The First Day of School

Sharon Adelgais -

Noelle Granich -



| Instructional Objective || Learners & Context || Object of Game |

| Game Materials || Time Required || Rules || Design Process || References |


Instructional Objective

Prospective teachers will be afforded the opportunity to practice their flexibility and adaptability skills when faced with common obstacles while preparing for the first day of school. Teacher performance standards were consulted to ensure a connection to skills desired in an educator.


Learners & Context of Use

The game players are student teachers or first year teachers who are preparing their own classrooms for the first time.

The game can primarily be played in a seminar course designed to prepare new teachers for the profession. This game can serve as a final review of preparedness before graduation. In addition, states or districts that have a form of beginning teacher support can use this game as a refresher. An example of this would be Beginning Teacher Support Assessment (BTSA) in the state of California, which conducts inservices before, during, and after the academic school year. These meetings are designed to support and encourage teacher preparedness and growth.

As there are a variety of questions, this game can be enjoyed repeatedly. New teachers should have prior knowledge of about 80% of the content. We chose to include events that require a dose of flexibility and an ability to deal with the unexpected.


Object of the Game

To be the first teacher completely prepared for the first day of school. Players must overcome a variety of unexpected events commonly experienced by new teachers during the month preceding that all important day.


Game Materials

The game board is in the shape of a calendar, depicting the month of August. There are shortcuts embedded in the game spaces and Unexpected Event Cards.

The game pieces represent various aspects of a school: an apple, a pencil, a chalk board, and a ruler.

The spinner is divided into six sections. Each section is color-coded and labeled to match one of the six stacks of cards: the District Office, Teachers' Store, Teachers' Lounge, Your Classroom, Campus Connections, and Other Dilemmas cards.

The reverse side of the cards has a question and multiple-choice answers that pertain to the specific category. Each possible answer has a designated space value.

The Unexpected Event cards add the unexpected aspects inherent in education.

The Date of Hire cards have a date on the reverse side. The date represents the hire date of a new teacher. The purpose of these cards is to settle the question of who goes first and who gets to challenge a player.


Time Required

The game takes approximately two minutes to set up and about one hour to play. The game is designed to be played in one sitting.


The Rules

  • Players place their playing pieces in the area labeled August.
  • Players each draw one Date of Hire card. The player with the earliest hire date goes first. Players then proceed in a clockwise rotation. The Date of Hire cards are retained to settle challenge disputes.
  • On their turn, the player spins the spinner to select their question category. The person to the right of the player draws the color-coded card for the selected category and reads the question and multiple-choice answers, omitting the space values. The player selects the answer of their choice. Then the card reader reveals the space value of the selected answer. The player moves their playing piece according to the space value assigned to that answer.
  • Option to challenge: A player other than the card reader, may opt to challenge the answer as having the highest space value before the values are revealed. Should two players opt to challenge, they refer to their Date of Hire cards. The earliest hire date earns the privilege of challenging. Should the player land on The Challenge Free Space, they are protected from any challenges while on that space.
  • If the initial player selected the answer with the highest space value, they move accordingly. The challenger moves back one space.
  • If the challenger selects another answer with a higher space value, they are awarded the spaces plus one extra. The initial player does nothing.
  • Should a player land on an Unexpected Event square, the player must choose an Unexpected Event card and complete its assignment.
  • If the player lands on a "Fabulous Friday" space, the player gets the weekend off and moves to the next Monday space.
  • If the player lands on a "Frustrating Friday" space, they did not have a very productive week and must move back 4 spaces to Monday.
  • If the player lands on a "Manic Monday" space, the player has worked especially hard that weekend and moves forward 2 spaces to Wednesday.
  • After moving the spaces or completing the card assignment, the turn is over and game continues with the next player.
  • The first player to reach August 31 is the first teacher prepared and wins the game. Players do not have to land exactly on August, but may move past it.


  • This game can be played in teams, with partners being a new teacher and an experienced teacher.
  • This game can be played without the board. The cards, with the exception of Date of Hire and Unexpected Events cards, can be shuffled together. Players can play until the first person earns 31 points.


Design Process

Describe the process you went through in putting the game together. What were your first thoughts? How did you enhance your ideas? What ideas did you consider and reject (and why?). How did you gather background information? What did you do to see if there are similar games out there? What did you do to get feedback on the idea? How did you flesh out the game to the point of having a playable prototype? How did you gather feedback from that? What lessons did you learn from this that you'll carry to your next game design project?

When we first learned about this project, we were involved in setting up our classrooms for the first day of school. We were reminiscing about our first year as teachers and our thoughts went to the seven new teachers in our school and what they must have been going through. As we learned more about board games and their instructional uses, the idea of a game to help new teachers prepare for the first day of school began to seem plausible.

At first, we wanted to use the board design from the in-class Ancient World activity. This would have the players acquiring materials for their classrooms, much in the same format as Trivial Pursuit: He who has their supplies first wins. This branched into a thought of mimicking the game Bargain Hunter. Players in that game have a list of items to acquire. Once they have purchased all of their items and paid off their debts, they are declared the winner. The more we discussed this idea, the more we moved away from it as teachers don't necessarily have to purchase all their supplies, and we can't expect first year teachers to have all the money needed to do so.

We had settled on the idea of a race game, the end of the game being the first day of school. After meeting with our instructor, the race path changed designs. We decided a calendar design added elegance to our project, tying all game elements to the same theme - the month before school starts.

As we are both teachers, we have lived through our content. We teach different grades and our first years occurred in different states, so we had a broad range of experiences to draw from. In addition, Sharon has a student teacher who will soon be enduring these trials, and was a great resource. As the seven new teachers were frantically preparing, we were able to draw on their current dilemmas.

While we are both relatively new teachers, and have no knowledge of any similar game, we still conducted research. The Game Keeper had no comparable games, nor did our local teacher supply stores. Sharon's student teacher had not played any in her studies, neither had any of the staff at our school, including the seven new teachers.

Both of us were extremely excited about our game idea, so we shared it will just about every teacher at our school. The feedback we received was wonderful. Frankly, they wished something like our game had been available for them before their first year.

We began designing the prototype on the computer first. This way we were able to change it rather easily. When we were satisfied with the look of the board, we printed a copy for it to use in our prototype. Kinko's was especially helpful in this area. The idea for putting the cards on the board was a result of the size of our game board and needing to fill up some space more than anything. We tried it, and it worked beautifully.

After we had our prototype built, we asked some teachers from our school to play the game, using the only rules to guide them. They had no problem with understanding the rules. They did question the need for the challenges, but when we told them it was to keep players constantly involved with the content, they understood.

Our final project is quite different from our original ideas. The need to be flexible is very important in game board design. We did not really want to change our plans, but we realized that we needed to in order to be successful. Once we concluded it was okay to change, we did so without any reservations.



Books & Journals

* Wong, Harry, K. & Rosemary T. Wong. The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher. Harry K. Wong Publishing. 1996.

* Back to School Book From Your Friends at The Mailbox. The Education Center, Inc. 1997.


* California Standards Teaching Profession
* Missouri Western State College, Student Teacher listserv



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