10 Awesome Ways to Welcome Students Back to School

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I remember the welcome letters that arrived in our mailbox during the final weeks of summer when my girls were in primary school. My daughter Laura had a first-grade teacher who included a picture of herself attending the same school at the same age.

Nina had a kindergarten teacher who encouraged the class to wear funky Hawaiian shirts and skirts on the first day because summer wasn’t over yet and she planned a big party to kick off the year.

There are so many wonderful ways to welcome students back to school, and it’s important to do this regardless of the grade level you teach.

When students know you care enough about them to make their transitions happy ones, they come to care about you too. This is how respect is built. It’s where learning begins too.

What do you do to welcome students back to school, after a long summer break?

10 awesome ways to welcome students back

1. Record your welcome back message, and make it available online during the last weeks of summer. This will help students and parents alike connect a name with a face and a voice and a personality. Share something sweet or funny or kind. Say something that will hook your students’ interest in the upcoming year. Consider including examples of the most interesting things they’ll be learning. Keep it short, and make it worth their while to watch.

2. Give them a voice. Create opportunities for your students to have a say in the curriculum, how they are assessed, and how you teach. Ask them about their preferences as learners. Consider using Google Tools to connect with them before school even begins, and let them know how their feedback and insight is shaping your plans.

3. Invite them to set up your classroom with you. Bring snacks and music and an open mind. Let the learners you serve contribute to your classroom’s design over the summer, when you can take the time to plan and laugh and play with them.

4. Throw a party for your students and their families. Keep it simple by opening your classroom early and serving simple snacks or consider hosting a potluck at a park or on your own patio, if you’re willing.

5. Send a letter. It sounds simple, but it makes such an impression on students and their families. Introduce yourself, share a bit about yourself in ways that will make your readers smile, and include photos that will acquaint them with you or with the learning that will happen during the year ahead. If you use email, you can embed links to blog posts, photo archives, and videos in your message. Consider your audience and the mode that they will appreciate most.

6. Invite your students and their families to join you on a day trip. I know a teacher who welcomes the company of her students and their families on her annual trip to Shakespeare in the Park. I know another who visits a local museum with her own children each summer, and she invites her students and their parents and siblings to join her there. These informal opportunities to get acquainted with one another and enjoy a shared love of learning are invaluable.

7. Allow your students to drop off their supplies and set up their spaces prior to the start of the year. Our kids were able to do this, and I was always grateful. Well before opening day, they knew who their teachers were, how to find their classrooms and lockers and desks, and they didn’t have to tote a ton of supplies to school at the start of the year.

8. Give them a gift. I loved wrapping up new composition books and spending the first days helping writers transform them into journals. What could you gift your students with that might inspire a year of learning?

9. Anticipate and address their anxieties. I know one teacher who created a “Not to Worry” list and included it in her welcome letter to high school students. Here, she listed all of the common anxieties that previous students revealed to her, along with information intended to alleviate such fears. This included links to digital resources that provided previews and reviews of lessons, samples of student work, and connections to staff and students who would support them if they struggled.

10. Greet them at the door with a warm smile, and welcome them by name. Over the summer, I learned that one of my favorite high school teachers passed away. All of these years later, he’s still remembered for greeting us at the door daily and for anointing each of us with our own special, distinguished, and fitting nicknames. These greetings always made us smile as we crossed the threshold into his classroom every morning. They helped us realize that he saw us for who we were and not just the grades we earned as we occupied the seats in his room.

As you head into the sunset of your summer, I hope that some of these ideas inspire you to welcome your students back to school in ways that all of you will remember. What would you add? I’d love to hear from you.

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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.

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