend that first day with your middle school students; take (or leave) the advice she had to offer.
Hey guys! It’s Erin from I’m Lovin’ Lit and I’m so happy to be a part of this wonderful new blog! Today I’m going to talk about my feelings about the first day of middle school. Whether you’re a new teacher, new to middle school, or just pressing the reset button for the year, I hope you find some new and different things to think about because, well, I’m somewhat opinionated! 🙂What to Do (and What Not to Do) on the First Day of Middle School Let’s start with what NOT to do, shall we?
1. Spend the entire 50 minute period discussing your rules, expectations, and telling kids about what they’ll be doing this year. *YAWN*
2. Do that “elementary thang” and have your class (community of learners) collaboratively come up with a list of rules and expectations and discuss the meaning and need for rules, blah blah blah. DON’T. You really don’t need to do that. Third grade? SURE! Middle school? NOT.
3. Spend over half of your time doing some really complicated and/or awkward ICE BREAKER type activity where the students are forced to completely leave their comfort zone by speaking in front of the entire class or even making a fool of themselves in front of a hand full of not-familiar classmates. Seriously. Have you NOT been a middle schooler before?!
4. Ask students GENERICALLY to a) write a paragraph about or b) tell the class (EVEN WORSE) about “what they did” or “where they went” on summer vacation. RESIST THE TEMPTATION. DON’T DO IT.
Now that you’re not doing those things above (you’re not still thinking about it, are you?) here are *MY* suggestions on what to do the first day of school. These numbers will coordinate with and complement the numbers above.

1. Spend a reasonable portion (definitely half) of the class time introducing yourself (briefly, you can tell more later) and laying out the expectations that are most important to you. Keep it simple for the first day. The students need to know especially these things:
a) How to enter and leave my room. (Wait at the door/line up in hall until invited in; leave only after *I* dismiss, not the bell.)
b) What to do when you walk in the door every day. (bell ringer, DOL, sponge, daily, whatever you like to call it – you should have SOMETHING but keep it SIMPLE and SHORT)
c) What supplies you’ll need to buy (if a list was not provided) or which supplies should be labeled for your class and any instructions on using supplies or storing any of them in locker for later use.As far as I am concerned, most of the other stuff can wait. These kids are being bombarded today by 7 or 8 different teachers. Take it easy. Give them the most important information ONLY.
2.TELL THEM your expectations. They don’t need to formulate them with you. These kids know why there are rules, and they don’t need to come up with 8 different “community” rules for each class. Can that stuff and just tell the kids what you want/expect from them. Consequences/rewards/etc. You know, just the most important stuff for now.
3. Do something ACADEMIC. Teach a little bitty mini lesson. Give students a PREVIEW of how you teach. Isn’t that better than just telling them about it? Just a little tiny lesson. Ten minute quickie. This is important because it SETS THE TONE for the rest of the year. You know I’m all about hidden messages, right? Doing something academic on that first day carries the message “We are here to learn about literature (insert your subject) and we are not wasting any time getting there!” And save those group activities for another day. These middle schoolers are overly-concerned about whether or not their hair is still “just right” or how their shirt looks from the back or WHATEVER. Give them a break and save the “in front of the class” stuff for later. Those ice breakers are totally lame. Yes, even that one you found on Pinterest. If you can SOMEHOW mesh that icebreaker with something academic, I *might* approve. But be careful. Pointless ice breakers are.. well.. pointless.
4. OK – Let’s review. Now that you’ve outlined your most important procedures and expectations and done something ACADEMIC, you really, really want to do something summer related? OK. Fine. You can – just be careful how you word this. Some of your students toured Europe over the summer. Some of your students spent the entire summer walking two miles a day in the heat to participate in the free lunch summer program. Some of your students didn’t leave the neighborhood. Some of your students went to Disney World AND Schlitterbahn. Get my drift? Let’s not outline these differences on the first day.

If you want to do something about SUMMER, word it in a better way. Here are some suggestions:

Who did you enjoy spending time with the most over the summer? or
What did you do on the FIRST day of summer (or the LAST day) – {more likely to NOT be one of the things mentioned above} or
If you had one extra week of summer, what would be the perfect way to spend it?


All of these are, of course, my own opinions, and we all know what opinions are like.. everyone has one, right? I honestly hope I’ve at least given you some things to consider before you start your year, whether it’s your first or your tenth. Some of my opinions might not mesh with your style, and that’s okay. Some of yours might not mesh with mine.

Thanks for reading, and get to planning that PERFECT first day.


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