The First Day of Middle School

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! 


  1. I really like your ideas. My problem is this is our second year on a block schedule and I'm finding it hard to fill the 90 minutes without overload! I have both 8th and 9th grade and I know they worry about all of the things you mentioned.


  2. I absolutely LOVED this post because I totally needed to be reminded of some of those don'ts! I think it is so hard thanks to things like pinterest, instagram and even blogger to get bogged down in elementary land (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with elementary land) that I think I really do sometimes FORGET to do what is right for MIDDLE SCHOOL. I totally agree with you on the ice breakers, I hated those in school and the more I think about it, the more I realized my students hate them as well! We can "ice break" another day (if the necessity is there to ice break). What are some mini-lessons you have done on the first day?

    Anchored in the Middle

    1. As an English teacher, too, I like to do a biopoem. I use one as part of how I introduce myself. Then students create them and share them with a partner. They have the option of then sharing with the class before turning them in. It's a little bit icebreaker. I get to know a little about each of them when I read them and when I see who chooses to share. They learn about a form of poetry that we use later in the year for describing and creating characters.

  3. Does your advice change at all for an ELA teacher who has an entire block to fill on the first day as opposed to just one class period? I always struggle with not wanting to overwhelm them with information but finding meaningful ways to fill 90 minutes. What do you suggest? What kind of mini-lesson is appropriate for the first day when students may not have their supplies?

  4. I love your list! My problem is I teach Middle School Special Ed, so I have some kids 3 of 6 periods per day and some only once. I don't want to bore kids by making them do the same activity multiple times, but it also need to make sure each student hears info on procedures, for example to start and end the class. Advice!

    1. Maybe your students who have heard your procedures already can become the expert. Either they have to let you know if you forgot something or they tell one of the procedures, or if you have a brave student they can model the "right way" or what is even more fun is to model the wrong way and then you open the discussion as to why it is wrong and what to do instead.......

    2. What a great idea! I too will be seeing kids 2-3 times in a day, and I know they would eat this up! It creates a learning community instead of a lecture community.

    3. What a great idea! I too will be seeing kids 2-3 times in a day, and I know they would eat this up! It creates a learning community instead of a lecture community.

  5. For those of you using an interacitve notebook in your class you can have students create their covers. Then present them in class. Here are a few ideas I'm looking at:
    "I Am" writing assignment
    "I Am" using magazine clips
    Self Portrait drawing or magazines pics
    All about me words and paint

    Jackson In The Middle

  6. Thank you for writing this! I am moving from 6th to 8th grade next year (been teaching 6th for 6 years) and am fascinated but anxious about the differences between these two middle school aged groups. I really appreciate the insight of this entire blog!

  7. I get what you're saying, but sometimes the profile of the school doesn't fit what you're suggesting.

    I teach in a rough Title 1 school and our administrators tell us to do what you suggest not doing in #1. We have to come down hard on the kids the first 2 days with the rules and expectations to set the tone for the entire school year or they'll run all over us.

    I'm sure many will disagree with this and that's fine. But I can tell you that this last year with new administrators that set that tone from day one....made all the different from the previous years I've taught at that school.

    1. I agree that teaching in a Title 1 school brings on a different set of challenges. I have learned to "liven up" my rules and procedures so not to make it boring. The students get to see my no-nonsense teaching style while learning my rules and expectations in a way that doesn't seem like learning. I have used Powtoons and Graphics to my benefit. We have done call and response, fill in the blanks, scavenger hunts, and turn and talk. I think the key is tough love. Setting high expectations while letting them know you care. Many need that. Hope you have a fabulous school year!

  8. I love the ideas......they are SO accurately stated! Thanks for the reminder!

  9. I know on my campus, we have mandatory things to cover, but after reading this, I will either make it more concise or I am really thinking about integrating all of that mandatory (YAWN) info into a mini-lesson!

  10. I LOVE all your ideas just as I love all your products:) I am a big fan of your teaching:))

    I am an ELA teacher as well as some of the other ladies! I have the same questions as they do. I would love to do a mini lesson but not sure what to do it on since we won't have many supplies. What do you recommend?

    Thanks in advance:)

  11. I love the suggestions. We have a block schedule and we're in teams, so we split up the information that applies to ALL classes and go over only one portion in each class. That way, the kids don't get that repetition all day long.

  12. Moving from 4th to 8th. This is exactly what I was looking for

  13. As one beginning her 17th year teaching 6th grade, I will say this contains very solid advice! I teach social studies & use student introductions as a springboard to a mini lesson on marketing/business decisions & personal finance choices. I have students tell me their name and favorite canned soup.
    I'm excited to have found your blog! :)

  14. I have taught 6th, 7th, and 8th and these are some solid ideas. I'm thinking I'll do a six-word memoir for my mini ELA lesson.

  15. Here is my icebreaker with a little academic twist...I put these instructions on the board, and do not assist them (8th grade): Seat yourselves, alphabetically by last name, beginning with desk #1. (I number the desks.) Great way to see who your leaders are.

  16. Great advice! I'm a new teacher. I'm teaching science and social studies for 6th grade girls. Would love any suggestions!