Teachers who engage students from the moment they step into the classroom can more easily minimize and manage behaviors. Successful veteran teachers all have their favorite engagement strategies and have shared them with us. Why reinvent the wheel?

After polling several teachers, we have gathered the best and latest classroom management strategies to engage your students the moment they enter your classroom.

1. Greet your students by name at the door

The top response from teachers regarding classroom management is simple. Greeting students and welcoming them into your class directly correlates to their motivation, engagement, and behavior for the rest of the day. Try a different greeting each day of the week, like Winking Wednesday or Friday Fist Bumps.

2. Set a sense of purpose immediately

As students enter the classroom, explain where/how they get to begin their day. You could verbally provide options or display the options on the front board. Options might include free play, journaling, or table talk.

3. Icebreaker attendance questions

Set the expectation that students will get to share something exciting as attendance is taken each day. You could display the question on the board as students arrive or keep it a surprise for when attendance begins. Example questions: What is one food you love that most people dislike? If you could keep any animal as a pet, what would it be? Here are 90 fun engaging questions your students will love!

4. Telling students that their presence matters

As soon as students arrive, make it clear that you are pleased they are at school by explicitly saying something like, “I am happy to see you!” Students’ faces light up and their excitement for the school day ignites when they feel seen and appreciated.

5. Play “Fact or Cap”

This game is a spin on “two truths and a lie.” Students share a detail about themselves and the class decides if it’s a fact (truth) or cap (lie). Mix it up by also adding in fun facts about subject matter being taught to see if students can determine if they are fact or cap.

6. Obtain a Classroom Dinosaur 

Engage students with a classroom dinosaur, such as this stuffed one from Amazon.

If your students are often chatty or off task first thing each morning, try this fun idea using a stuffed or model dinosaur! Each morning, place the dinosaur (or any stuffed animal) near relevant activities for the day. Students will start to wonder what it is they will be doing during the day. However, if the class is too loud, the dinosaur hides for the rest of the morning or day (your choice) leaving the kids motivated to be more on task so the dinosaur will reappear.

7. Engage students in “Today’s Number”

Write several math problems on the board that all equal the number of days you have been in school. Students write out the number in words, draw coins, do place value, addition/subtraction problems and make up their own way to show the number. All of this can be done in a notebook.

8. Set up a “One Question a Day” journal

As students arrive, they will answer one question per day in a personal journal. Questions could be writing prompts, brain teasers, or drawing prompts. The sky is the limit for this engaging morning activity!

9. Implement daily themes

As students arrive each day, they participate in activities that match the day of the week. Try out Magazine Monday, Tuesday Number Talk, Wacky Wednesday (Play Doh creations), One Thing Thursday (writing prompt that starts with “one thing I want my teacher to know…”), and Free Tub Friday.

10. Use an arrival timer for a table activity or puzzle

Using a timer in the classroom is a clear way to get all students on the same page. In the morning, you can set a timer for the amount of time students have to work on an activity you have assigned. Quiet activities, like puzzles, coloring, or personal Lego sets, work well for this.

11. Display your Smartboard to capture the interest of students

If you are fortunate enough to have a smartboard in your classroom, use this to your advantage each morning. Display student routines, a GIF and a question of the day. Play calming music in the background to set the mood. It is important to note that using the same display/schedule every day will help to make expectations clear.

12. Show a daily “this or that” prompt

As students arrive, provide pictures or words that ask students to choose one or the other and explain their choice. Students will discuss with a neighbor as their classmates arrive for the school day.

13. Engage in character building

Use time wisely each morning by focusing the start of each day on character building education. You could choose one focus per week, like respect or citizenship, or it could be an ongoing monthly project. Projects might include gratitude journals or exploring forgiveness through reading and videos.

14. Use Blooket

Teachers have been raving about this free website. You set a question to be displayed on the app, then students join the game and answer the question from a device.

15. Try using a greeting menu at the door

Give students the choice each morning on how they would like to be greeted by you. Switch it up each month with different themes, like Kindness Greetings in September or Leprechaun Greetings in March.

16. Create STEM bins

Give students the opportunity to explore and collaborate as they enter the classroom each day. Create bins that contain brain flakes, magnetic tiles, and Play Doh. Be sure to implement a routine so that students know what is expected of them each morning as they explore STEM bins.

17. Write a joke of the day on the board

If you like to keep things light, display a joke of the day each morning that students will look forward to reading as they arrive.

18. Make a daily poll

Students will take turns coming up with a survey question each day that their classmates respond to in different modes. Responses can be recording on paper, on white boards, on devices, or on sticky notes placed on an anchor chart.

19. Quiet quackers

If you are looking for a way to keep things calm and motivating in the morning, try using rubber ducks to hand out to quiet/on task students. When students are too loud, the quackers fall asleep. They wake up when students are quiet/on task. Engage students and help them get right to task each morning by rewarding them with a quiet quacker sitting with them for the rest of the day.

Engaging students is the best way to manage behaviors. If students are excited to learn and be with their classmates, their behaviors are more likely to match your expectations. As you begin to decide which new strategy you might want to implement, consider getting your students’ input!

How to Engage Your Students the Moment They Arrive in Class