I fully believe that a bright, colorful, and kid friendly environment is the best way to welcome students (and parents) into the classroom. To break the mold from the typical classroom, how about creating a YOU wall for your students to see on the first day.
Simply pick one wall in your classroom and leave it completely BLANK. If you don’t have room for one whole wall block off a large section with a border, and don’t put anything inside. While the students are checking out the classroom for the first time, their little minds will start to churn about why you left a space of your wall empty (especially if all of your other wall space is as covered as mine is).
For morning work on the first day, have each of the students draw a self portrait. For lower elementary stick to just a drawing, and with the upper grades have them include character traits in their drawing (wings on their feet if they like to run, a large brain inside their head, etc.). At the end of the day, glue each child’s self portrait to the front of a folder. I typical use the basic manila folders and glue the sides shut to create a pocket. Post the folders up on the wall and wait to see the student’s curiosity the next morning!
On the second day, explain to the students that this is their wall. Whenever they complete a special picture, writing, math, or science assignment they can come place it in the folder throughout the school year. At the end of the year, give each student his or her folder to enjoy all the work they are proud of! Most teacher always display students work in and outside of the classroom, but the “You Wall” gives the students a chance to display their favorite work throughout the year.
To take it a step further, whenever a particular student is the star student go through his or her folder with the class and let everyone see their awesome work!