Is it just me or did the summer fly by? It’s crazy how fast it went, but I am EXCITED, too. There is something awesome about starting a new school year. There are so many possibilities! Designing a new classroom set-up and/or decor, creating new activities to try, and having a new group of children waiting to learn are just a few of my favorite things about the beginning of a year.
The flip side to a new school year is the stress that is lurking under the surface. There is A LOT to do and the first few days of school can be difficult to plan. So, I am going to share my list of First Day Faves. This list includes all of the activities that I think are critical for a smooth start to a new school year.
1. Introduce Routines
Introducing and setting routines is, in my opinion, the most important thing to do at the beginning of the year. I start on day one. There are several routines that I think are important.
Morning Greeting – When my students enter the classroom on the first day they leave their backpacks on the floor and head to the rug. I introduce myself and we do a quick morning greeting. Usually I use a Koosh ball and we toss it around the circle. I start by throwing it to a student while saying, “Good morning (student’s name).” That student says good morning back using my name. Then he/she tosses it to another student following the same pattern. I love using names because it helps me put names and faces together and reinforces the names that I know and helps me to learn the names that I don’t know. Greeting each other is the first routine that I cover.
Morning Routine – After conducting our morning greeting on the first day I introduce our morning routine. We only have about 10 minutes in the classroom before we need to head out the door for specials each morning. I like to maximize this time and get as much done as possible, so that the rest of the day doesn’t feel disjointed. The morning routine consists of making a lunch choice, unpacking backpacks, turning in important papers, and filling out assignment planners.
I use an interactive lunch count chart that doubles as an attendance taker. I have the chart displayed on my interactive board each morning as the students enter the classroom. Each student slides his/her name to the appropriate lunch choice. A quick glance at the board lets me see who is absent. You can learn more about this attendance & lunch count chart or purchase it by clicking here.
After students make a lunch choice they unpack their backpacks, place backpacks and coats (if needed) into their lockers. Then, assignment planners are filled out. Believe it or not this is a quick process. My students do not have a lot of homework. (If you are curious about that you can read this post.) The planners are used to record important dates, reminders, and to plan out study time for tests and/or quizzes.
After introducing the routines on the first day I bring the students back outside and we practice. Allowing kids to practice routines is super important! In my class we practice, talk about what went well and what didn’t, and practice again. After a few days the routines become habits and we are able to finish with time to spare!
2. Name Tags
My students make name tags to help me learn names, but I also use them to get to know students. The name tags they create follow a specific pattern. Fold paper in thirds. The name tags will be created using the middle third of the paper only. Students are asked to write their name in the middle. In the upper left hand corner they either draw or write their favorite book title. In the upper right corner they list their favorite subject. In the bottom left they list a hobby. In the bottom right they draw or list their favorite summer activity. When finished unfold the name tags to create a tent. The name tags are quick and easy to make and they look great in the classroom.
3. Sorting Hat
This is hands down my favorite thing I am going to do on the first day of school. My love of all things Harry Potter has transformed my approach to classroom management. This year my students will be sorted into Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. Each student will select a scroll from the cauldron to find out where they belong. They will earn points both as individuals and as a group. We will have three House Cup Celebrations throughout the year. They are tentatively planned for December, March, and June.
I will be using Class Dojo to keep track of the points. I love it because once you add your students you can also put them into GROUPS! That means that any points an individual earns will also be added to their group. This is such a great feature! You can check out this resource here.
4. House Challenge
Once the sorting is complete the students will tackle their first challenge activity. They will work together to complete a three part activity. The activity will get them working together as a group. I can’t wait to see how it goes!
I LOVE all of the white board questions that have been all over Instagram lately. Last year I used chart paper to organize this activity. Not this year! I rearranged my classroom and created a dedicated white board space for this activity. I am so excited to see the responses that they come up on the first day.
The first day of school is a mixture of excitement and stress. What do you have planned for your first day?