A handshake, a wave or a smile are great ways to welcome students to class. That first impression is key. The students will feel comfortable the second they come in.
Walk around and see what the kids did over the summer. Create an environment where friendly conversation is the norm from the very first day.
Provide some background on your teaching career, but also tell them about your personal likes and dislikes. I loved to tell an embarrassing story from school. It lightens the mood for the class and I felt it's important for students to see me as a person and a teacher.
After creating a welcoming environment, go over the class rules. Students are more receptive when they are more comfortable.
These four tips help make the students more at ease on the first day and can establish a wonderful tone for the rest of the school year. Use the first two tips almost every day to help maintain the environment created on the first day. If the kids feel comfortable, they will be ready to learn. Enjoy the first day of the year, and remember: They are just as scared as you are.