How to plan for the first day of school

Some teachers like to make a schedule for the first day of school, but that doesn’t work for me.  I have no idea how long each activity will take.  Every year is different.

I make a list of the things I want to teach during the first week of school.  (I’m lucky: it’s only three days.)  Then, in my lesson plan book, I write down what we actually did.

It’s nice to have something on students’ desks when they walk in for the first day of school.  The announcements can be long, and you have to take attendance the long way—by saying everyone’s names rather than just noting who’s absent.  Kids need something to do during this downtime.

Unless you teach older students, don’t make the assignment academic.  Even then, think about art, coloring or an inventory of likes/dislikes.

Here’s a good assignment for all elementary grades: I set a 9 x 12 mailing envelope on kids’ desks, along with a numbered box of crayons we’ll use for art projects all year.  (I collect the crayons after the first day and bring them out for special projects.)  This envelope will hold kids’ memories for the year.   During the first day, they can decorate during downtime.  It’s a great management technique, especially during getting-to-know-you activities. (Kids are egocentric and have limited interest in peers.   Coloring quietly while listening helps them be polite.)

During the first week of school, I like to have kids write a letter to themselves about their hopes and goals for the upcoming year.  We repeat the exercise at the end of the year, and it makes a nice addition to their memories. An identical survey of likes/dislikes and favorites at the beginning and end of the year can be a nice first-week activity.  At the end of the year, kids can see how they changed.

Need more specific advice?  Check out my review of a book that gives a minute by minute schedule for the first day.


 

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