I hate name games. Painfully awkward, these games have never magically connected me to people just because they’ve repeated, “Her name’s Laura and she likes llamas.”

Nope. Not happening around here, people.

For the first day of school, I usually start with a one-minute welcome and intro. of my background, have students make name cards they post on their desks (a half-sheet of colored paper folded hot dog-style), give a meme-based lecture covering my classroom expectations with a bit of humor, and model our first MUG Shot (mechanics, usage, and grammar) whiteboard activity to throw a little something academic at them before our first class wraps.

This year, though, the meme lecture’s starting to feel stale and I’m always open to fresh ideas. In a Facebook group for ELA folks that I follow, first-day stations were kicked around and I thought, Oh yeah, that’ll work.

Here’s my new first-day plan:
1. One-minute welcome/intro.
2. Make name cards
3. Stations activity
4. You are Here worksheet
(The MUG Shot and meme lecture have been slid to Day 2 on my calendar.)

Here’s how Stations & You are Here will roll:I’m on a block, so I might even be able to squeeze in that first MUG Shot. We’ll see how it goes.

And here’s all the same info in a video:

If you’d like a free set of the 38-page Stations/You are Here materials, just go here to grab a copy. There’s also a second version in the download with generic, non-ELA wording, meaning our friends in all subject areas can enjoy some cheese-free fun on the first day of school. Hope this helps start the year strong!

Special thanks to my talented teacher friend Madeline Alyce for the inspiration! Click here to check out her free annotation tools.

Teach on, everyone.

Join the conversation! 34 Comments

  1. I love this idea to start the new year, and I can’t wait to use it! Thank you, Laura.

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  2. My pleasure, Nancy! Glad you like it. 🙂

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  3. Yay! Love it!

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  4. I love this and look forward to using it this school year. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Love this! I’m at a new school this year, and I love the idea of starting fresh with something different. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Thanks, everyone, for the kind notes. I love the love!

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  7. Laura,
    I cannot thank you enough for all of the amazing posts, videos, advice and information you provide!! I am a “career changer” teacher and I just got my first gig teaching 9th grade English. I am over the moon!

    I had been telling all my friends and family that I was “more excited than nervous,” but the anxiety was definitely there. You have alieviated practically ALL of my nervousness. Your enthusiasm for teaching and helping other teachers is a true inspiration. You GAVE me my first bulletin board (Epic Opening Lines)! You helped me figure out my seating chart, how to deal with a troublemaker… and now – you’ve helped me figure out my plan for day one! I am crazy about this idea!

    You have become my first teaching mentor. I hope one day I can reach out and help other teachers the way you have helped me.

    THANK YOU!!!

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  8. Ah, Kris, thanks for taking the time to drop me this note and CONGRATULATIONS on launching your first classroom! You, along with all of our other new colleagues, are the real reason I spend so many hours building and sharing these things. I had so many wonderful mentors who helped me launch nearly 20 years ago; it’s a thrill to be able to pay it all forward now.

    Definitely check in as your year rolls along and let us all know how you’re doing. It’s sure to be a wonderfully nerve-wracking ride – enjoy it! 🙂

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  9. I love you, Laura. 😄 That is all.

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  10. Love you too, Dana. 🙂

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  11. Laura,
    Your creative and helpful posts are a lifesaver! After 6 years of teaching middle school, I’m on to high school, and some nervousness is creeping in. With your ideas, I feel more confident. Thanks for all you do!!

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  12. As I start my 13th year of teaching, I’m always looking for a new way to start it. THANK YOU so much for sharing this lesson and so soon – I can now schedule it in and ease some anxieties:)
    I always look forward to seeing an email telling me you’ve posted on your blog:)

    Thanks again!

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  13. Thanks, Nellie and Chantel! So glad I can help ease some of our nerves/anxieties. (I still have those, too.) Let’s keep enjoying summer as long as we can! 🙂

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  14. Wow, Laura! Every teaching concept that you tackle is fun and engaging! The kids roll their eyes on that first day when I tell them to get in groups or pairs, depending on which activity I decide to pull from my files. Sadly, that first day sets the tone (first impressions and all).
    A HUGE thank-you for offering these activities free of charge. You are creative and kind.
    I am PUMPED to use these invaluable activities! Thank you!

