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The First Day of School (Poem)


Senior Member
I use this poem by Judith Viorst each year on the first day of classes. I thought I would share it since all of you on PT have shared so many great lessons with me over the past year since I became a memeber. I read the poem aloud to them. We then make some text to self connections and have a discussion before starting to write our own poems about the first day of third grade. It is fun and helps with first day nerves.

The First Day of School

Will they let me go when I need to go to the bathroom?
And what if I get lost on my way back to class?
And what if the other kids are a hundred, a thousand, times smarter than I am?
And what if we have a spelling test, or a reading test, or an...anything test, and I'm the only person who doesn't pass?
And what if my teacher decides she doesn't like me?
And what if, all of a sudden a tooth gets loose?
And what if I can't find lunch, or I sit on my lunch, or I (oops!) drop my lunch someplace like the toilet?
Will they let me starve or will somebody lend me a sandwich?
A cookie? A cracker? An apple? Some juice?
And what if they say, "Do this," and I don't understand them?
And what if there's teams and nobody picks me to play?
And what if I took off my sneakers, and also my socks, and my jeans, and my sweatshirt and T-shirt,
And started the first day of school on the second day?

By Judith Viorst

On the first day I have my students write five of their own "what ifs" in the form of questions.

Then the next day they answer their own questions. Luckily the "what ifs" rarely come true so their poem ends with a positive note. If one of their fears does come true we usually resolve it in an acceptable way. Then they write a conclusion of some sort explaining how the day turned out.
We discuss the fact that first days are always stressful, but we have to do our best to not let our imaginations run away with us.

Sample Student Poem

The First Day of Third Grade

What if I don't find any friends?
What if I am sitting by a lot of boys?
What if I don't like my teacher?
What if my computer doesn't work and I have to move to a different one?
What if my classmates are twice as smart as I am?


Actually, I found three friends, their names are Zyllah, Hayly, and Kolby. They are all girls!
I am sitiing with a lot of boys, but there's one girl sitting by me too.
I love my teacher, she's really nice.
My computer works just fine.
My friends are as smart as me.

What did I have to worry about? This class is perfect!

I take their picture the first day as well and post them with their published poems. I also put a copy on each student's desk for back to school night. The parents can locate their child's desk, read about their first day and have a cute keepsake to take home with them at the end of our evening together.


Senior Member

This is wonderful! I love Judith Viorst, and I've never seen this poem before. And I really like the activity for the students to do. Thanks for sharing...you've given me something else to take up time on my rapidly-approaching first day :D


Full Member
I love it!

Thanks for the idea! I made a copy of the poem if anyone wants it. The font I used is "Marker Felt Thin".
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Senior Member
It makes me think of:

Whatif by Shel Silverstein
Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I'm dumb in school?
Whatif they've closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there's poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don't grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won't bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don't grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

I like the one that you gave, too... it's all about school! :)
I love your extension activity, too!


Senior Member
Great text to text connection!

I have seen this poem before, but forgot it. Thank you for reminding me. It will be a good one to use the first week as well and then we can discuss text to text connections.