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5 Things You Shouldn’t Do On The First Day Of Biology Class

What to teach on the first day of biology class.

Each school year there is only one first day of biology class and as the expression goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  Regardless if this will be your first year as a rookie teacher or if you are a veteran in your department, there are a few items that I truly believe you shouldn’t do on the first day of class.

Don’t Wing It On The First Day

With the exception of the first period of the day I commonly ask kids how their classes have been on the first day of school while we are waiting for the bell to ring.  This is generally a time when students can let down their guard and many will be honest on what is happening in other classes.  Unfortunately, I have heard way too often that another teacher really didn’t have much planned and the class sat around for most of the first day of school.  I know many teachers try to justify their decision because rosters might not be set and there can be quite a bit of schedule changes during the first few weeks, but why not take advantage of this golden opportunity.

I would always recommend you have a carefully crafted lesson plan for the first day of biology class.  Having an organized lesson plan lets the students know that you are organized and excited to be their teacher.  Secondly, it makes sure that you aren’t wasting their time (yes, students want to feel that their time is valuable too).  Every school is different in regards to the first day bell schedule, but map out your minutes and really try to keep your students engaged bell to bell.  I would actually try to over plan for the first day of biology class and end with “this is great stuff.  Let’s continue from here tomorrow.”  It can serve as a cliffhanger for the class and get the students excited about finishing up next time.

Don’t Let Your Students Pick Their Seats

Having a seating chart for the first day of biology class has several benefits.  First, it shows that you are organized and prepared to help set the tone for the class.  Secondly, it will save valuable minutes on the first day of class when most schools are using a minimum day bell schedule.  And finally, having a seating chart will allow you to learn your students’ names faster and help you build a connection with them.  In my class I would have it built out in our grading program and then I would have it on my projector so as kids are walking into class I can help them find their seats.

I know many teachers justify not making a seating chart because counselors may still be balancing classes and there may be some shuffling of students while finaling class schedules.  This may be true at your school.  And while there may be changes to your class rosters after the first day of school, chances are that the majority of your students will be with your class from the first day of the semester.  I have found the benefits of having a seating chart to greatly outweigh the extra work needed to edit it during those first days of the semester.

Don’t Spend the First Day Of Biology Class Reading The Syllabus

Today’s students are part of the TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) generation.  And for better or worse, they have been conditioned to consume information in small chunks.  So chances are if you plan to spend a considerable amount of time passing out a syllabus and then reading it to your students line by line, you will have lost their attention.  Besides, every minute you invest towards reading the syllabus is one less minute you have to make something else a priority.

Instead, I would follow the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle and maybe highlight a few key points before moving on to another part of your lesson plan.  Personally, I told my students I had 3 rules:  Respect yourself, Respect others, and Respect the classroom.  I let them know that these 3 rules pretty much covered everything.  For the remainder of the syllabus, I told them we would refer back to it as needed during the first week, but I was going to save them from having to watch me read it outloud.

Don’t Dress Too Casual On The First Day

Teacher attire and what is defined as “professional” can often be a touchy subject.  I know many schools have teacher dress codes that range across a spectrum of possibilities.  While keeping things simple, your teacher style can both set the tone in your classroom and help strengthen your personal confidence as a professional.  If you aren’t sure, here is a great article on why teachers should dress professionally.

Thinking like your students, a good amount of time and energy can go into deciding what to wear on the first day of school. As someone who was 23 on their first day of teaching, I knew that I wanted to separate myself from the students.  So I definitely decided to dress more business than casual.  Dress shoes, slacks, and shirts with a tie helped my confidence as a younger teacher on a high school campus.  Now that I am almost 50 (and I have been teaching at the same school for 25+ years), I am a little more casual in what I wear most days.  Unless I am wearing a school logo t-shirt, I am in a collared shirt and either nice jeans or slacks.  The exception was when I taught PE, I would wear school logo shirts and hoodies with athletic clothes.    If you are looking for some inspiration, here is a great article from Dr. Jenna Cooper on what to wear to school.

Don’t Lecture For The Entire First Day Of Biology Class

Back To School BINGO Actvity

You should not be the only one talking on the first day of class.  Again, you want to set the tone for the school year but you also want your students to be engaged and actively participating in class.  So after setting the stage with a quick introduction and overview (you’ll have plenty of time over the next few days to cover the nuts and bolts of the class), I would encourage you to get your students talking with each other and getting to know their classmates.  

I created my FREE Back-To-School BINGO activity as an icebreaker to get kids moving around the classroom and interacting with more than just their immediate friends in my class. I would give a small prize as well (it could be something as easy as a pencil, homework pass, or a piece of candy) to the first 3 students who complete the challenge.  After the students complete the walkaround part of the game, I would then have the students announce who they got to sign each of their BINGO squares.  This can lead into more discussions with your students as well. 

In Conclusion….

So here is my list of 5 things you shouldn’t do on the first day of biology class.  In a separate blog post I have my list of “must-do” topics to cover during the first 2 weeks of school, but this list only covers the first day.  As I mentioned, there will be plenty of time to cover everything that is important, but there is only 1 first day for each year so be sure to make the most of it!

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