Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Should, Could, and Woulds of First Day Handouts

It is tradition...every year on the first day of school, teachers across the country hand their students some sort of letter introducing themselves, describing course content, and highlighting expectations for the year.  For new teachers, this is just one more thing on the overwhelming list of to-do's.  I met two such colleagues today.  This will be their first year in the classroom.  Both have an undergraduate degree in something other than education and they will get both professional development support and on-the-job training while serving as full-time teachers. During our conversation, this first day handout came up.  Questions about what it should like and information to include quickly began to surface.  There are so many different styles that I can see why someone new would want to talk it out. I think that what really matters is the content.  In reviewing various samples, I identified a few things that should be included, information that could be included, and a few things that I would avoid when writing my own first day handout.
Editable Copy

The BIG Question: What needs to go in it?  
Obviously, you should include:
  • your name, 
  • room number, 
  • special supplies, 
  • link to class website or online work space, 
  • availability to tutor and/or make-up work, 
  • any special policies in your classroom (like number of days to turn in missed work after an excused absence), 
  • preferred method of contact and necessary information, 
  • types of assignments that students will complete during the course, 
  • how grades will be determined (10% quizzes, 20% homework, etc.), and 
  • grading scale.  
If you are into interactive notebooks, check out Sarah's New Course Guide from Everybody's a Genius. It is super cute (with editable template included) and fits perfectly into a composition notebook.  I also liked these graphic syllabi created in Piktochart.  I think that you could take the basic idea and create something similar in publisher.
Links to Syllabi Pictured

You could include a bit  information about yourself  (in more of a letter format) like:

  • where you went to college, 
  • number of children or pets, 
  • outside interests (running marathons, hiking, sewing, etc), 
  • clubs you sponsor, and 
  • why you love the subject and/or grade level you teach.  
I would avoid:
  • sharing things that are too personal (it is always safer to keep it professional),
  • listing a classroom rule or privilege that contradicts school policy,
  • grammatical errors and run-on sentences (ask a friend to proof your letter), and 
  • food likes and dislikes (this is a personal preference and I would certainly share if asked by a parent, but I prefer to leave it out of the first day letter to students... and yes, I actually saw an example with this on it).
It can be cutesy or plain, it is really up to you...just ensure that the information is communicated clearly.  Do you have a first day handout that you love? If so, please share!!!

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