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  15. Looking for a lot more “they do” time in my class this year, so this is perfect. Also, just a quick thanks – last year I had chattiest juniors and the naughtiest freshmen ever, and so many of your ideas saved my bacon. /bows in appreciation

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  16. Right on, Michelle & Nancy! I’m always here for you. Anything we can do to avoid the dreaded teenage eye-roll is a major win in my book, too! 🙂

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  17. Wow, this really takes my day one anxiety and shows it who’s boss (you, not Tony Danza, thankfully). 🙂 Great work…you are so inspiring!

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  18. Ohmygosh, Beth, I always had a little crush on Tony Danza! Thanks for the smile with my coffee this morning. 🙂

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  19. Hi Laura!

    So, for this activity, are you going to have students write their names on their post-its and the index cards or do you want them to remain anonymous?

    Thank you! 🙂

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  20. Hey Santos! I’m going to keep the sticky notes anonymous. Less risk will be better to ease first-day jitters. The worksheet, of course, has their names on it, though.

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  21. I see, what about the index cards the students are submitting at the end of the activity?

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  22. I suppose, Santos, that you could have each team write their number on the index card, but I doubt I’ll bother with that. A quick glance at each card as it’s handed to me will be all I need to see that the team took the task seriously.

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  23. Thanks, Laura! I used your meme activity for the first day of school last year; it worked great, but the students I had in 10th grade will be in my 11th grade class this year, so I really appreciate this new activity. I like that the students are moving around and talking to each other. Have a great year, and I look forward to buying more of your products. Still hoping you’ll create some Escape Classroom activities. 🙂

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  24. Ah, thanks, Heather! I, too, still like the memes, but they’re starting to feel dated and I, like you, want to give my kids something they haven’t seen before. Don’t you feel like the memes are every-w-h-e-r-e now? And, sadly, you’d be amazed at how much time I’ve spent trying to build a grammar-based escape room, but it is just. so. hard. I haven’t given up on the escape room concept; I just allow myself to be lured away by other tasks, like this icebreaker alternative. I like what https://games.breakoutedu.com does, though those games tilt toward the younger set and most require a lot of expensive boxes and locks, something I know we don’t have. Someday I’ll get it together… 🙂

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  25. Hi, Laura and Heather, I’ve found many escape room activities for English classes online and on TpT such as this one: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Grammar-Puzzle-Lockdown-Nouns-Verbs-Prepositional-Phrases-and-Sentence-Type-2423414

    I’ve also found a guide to making escape room activities for the classroom here: http://blog.goguardian.com/escape-rooms-in-the-classroom. This one is a first-day activity.

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  26. Trying to say thanks without sounding too much like a groupie! THANKS! I am a newly minted teacher who is anticipating her first posting. I’ve found all of your videos and ideas interesting and immensely helpful. Thanks for sharing your talents.

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  27. You’re more than welcome, G. Reilly. And the idea that we’re building a world where teachers can have groupies is kinda, sorta awesome. Enjoy your first ride on the rollercoaster! 🙂

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  28. Great addition to the discussion, Robert! You’re getting my mental wheels rolling… There’s gotta be a way to do this without having to buy all of that stuff. Locks + boxes + flashdrives + blacklights = Oh my!

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  29. It may be possible to have students decipher word puzzles or something, which could be clues that will help them go to the next step. They shouldn’t be able to advance without first deciphering the puzzle.

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  30. Sounds good to me, Robert. Puzzlemaker.com, here we come… 🙂

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  31. An escape room activity would also be an amazing unit review activity, especially for a novel like Lord of the Flies or something similar!

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  32. Absolutely agree, Robert!

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  33. Thank you. I’m hoping to get a teaching position this year and am trying to prepare.

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  34. My pleasure, A. Hale! And when the time comes for your interview rounds, this post might be useful, too: https://laurarandazzo.com/2016/09/27/and-my-actual-answers/ Go get ’em! 🙂

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first day activities, fun stuff, high school English, middle school, Uncategorized

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