So as I browsed around Target the other day I stumbled upon perhaps one of the most horrifying things for a middle school student...SCHOOL SUPPLIES! That's right--school is right around the corner, which got me thinking of some things to start off the year.
At my school we are big into team building (I am very fortunate!) among the students, so the first two days of school they stay with their advisories and we do many "getting-to-know-you activities". This really eases the nerves of many of our students making the transition to middle school...not so scary. It also builds a great sense of community with the teacher and their fellow classmates in advisory.
The third day is the first day they go to all of their classes. We go over the basic rules, routines, and policies of class. But before that, I hand each student an index card and ask them to put on the card "Why I do not like math". Usually I hear a small murmur-with comments like, "I hate everything haha", which is what most put. I then ask for volunteers to read aloud their responses. As the students read their answers some don't know what to think and look straight at me as if I may get offended to what they say (well sometimes I do but I don't hold it against them :D), no no, I just sit quietly listening with a smile. After a few read theirs, I collect the index cards, hold them up and say in a very optimistic tone--"By the end of this year, this will change, you can count on that".
At the end of the year I hand the index cards back to them and have them reflect on their opinion at the beginning of the year until the end, and see how their answer has changed.