I’m excited to be sharing this post with you, especially if you’re gearing up for another fantastic school year. From my years in the classroom, I’ve learned that the first day is more than just a day; it’s the starting point of a year-long journey of discovery, learning, and growth. Therefore, the activities and tone set on this day can significantly influence the rest of the school year.
In this post, I’m excited to share some unique and engaging first-day activities for high school students that I’ve curated over the years. These activities aren’t just fun ice-breakers or team-building exercises (although there’s some of that too!) but also tools to start meaningful conversations, stimulate critical thinking, and establish a positive and engaging learning environment.
Whether you’re a new teacher preparing for your very first day or a seasoned educator looking for fresh ideas, I hope these activities will inspire you and help make the first day of school a memorable one for you and your students.
High School First Day of School Activities
Here are some practical suggestions for high school first day of school activities:
1. Debate or Discussion
Encouraging students to debate or discuss a relevant topic can be a powerful way to foster critical thinking, improve communication skills, and encourage respectful disagreements. This activity can be tailored to suit your subject matter.
Start by choosing a topic that is both relevant and thought-provoking. The topic could be directly related to the subject you’ll be teaching or it could be something topical and broad, like climate change, privacy in the digital age, or the importance of volunteering. Check out this diverse collection of debate topics to choose from.
Split students into groups or pairs and ask them to discuss or debate the topic. If you’ve opted for a debate, provide each group with a stance they have to defend.
After the discussion or debate, debrief as a class. Ask students what they learned, if their views have changed, and what they found challenging about the activity. This not only promotes critical thinking but also gives you an idea of their communication and teamwork skills.
2. Digital Portfolios
Digital portfolios are a great tool for students to document their learning journey throughout the year. It encourages self-reflection and helps students take ownership of their learning.
Introduce the concept of a digital portfolio to your students. Explain that this will be a place for them to collect and showcase their work, track their progress, and reflect on their learning.
There are various online tools that can be used to create digital portfolios, such as Google Sites, Seesaw, or even a dedicated blog platform like WordPress. You can guide them through the process of setting up their portfolio and suggest the types of content they could include, like projects, essays, personal reflections, or even photos of handwritten work or art pieces.
3. TED Talk Inspiration
TED Talks can be a wonderful source of inspiration, learning, and discussion in the classroom.
Choose a TED Talk that is related to your subject matter or education in general. This should ideally be a talk that provokes thought and offers valuable insights. Here is a collection some awesome TED Talks to start with.
After watching the TED Talk, engage your students in a discussion about it. You can ask them about their main takeaways, what surprised them, and how the ideas from the talk might apply to their own lives or your classroom.
This activity not only offers students a fresh perspective but also enables them to engage with complex ideas and participate in a mature, structured discussion.
4. Mentor-Mentee Program
A mentor-mentee program within the school can create a supportive and nurturing learning environment.
This can be set up by pairing older students with younger ones, allowing the younger students to benefit from the experiences and insights of their seniors. Similarly, you can pair students from different backgrounds, interests, or academic strengths to promote a diverse exchange of ideas and perspectives.
Mentors can help their mentees with academic challenges, adjusting to school life, or even personal issues. The mentor-mentee relationship can continue throughout the school year, fostering a deep, meaningful bond that can be rewarding for both parties.
This program can also foster leadership skills among mentors and give mentees a sense of belonging and support in the school.
5. Subject-Related Puzzles or Brain Teasers
Introducing a challenging yet fun activity related to your subject can be an excellent way to pique students’ interest.
Choose or create a puzzle, brain teaser, riddle, or even a crossword that’s related to your subject. For example, if you’re a Math teacher, you could present a fun but challenging problem. If you teach English, a word game or riddle could be suitable.
This activity will not only stimulate their brains but also give them a taste of the kind of thinking and problem-solving skills they’ll need in your class. Plus, it sets a precedent for learning to be fun and engaging, which can boost their enthusiasm for your subject.
6. Career Aspirations Discussion
Understanding your students’ career aspirations can provide valuable insights into their long-term goals and how your subject can help them achieve these goals.
Have students discuss or write about their career aspirations. This can be done as a group discussion, a written assignment, or even as a short presentation.
Encourage them to think about why they’re drawn to that career, what they think it will be like, and what steps they need to take to achieve it. Also, have them reflect on how your subject can contribute to their career goals.
This activity can help students see the relevance and importance of what they’re learning, which can increase their motivation and engagement in your class. It also gives you a better understanding of your students, allowing you to tailor your teaching to their interests and goals.
7. Community Project Proposal
A year-long community project can be a fantastic opportunity for students to apply what they’re learning in the real world, and make a positive difference.
You could start by having a brainstorming session where students propose different community projects. This could range from a recycling program, creating a community garden, tutoring younger students, or even a digital project, such as designing a website for a local business.
Once the class agrees on a project, they can work on it throughout the year in various capacities, learning about planning, executing, and managing a project, while fostering a sense of social responsibility and teamwork.
8. Personalized Journal
A journal dedicated to your class can be an effective tool for reflection and self-expression.
Explain to your students that this journal is a place where they can reflect on what they’ve learned, express their thoughts, jot down questions, and even write about their challenges and achievements.
This can be done in a physical notebook or digitally, depending on what suits your class best. It not only enhances their learning experience but also helps you understand their thought processes and identify any areas where they might need help.
9. Escape Room Challenge
An educational escape room challenge is a fun and engaging activity that requires critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
Depending on your resources, you can either set this up in your classroom or use a digital escape room. The challenges or puzzles in the escape room should be relevant to your subject matter.
Students will need to work together to solve the puzzles in a set amount of time. It’s a fun and interactive way to start the school year, and it also gives you a glimpse into their problem-solving skills and how they work in a team.
10. Online Safety and Digital Citizenship
In our increasingly digital world, it’s essential that students understand how to navigate the internet safely and responsibly.
You can start the year with a discussion or presentation about online safety, covering topics such as privacy settings, responsible sharing, understanding digital footprints, and how to identify and deal with cyberbullying.
Encouraging students to be responsible digital citizens can ensure they use technology respectfully and wisely. You could turn this into a collaborative activity by asking students to create posters or digital presentations on different aspects of online safety and digital citizenship.
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