If you're like me, you get the jitters every year before the first week of school. I used to always panic thinking I wasn't prepared enough and when I first started teaching I really didn't know what to do the first week of school. I ALWAYS end up over planning but I think this is a good thing. There's nothing worse than having a room full of 25 kids with nothing to do.
I've put together some ideas and resources that I have found particularly useful over the last few years for the beginning of the school year.
1. I find it beneficial to have some form of positive reinforcement in place on day one. This is my personal favorite because it's quick and easy and takes very little prep work on my part. Click here or on the image below to grab this freebie.
2. On the first day we always create a classroom pledge, promise or set of co-created class rules I find that this sets the tone for the day and year. I rarely have to add anything to the list. No matter what grade I have the students are able to come up with great ideas for class rules. After the chart is created I have them copy the rules into their "My Class Rules" booklet. We talk about what each rule looks like, sounds like, and feels like. I find this gives them a deeper understanding of why we have rules in the first place and why it's important to follow them.
3. I spend a lot of time during the first week getting to know my students but also having them get to know each other. This helps to build a classroom community and allows them to make new friends or reunite with old ones. I really feel that this time is important. Plan some get to know you games, some sharing time, or just time for the kids to talk to each other. I like to play, "Find Someone Who..." as one of our first ice breakers.
Then we make an All About Me page. You can use a pre-made template or you can give them a blank page and they can decide what they want to put on their page. We hang these up in the class for the first couple of weeks, this way when our parents come for Meet the Teacher Night we have something hung up already for them to see.
4. I like to read, "The Important Book" by Margaret Wise Brown. Then we make our own "All About Me Important Book". Inside the book they write about what is important about their classroom, their teacher, themselves, their friends etc. This helps with reinforcing classroom routines and community building. I let students sit in the author's chair to share their Important Books and then we display a copy of the book by Margaret Wise Brown along with their own Important Books. Again, I use a template for this but you can also just write the prompt on the board for students to copy.
5. Throughout the week as students are working on their All About Me pages and booklets I like to pull students aside to do a couple quick assessments. I use the Dolch word lists and just have students come and read as many of the words as they can. This gives me a good idea of their basic word knowledge, decoding abilities etc. Another quick assessment I use is a word Graffiti page (see picture below), where they simply write all of the words that they know. Yes, some of them will look around the room and copy words but this is a strategy as well. As I am walking around I can see who is fervently writing the words they know, and who is copying. It tells me that I need to touch base more often with those students. They are also given some basic math fact sheets to work on. This may seem like busy work but it's important for me to know who has a basic understanding of their facts. I can quickly see who is struggling and who has it down pat. This information helps me with creating small groups for the first month of school.
6. I introduce Poem of the Week in the first week of school and start with a back to school themed poem. Poem of the week becomes our routine for the entire year and students look forward to it so I like to get it started right away. We use the poem for shared reading (I often read it first and then we read together) or I have students come up to the projector and take turns reading from the poem. We also use the poems for things like fluency building, partner reading, teaching decoding, word families, vowel patterns and more. You can check out my Back to School poem and activities for free by clicking here or on the image below:
7. One of the most important things you can do in the first week of school is set up your routines and expectations. During that first week you will see my students practicing lining up, over and over and over and over. We do this until we have a quiet line and can walk quietly down the hallway. I want them to know my expectations right from the start. The first day of school kids are excited to see their friends and their extra chatty, you might think you should just give them a break and let things go for that first day. I find that if I let it go that first day, the expectation is set that they can talk in line and when walking down the hallway. I have another post about my morning routines that you can read by clicking here.
I hope these ideas help make your first couple of weeks back to school a breeze!