Monday, July 21, 2014

Back to School Tips and Tricks! {FREEBIE}

Hey there! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.  I was a busy bee! I had my good friend, Jess', wedding Saturday night, and my cousin's baby shower Sunday morning! Phew, am I tired! Nevertheless, I am here today with some important information! As a first year teacher last year, I used The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete as my bible.  It helped me through the crazy, unexpected first few weeks of school, and I am here to share what I learned with you {with a few of my own comments!}.  I'll start today with Chapter 1, and be back in a few days with Chapter 2.  I hope you enjoy! 
First of all, I just have to say that one of the great things about this book is that it divides each week into  different sections: primary grades, middle grades, and upper grades.  This makes me very happy because one of my pet peeves is reading a professional development book and being left at the end thinking, "Well, that was great, but how am I going to use that in kindergarten {or another grade}." Don't you agree?!
For these blog posts I'm going to focus on the primary grades because I teach kindergarten, but if you teach middle grades or upper grades, feel free to ask questions! Many things are similar with slight alterations.
Chapter 1: Week One

This chapter begins with one of my favorite suggestions for when primary grade students enter school on that first day: having fifth or sixth grade students introduce themselves and escort the k-2 students (and most likely a parent) to the proper classroom.  I think this is a fabulous way to make the students feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place, as well as helping provide a bridge for the children to separate from their parents. Bonus points! My school is on a campus; one building is k-2 and the other is 3-6.  I think it would be even great to have the 2nd greeters help with the k and 1 students.  They definitely know their way around the school by 2nd grade! Or, we can use our newly created program {student ambassadors} to find 5th and 6th graders who are willing to help!

Next, Paula and Roxann suggest a super activity for students to do while they are trickling in the classroom and you are speaking with parents/helping to comfort students… decorate name tags! This past year, I had a bin of books on each table for students to look through while other student were trickling in for the first few days of school. It worked fine, but it was hard to teach proper book handling behavior after they had so much freedom with books already. So, this year, I'm going to take Paula and Roxann's advice and have pre-written name tags for my students to decorate.
Next comes Morning Meeting, one of my absolute favorite parts of the day! For the first day of school, I suggest that you assign morning meeting spots by placing index cards with names on them around the circle.  I followed the book on this one, and it worked wonderfully.  I had to help a few of my kinders who could not recognize their name yet, but most could! I loved seeing them so excited to find their name on the carpet! 

On the first day of school, we go in the circle and say our names, and the rest of the circle waves and says "Hi [name]!".  I make sure to emphasize that they do not have to speak if they don't want to! It helps to establish a safe community in the classroom. Next, we sing a simple song instead of sharing.  On the first day, sharing our names is enough pressure! Singing a song as a group helps to bring a fun vibe without having everyone stare at you! Then comes the introduction of the morning message easel (or chart, or white board, etc.). Just like the book suggests, I read through the message once, and then ask the students to read along with me as I read it again.  Don't forget to point to the words! {Look at that- one to one correspondence on the first day of school!} I then have each child say his or her name as I write it on the chart.  Our first morning message is laminated and displayed in the room for the whole year- it is the first artifact that we created together!

Let's keep on trekking along here.. recess on the first day! I love how Paula and Roxann frame recess on the first day of school.  They suggest to ask the students "What can we do outdoors that we can't do in our classroom?" Once students brainstorm a bunch of ideas, we need to explain that yes, all of those things are so much fun, but there are a few things we need to know so that we can make sure that outside is safe for everyone! Now, we can model and practice lining up for recess. In my school, we are introducing recess this year kind of like a carnival- each paraprofessional that has kindergarten recess duty is going to stay at a different location (swings, playscape, blacktop, etc.), and our classes will rotate through as they explain and model the rules and expectations of the playground.  Paula and Roxann suggest playing "snake" or "follow the leader" as you walk around the playground and model/explain expectations if you are doing all of the teaching yourself! For us, having the kindergarten  paraprofessionals do the explaining at this time will give us a chance to introduce our students to those who may not work in our classroom, and establish them as the authority outside.

Now, we all know that one extremely important thing to introduce on the first day of school is a quiet signal. Every teacher has a quiet signal that they like to use, and this book doesn't really delve into what kinds of quiet signals you should use. The point I really liked from this section was to do your quiet signal in the same spot in the room each time so that your students know exactly where to look when they hear it.  Now, there will be times when you need to get your students' attention quickly and will most likely not be in this spot, but I have two quiet signals.  When I want my students to FREEZE, I ring my bell.  My bell is always on the shelf behind my desk, always, so my students know that I will be there if they hear it.  On the other hand, I play We're Going to Be Friends by Jack Johnson when I want my students to clean up. For this, my goal is to have my students clean up, not freeze and look at me, so it really doesn't matter where I am when this song starts playing.  

We made it to the end of the chapter! Woohoo! The very last thing that Paula and Roxann suggest to do on the first day of school is discuss and illustrate your "hopes and dreams" for the school year.  I begin this by sharing something that I'm excited about for the year, and then model how I will illustrate my thought.  {I always point out how I do not think that I'm a good drawer, but I am trying my best anyway!} Then, we brainstorm a list, and I release the students to draw their picture.  When they are finished, I post them in my room with captions underneath! Do you like this idea? Grab your Hopes and Dreams FREEBIE below!
I hope you'll come back tomorrow for Chapter 2!
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1 comment:

  1. Hi Gina! Great post! I love hearing about what other teachers do on the first day of school. And you are recommending one of my favorite teacher books too! Thanks for adding your post to the link up. It will definitely help out new & not so new teachers. Thanks! :-)

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