PLANNING FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Now that your classroom is set up you, should be able to sit comfortably in your space and get to work planning for the first day of school. Be prepared to attend a plethora of meetings now that all of the teachers are back. When you do have time in your classroom, use it wisely.
At least fifty percent of teaching is planning.
The time to plan for the first day of school and even the first couple of weeks is during the pre-service week. You might even be able to plan a unit, but start with day one and be prepared for your well laid plans to change. Some activities will take much longer than you expect, while others will run short, but start by creating a plan you are comfortable with and be flexible from there.
I am a huge proponent of using the first few classes, or at least a portion of them, to foster a sense of classroom community.
Time spent team building is not time wasted.
The more the kids feel at home in your classroom, and the better the know each other, the fewer classroom management issues you will deal with later. I like “Two Truths and a Lie,” having them line up in alphabetical order without speaking (or by birthdate which is even harder), and “just like me” (which is each student gets a chance to say something about themselves and then students who share that trait stand and say ‘just like me.’ For example: I say ‘I like pizza,” and then students who also like pizza would stand and say ‘just like me.’ Then each student would have a turn.).
Make sure to include the following crucial things when planning for the first day of school
1. Have a letter to parents prepared
Either have the letter to parents/guardians copied and ready to be handed out or ready to be emailed. Here is an example: Obviously, if you’re sending an email the bottom portion is not necessary.
2. Plan to briefly introduce yourself
Relationship building is key to a successful classroom. You need to let the kids know a little about you before you can expect them to tell you about themselves.
But don’t let them know that it is your first year teaching. Don’t say anything about that unless they flat out ask. Even then, you can fudge a little bit. For example, my first year teaching I told my students it was my first year here at their school, but I taught at a different school my previous year, which was partially true because I did teach (student taught) at a different school the previous year.
It is not too cheesy to actually write out a little speech. You don’t have to read it word for word, but you’ll feel better knowing what you’re going to say to them. I have a few slides about myself on my first day of school PowerPoint. I let them know where I went to college, where I’ve taught and for how long, as well as a little about my family. I also let them know what they can expect of me throughout the year.
I also tell them the class is reading and writing intensive. It is not wrong to set expectations high on the first day. Make them think they’re going to work hard and they will work hard. Be lax on the first day and they will be lax the rest of the year. Here are a few slides from my first day of school presentation:
I like to make some promises (share some expectations they can have of me) with them on the first day and I include them in my slide show. I present them with the following slides and ensure them that I will follow through on these promises and that they are welcome to call me out if I don’t.
I also like to share my one big rule right off the bat:
3. Plan to take attendance in a unique way (perhaps by pairing it with a community building activity)
Try to never call student’s names off the roll to take attendance. You’re going to mispronounce names and they will hate that. Plus they’re sitting twiddling their thumbs while you’re calling out names.
You already have a seating chart right (because you read this post and know that’s a pre-service week must)? Have it with you at the front of the room and you’ll have no problem taking attendance in a flash.
Play a quick get to know you game. Go around the room and ask each student to tell their name (or preferred nick name) and one school appropriate thing they think no one in the class knows about them. Start off by introducing yourself and tell them something they wouldn’t know about you. This way you can take attendance, write down nicknames, and get to know a little about the kids all at once. Triple duty.
Now that I teach a class that focuses on writing all year I give each student a sticky note as they walk into class on the first day. I ask them to write down three favorite “school appropriate” words. I share my favorite words at the time (currently: bamboozle, flabbergasted, effervescent), then I ask each student to choose one of their words to share with the class. We go around, they introduce themselves, I jot down name pronunciations and nicknames and then the put their sticky on a cabinet in the back of the room. Added bonus, I have a calendar printed out and taped to the cabinet doors as well (one month per 8 ½ by 11 page). When they go to post their sticky note, I ask that they add their birthday to the calendar. I glance up at it daily and remember to wish them happy birthday when it comes around. They love that!
4. Plan on spending a good deal of time on the first day dealing with administrative issues
Team building right off the bat is incredibly important, but so is the basic information student’s need to know about your school/classroom procedures. Be sure to pass out your syllabus and explain the necessary portions (How to proceed during a fire drill is one of those portions. Most states require one fire drill a week for the first month of school and then one a month for the rest of the year.)
Also, point out the sections about the major texts and materials. They will want to know what they are going to learn in your class and what materials they will need. If there is a fee for the class be sure to explain how and when that fee will be collected.
Expect to have a dozen or so handouts you’ve received in your box which you are required to pass out to the kids (free and reduced lunch forms, emergency cards, student planners, etc, etc.). Many of these things are required to be distributed to students on day one and however much we’d rather be growing classroom community by building marshmallow and spaghetti towers, the administrative stuff needs to get done.
By the time you’ve introduced yourself, taken attendance via a team building activity, and walked students through the paperwork and administrative nitty gritty of the first day, you’ll find you have little time left. I recommend any extra time you have be spend on community building activities!
If you haven’t already checked it out make sure to these posts which will likely be helpful to you: