The nerves are setting in, they always do this time of year! I always get quite stressed about the first day of school. The only thing that calms my nerves is a session of heavy laminating, because when you laminate stuff it makes you feel like progress is being made!
Set the Scene
I am teaching a year three class this year. I work 3 days a week in a job sharing situation.
Before I step into the classroom on the first day there are a few things that must be in place. I don’t get too worked up over filling the walls with stuff at this stage, there will be plenty of time for this over the coming weeks.
I make sure all the desks, chairs and other bits of furniture are arranged just right and they are allocated to a student. Each student is allocated a desk, big drawer and a bag spot. I label each spot with their name. This really helps students to feel at home right away and shows them where to put things without having to ask.
I make a little instruction card telling students where to put things when they arrive and what to do for the first part of the day.
Before day one, I devise and set up a behaviour management system. This is so that it is ready to implement from the moment students arrive. At my school every class is part of the same system. We have 4 school behaviours that we promote- I am safe, I am responsible, I am respectful and I am a learner. Students collect faction points for demonstrating these behaviours that add to a grand whole school total. This year I am trying to bling it up a bit by having students add stars to a jar with their faction colour on it. We will add the stars up each week and send them to be added to the grand total.
When Students Arrive
When the students arrive things can get a bit crazy. The nervous energy in the room creates a buzz!
On each students’ desk there is a set of instructions, telling where to put equipment and what to do while everyone gets settled.
I write a personal note for each student, that gives them a little piece of information about myself. Each note is different andIi use this information in activity a bit later on.
There is a simple activity, like a maze or spot the difference puzzle. This occupies the students and allows them to chat about something with their neighbours.
I also put a Zentangle bookmark on their desks, for them to colour in. Once students have finished colouring their bookmark I laminate them, punch a hole in the top and add a ribbon. This becomes their bookmark for use during independent reading activities. I got my Zentangle bookmarks from here.
Equipment management is a big part of day 1, everyone brings a bag load of stuff with them and the stuff needs to be put somewhere!
I make it clear on my little instruction card where things need to go. I usually try to have items put in only a couple locations. Books in big drawers, pencil case with one set of items in desk tray and the rest in a ziplock bag.
Each child has a zip lock bag on their desk with their name on it where they put all spare equipment. I have a box for boys and a box for girls in the storeroom for storing the zip lock bags. Students can then access equipment during the year as they need it.
Once the parents leave and the equipment is dealt with it is time to get into the fun stuff!
There are a few activities, or types of activities I do every year.
I always do a collaborative project of some sort. In the past I have had the students trace their hands and make a flower or a tree. I have also had each student decorate a puzzle piece with pictures about them self, which then adds together to make a big puzzle. This year I am going to use this product from Outside the Lines Lesson Designs.
Each student gets a square which they colour-in and then we put them together to make a picture of an astronaut. This is going to fit in with my stars and growth mindset classroom theme.
Share a Book
This year I am going to read The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This is to start the students thinking about what we do when we are solving a problem and how we learn. We will do some follow-up activities on this book during the day.
Getting to Know You
A big part of the first day is getting to know each other. I start off by giving the students some information about myself in the personal note I leave on their table. To get students using the information I have given them I bring in a box with 5 or 6 items in it. The items relate to the information I put in the personal notes. I sit them down and show them the items one at a time. The students have to guess what each item says about me. I then get them to design their own box by drawing pictures of things they would put in the box. They then share their box pictures with 2 other students and have a conversation about what they have drawn.
The seeds of my classroom culture need to be sown on the first day. This year my school has a focus on Visible Learning. I will be embedding this throughout my lessons, but students need to have some understanding about learning dispositions such as growth mindset and how feedback can be used to help you progress in your learning. So on the first day, I will start this conversation by introducing the idea of growth mindset and exploring what this means.
I will use this free foldable to explore these ideas.
For other ideas for back to school and beyond, download a sampler of Australian products.
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All the best for your first day with your class and have a great year.