Planning for the First Day of School

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

A good impression is made by getting off to a good a start. Getting students excited about their coming learning experiences, setting clear expectations, class code of conduct, procedures, routines, building a positive learning environment that is safe socially and emotionally for all learners so they can discover who they are, set mastery oriented goals for their futures, and be positive in their expectations to be able to achieve them.

The list below is a checklist of things to consider for the start of school and the first few days. Obviously, there is much more to consider to plan and implement a full year, than the narrow focus considered for beginning days.

1. A few weeks before school starts decide if you want to send a letter to introduce youself and what interesting events or activities you are planning for the students. Make sure you only mention ideas you know you can deliver. Or you might want to call home. If you would like to make home visits you might want to call or send a letter to the student’s care givers explaining your intentions, how to reach you, and suggest times for them to set an appointment.

2. Some schools publish lists of supplies for students to buy and bring to school. Think very carefully about what to put on this list. Parents can get upset when there are too many items and if you ask students to purchase items which they do not use.

3. Don’t wait for the teacher scheduled days before you plan to get ready for school. The first days are not good days for preparation. Teachers who have not seen you before introduce themselves and old friends like to chat. The principal and other school officials have their agenda of new, creative, and beneficial ideas to change education. They will plan most of the time for you in meetings. Often leaving only after school hours for you to plan.

4. Before class begins decide on how you want the classroom arranged to start. If you want students to have assigned seats then decide that before they arrive and put the tables or desks where you want them. Have each student’s name on the desk so when they come they can see where they should go. If you want students to decide, then be sure you are there when they arrive and tell them to choose, or tell them when everyone arrives you will decide together. If you choose to do this make sure you have a plan on how to help them create a plan and how to resolve conflicts. After all the desks and chairs are assigned, be sure to check and see if the students fit them. Some students will think it’s neat to be able to lift their desk with their legs or hide behind a big desk by slumping. These situations do not benefit the students and you need to deal with it before everyone develops an attachment to their desk and chair. If you want students to share desks and chairs, then make sure this is understood from the start. If this is the case, then students need to be given a private place for their stuff and everyone needs to know what areas are private for students, teachers, and others who share the classroom.

5. If you want to have a wall display for the student of the week a good way to start is by having the first week be for you. That way you can model what students could put on the wall display and help the students get to know you as a person. Might relate to the poem What’s in the Bag by Shel Silverstein.

6. On that first day of school be in the classroom or hallway to greet students. This is the most important day. Be there. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.

7. After all students have a desk or a place to sit and you're ready to start introduce your self. If you want students to introduce themselves, be prepared to give suggestions to help them. See surveys

8. If you want to have class meetings, then the first one can be held the first day.

9. School rules should be gone over. These are rules in the student handbook. You should explain the need and rationale for each. You should also explain these are the school rules and are different than the class code of conduct or class rules. Fire drill and tornado. Procedure if an unauthorized person is in the building ...

10. Go over safety procedures to arrive to school, depart from school, and how to travel to school safely. School bus rules, walking rules, bicycle rules, railroad crossing rules, playground rules, talking to people we do not know rules. See notes on what every child should know to feel safe

11. Class rules or code of conduct can be told to students or students can develop them at the first class meeting. Keep them simple. See development of code of conduct and classroom rules.

12. Give an introduction to the goals of the year. Briefly give the highlights for some of the years units and activities. If you are not sure, think of the goals as broad processes (critical thinking, problem solving, media literacy), or topics for each subject. Do not promise what you will not deliver and don’t take a lot of time, remember you are trying to get them excited about what they will learn and do.

13. Prepare icebreakers, interviews, interest finders, or a survey to get to know each other. A sociogram may be a good thing to give. Depends on the school district and how many of the children already know each other.

14. Read aloud. Be ready to start the year off by telling the students that you will read every day and what you read will be very good. Have a really good story. You are going to set the stage for how they will decide what you think is very good. When you read start off with a few questions about what the story could be like by looking at the cover, title, or the first picture. Read, discuss, question, predict, and do all the things a good teacher does to teach reading. See suggestions for before, during, & after in Book talk or reading conference.

15. Combine introduction, self esteem, art, creativity and a memory aid to remember all the students names by having an activity using each person’s name. Students could write their names with balloon letters and draw or write something inside each letter that they like or is of special interest about them. Could make an acrostic with their name. Could make a big puzzle with the number of pieces in the puzzle equal to the number of students in the class plus one or two extra (in case extra students show up and one for the teacher and paraprofessionals, student teacher...). Each student is given a piece of the puzzle and draws or writes something about themselves. Then as each student puts the piece into the puzzle, they can tell what is on their piece. Could video tape this and use it to start a class video of the year.

16. If you are going to use authentic assessment, then choose a puzzle or activity in each of the subjects you could use as an introductory activity for motivation and collect diagnostic information. The how many squares - forty squares activity in the team building activities cn be used in the intermediate and middle grades as a problem solving, social skill, and mathematics activity. Other activities can be selected with the same idea in mind. If you are going to give paper and pencil tests, then a sample test as a pretest in those subject areas. Intermediate and upper elementary students like to go home and tell their parents, when they ask. What did you do on the first day of school? ... "We had a test." It sets the tone.

17. If you are going to use manipulatives, pattern blocks, junk boxes, Cuisenaire rods, lock blocks, or other objects, then bring them out the first day and let the students explore with them or start with a problem to solve by using them.

18. If you are planning to go on field trips or outside for classes go the first day. Tell students how you think this is important, go over the rules, or code of conduct, and go. If students do not follow the rules, or code of conduct, then go back to the class room. Discuss responsibility and suggest you will try again tomorrow. Trips around the school for kindergarten, trips around the community for primary, and trips outside for science. Ginger Bread hunt. Teddy Bear Hunt ...

19. Students are ready to start school the first day so START.

20. Social studies trips around the school, community, 4-6 give a map and have them follow. Or give them a map and have them decide where to settle, build a house...

21. In lower grades if you are going to use songs to move students teach them a song or two.

22. Finger plays, reader’s theater, poetic reading.

23. Have students write letters what they did for the week, summer... Give the assignment in a way to comunicate that cooking dinner with grandpa, or fixing a bike tire with grandma are just as interesting and important to write about as a trip to Disneyworld.


Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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