Use the first days of school to teach students how your classroom library will work, and help students find their own just right books. Teach students the behaviors you want to see during independent reading and writing time before your begin these periods in your classroom. Then practice (I usually only allow students to practice independent reading time for about 10 minutes the first couple of days) and talk about how the reading or writing time went. If things did not go the way you’d like discuss ways to improve upon it. Once I’m ready to begin my language arts curriculum my students and I complete my Family Tree Lesson because students know a lot about their families, and it’s a great way to begin our writing for the year.
Setting Procedures For A Successful Year
It’s coming, your first week of school with your new class. What should you do? Set your rules, and set your procedures. Don’t begin teaching a unit, or delve into the common core just yet. Instead, take the time to set the tone and build the community you want to continue throughout the school year.
1. All activities and lessons for the first week of school should be centered around learning the rules, learning the routines, and building community. Everyone is nervous the first few days of school, even the teacher. Taking the time to get to know one another is very important. Students need activities to help them learn your name, and the names of all of their classmates. Students need to know when they can and cannot be out of their seats. How to turn in their completed assignments, and the proper door to exit through in order to catch their school bus. All of these procedures must be taught – by you.
One activity does a lot the first week of school is practicing. We practice lining up quietly, we practice pushing our chairs in when we stand up from our seats. We practice how to ask someone to play with us at recess. As adults it’s so easy to forget that we had to be taught these simple things. Even if you teach older students, they will still need to practice procedures which they did not need over the summer – like walking quietly in the hallway. The first week of school sets the tone for the rest of the school year. It’s easy to overlook the fact that you need to teach your students how you expect them to line up, however, overlooking even the littlest things can lead to confusion later.
2. Start the year with as much structure as possible. You can always let go of some structure later in the school year. Trying to add more structure later, however, is not easy. Have as many procedures in place as possible. Students want to know how things will work in your room, and introducing procedures to them will ease their nerves. Let your students know when and how technology will be used in your room. Show students where they should store their lunch boxes. Teach your students how you want them to enter the classroom each morning, and what they should do once they come in. One tip for figuring out what you’ll need a procedure for is to mentally go through all of the activities your students will have during the day. Then make sure you have a routine in mind for any activity that involves students being out of their seat.
3. Over plan for the first week of school. I do not want a single minute that first week of school where I do not have an activity for my students to do. I keep a handy copy of my plans on my desk, just in case I need a last minute activity. I know it sounds like a bit much, but believe me it is better to be over prepared than under. What do the plans consist of? Well, I make sure that I have a getting to know you activity each day for my students. We also go over all of the rules and consequences at least once, but sometimes twice each day during the first week back at school. Each day I select a read aloud that focuses on back to school jitters, or back to school lessons my students need to learn. I adore the author Kevin Henkes, and usually begin the year with several of his books. Any books that focus on proper school behavior, and making friends, will work. Towards the end of the first week, or beginning of the second, we usually begin our first novel of the year. My class continues our theme of making friends by reading Charlotte’s Web. I created this free Charlotte’s Web lesson to go with the novel.
4. Introduce your students to your Language Arts routine. Whether you’re using a reading curriculum or teaching through balanced literacy, your language arts time will have a set routine.
5. Take your time. The first days of a new school year are magical. You have everyone’s full attention – your students, and their families. Take your time, and make sure you cover all of the important details. Write a letter to your families that includes your homework schedule, ways they can contact you, fees, and volunteer opportunities (the first week of school you will have more families reading your communication than you may have for the rest of the school year, so make it count). I do not begin teaching curriculum in any subject until the routines for that subject have been taught. Do not try to teach a science lesson until your students understand how science tools are to be passed out, used, and collected at the end of the lesson. Community building activities are great the first week of school (like graphing the number of letters in our first names on the board). Whatever your activities are, make sure you have a few high success ones that all students can do. You want everyone to start the year feeling good about all subjects.
I hope you find these tips useful. If you have any first week of school tips, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.