Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Back to School - Tips for a Great Day!

The first day of school can be full of emotions... nervousness, excitement, exhaustion.... a little disappointment that the holidays are over maybe?! And this is just our feelings as teachers... imagine what the kids in our care must be feeling if they are just starting school, moving to a new school or feel intimated by all the newness of their surroundings. 

During these first few hours of our year together I try to put aside the laminator and pretty borders to focus on making my kids feel at home and start creating that all important classroom community. 

Here's what I do before and during the first day to get this started. 

Set the scene for the first day
As a parent myself, it goes without saying that I expect my son's classrooms to be tidy on that first day. I personally don't think it gives a good impression when there's piles of paper everywhere, resources messily shoved into shelves, piles almost tottering over etc. No, I don't expect the room to be Pinterest perfect, but it always gives a good impression when things are tidy.

I do make sure that aaallll the things are labelled pretty early on though. Even when I taught Firsties, they all knew where everything went AND where to return them, saving me time and teaching them to be responsible for our classroom supplies. 

At my school we have a stationery drop-off day the week before school starts. This is a wonderful idea - not only do parents and students learn where their classroom is, they also get to meet me and this makes the first day of school so much easier. There's less supplies to organise and parents aren't as anxious dropping their kids off. Even in Grade 1, parents feel comfortable walking their kids in, giving their child a kiss and cuddle and leaving without hanging around, making the morning much less stressful for them and their child. 

The stationery drop off day also has an added benefit - I can put the parents and kids to work! I display a PowerPoint with instructions on how to organise all that stationery! This saves me so much time! I usually chat with the parents while their child reads and follows the instructions - or not, which is also very telling! And don't you hate it when NOTHING is labelled - I have plenty of markers ready for mum or dad to label their children's supplies :)

You can show you're organised by having labelled tubs ready for the stationery to be placed into and spread out throughout the room so the kids get to look around the room while they sorting!

It is also a good idea to have clipboards ready with volunteer sign-on sheets, contact details etc. to save you time later.

Activities on the first day

My favourite thing to do on the first day of school is play an 'All about my teacher' game. I take the kids outside and line them up along a line in our undercover area. I have 20 or so true or false facts ready to go. I read each statement and if the student thinks it's true they take a step forward. If they are correct, they stay there. If the answer is actually false and they have stepped forward then they have to go back to the starting line. If they didn't move (so they thought the answer was false), they stay where they are. It's a lot of fun, and you can see the kids trying to work out whether the statement sounds like their teacher! My kids are always surprised to find out I love jumping in mud pits and carrying heavy loads up hills on my weekends (I love obstacle course races)! It sets a good tone for the rest of the day and you'll be able to share lots of things about yourself so the kids can get to know you.

Another thing I like to do is team challenges. Here are some tried and tested games I love from Funky in Fourth this year: can read the post with more instructions and photos about these challenges on the iTeach Fourth blog.  

Every year we Help Harry with this design challenge from The Teacher Studio. My school is starting STEM this year, so I'm hoping this will be a great introduction to engineering challenges. Meg also has a pack of STEM challenges in her TpT store.

What's your favourite activity to do during the first few days of school?