On the first day of school, an effective and positive way to settle students into class quickly is by having a “welcome packet” ready for each one. As a class management tool, welcome packets are an invaluable way to help students get over their initial shyness at the start of the first day. Have a folder waiting for each student, so as you greet students and direct them to their desks, they will have something engaging to do as they wait for the rest of their classmates to join the class. Although welcome packets are traditionally a part of the first day of school for young students, they are easily adaptable for any grade level.
A welcome packet can help students organize the forms and other documents they need to take home on the first day. Instead of flooding students with papers one by one, putting them all in one folder will make it easy for students to remember to take them home. If you include two checklists—one list of the forms that need to be signed and returned, and another of those forms that can stay at home—you will make it easier for your students’ families to manage the first-day-of-school paperwork successfully. These checklists should be in short bullets and easy to follow, since families tend to be inundated with forms and documents on the first day of school. You could also clip the documents that can stay home separately from the documents that need to be signed and returned. A bright label on each stack will help families know what to do once the forms reach home.
A welcome packet can also be a terrific opportunity for you to make a good first impression on your students and their parents or guardians. With a bit of effort and planning, you can make the welcome packet organized, helpful and attractive. Colorful paper, cheerful fonts, clip art and other appealing text features can convey that you are a well-organized, enthusiastic, friendly and warm teacher.
In addition to the documents that students must take home, welcome packets can also contain independent assignments for students to begin as soon as they find their seats. This can be a puzzle, an inventory, a survey, a questionnaire, a brief writing assignment or any other unintimidating activity that will engage their attention while you assist other students. While these independent activities are useful for helping students settle in, they can also be a useful source of information about them. You can use these activities to indirectly assess what students recall from previous years and obtain a general idea of their readiness levels, skills and ability to work independently.
Here are some other items you can include in a welcome packet:
- Important dates that parents and guardians will need to know for the year.
- An inventory to be completed at home by your new students. These can ask students to tell you about their strengths, interests, past school experiences, goals and other personal information that helps you get to know them.
- Suggestions for how parents and guardians can volunteer or otherwise contribute to the class.
- A list of the supplies and materials that students will need for the year.
- An inventory for parents and guardians asking for information about the student. One popular option is to ask the parent or guardian to tell you about the child in 100 words or fewer.
- An enthusiastic and friendly letter to introduce yourself to parents and guardians. It can:
- Tell a bit about your experience in education;
- Provide information about how they can contact you;
- Request their support;
- Explain the kinds of work they can expect to see their child doing all year;
- Explain the grading scale;
- Describe the supplies their child will need for class;
- Explain your homework policy; and
- State the positive expectations you have for the year ahead.