I remember several of my “first days of school” very vividly.
When I think back to my own school days, I remember walking into a new classroom, smelling of fresh paint and floor polish. The walls were bright and colorful. When I saw my name on the carefully organized desks and workbooks, I knew I was where I belonged.
I was always excited to start school. Meeting a new teacher. Exploring a new room. Eagerly awaiting all the fun activities to come.
As a teacher, I now know just how much preparation goes into that first day of school. Teachers spend weeks beforehand changing displays and creating an exciting and inviting learning environment.
For all you other teachers out there, or those of you who wish to revisit your own school days, this post is for you!
Welcome to my classroom on the first day of school!
Familiarizing a New Environment
Many children are nervous and unsure of their new classroom surroundings. The first thing I do on the first day of school is have the children collect their school supplies through a classroom scavenger hunt.
Put clipart of an old map behind your writing and blow the printing up to fit a large piece of paper. Tear the edges to give the map an extra-old look. Roll the maps and tie with string then place the maps in the desks of every third student. If you have new kids to the school, hide the map in their desks- this will give them ‘the power’ and take away the pressure of joining a still unfamiliar group of kids.
Rather than stand at the front of the room and point to the garbage can, pencil sharpeners and other important locations (boring,) I put them on the treasure map. The children know that they are correct if they find the given ‘treasure’ at that location.
One treasure map is shared between 3 children. They must find their way around the classroom and collect each of their treasures, storing them in their treasure chest (desk tray.)
By forming their own relationship with the new classroom, the students will better remember the important locations. It is more fun for the teacher than to stand and point, and the students are able to feel more welcome, comfortable and confident in their new class.
It is never fun to talk about rules and discipline, but by helping the children understand what is expected of them and what consequences exist for misbehavior, they will have the right tools to make good decisions from day one. I introduce my classroom management system through a fun and familiar concept: football/ soccer.
Football fever is still raging high amongst the kids in the class even though the world cup is over. This display (although not photographed very well,) gives the children a positive example of what behaviors I believe are ‘goals.’
- Work together
- Do your best
- Encourage others
- Be a good example
- Give a helping hand
In addition to the goals, I also introduce the yellow and red cards to talk about misbehavior and discipline. Kids can earn a yellow card by showing:
- Disrespect to learning
- Disrespect to others
- Disrespect to property
- Unsupportive behavior
At this point, we discuss what disrespect means. I tell the children that they will always get one warning. When giving warnings, I’m sure to use a very specific vocabulary so that the children know that if they keep it up, they’ll get a yellow card. For example, I might say, “Suzie, calling out answers when someone else is talking is very disrespectful. Disrespect to others will get you a yellow card in my class, this is your warning. Please raise your hand the next time you want to share an idea.”
When someone does earn a yellow card, they must miss 10 minutes of break time. I physically give them a smaller yellow card. On the back, I’ve written an out- what the child needs to do to have the card removed. This involves apologizing and one more requirement which is specific to the yellow card.
If a child earns a red card by purposefully hurting someone else either physically or emotionally, they must stay for a detention with the vice-principal during lunch break.
We then create the written classroom rules together, using the kids own ideas.
After this serious talk, we did a project where each child wrote about themselves and what they bring to the team.
The kids drew themselves and a jersey with pictures on it to represent their interests. I wish I would have taken a picture for you! The completed pages are now hanging on more netting which is attached to the wire which runs across the classroom.
Recipe for Success
Although each activity on the first day was well received this year, the recipe for success was definitely the star!
Everyone wants to know how to be successful at something new. 8 year olds are no different. I created a recipe this year that combined personality traits and behaviors with a delicious outcome.
After the second break, the kids came back into our classroom which my amazing assistant and I transformed into a bakery.
I bought one trail-mix ingredient to correspond with each ingredient on the recipe for success.
DO BE CAREFUL OF FOOD ALLERGIES!!!!
I first made the recipe while explaining each of the traits and why we needed them in our classroom to be successful. The kids then read aloud the method and when we got to the part that says, “success is always better when shared,” I gave each child a small portion of success.
Now that they had a taste of success, they needed to share it with someone else!
So, each child then mixed up his/her own bag of success to take home and share with his/her parents.
Once the bags were stapled shut, the children put on a chef’s hat, I prayed that they didn’t have head lice, and then I took a picture of them with their bag of success.
There is now a wonderful collage (thank you, Prachi!) of each of these little chefs in the empty space on the display above.
My goal for the first day of school is create an environment where my new students feel comfortable, confident and knowledgeable about the expectations I have for them. I also want them to laugh and feel loved on the first day. By introducing topics that tend to be serious in a fun yet clear way, important boundaries are formed.
I had a wonderful first day of school on Tuesday and think my students did too. Each and every one of them came into the classroom on Wednesday with smiles on their faces and an eagerness to get started.
If you are a teacher, I hope you’ve enjoyed looking into my classroom on the first day of school.
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It’s all about sharing the love, right?