There are many things that teachers need to do during the first few days of school... but over the years I've learned the important things that work for me and the things I have to remember to do each and every year to have a successful year!
I remember my first year teaching... it was so challenging and so hard. Apparently there was a whole lot more to teaching than what they taught me in college and I felt overwhelmed and not prepared at all! Don't get me wrong, my classroom was inviting and all set up, I had all my lessons for the first week printed and planned, my planbook was neat and organized, my supplies were ready to go... and then I got my class and brought them into my room. I was so excited to have all these little faces staring at me and then it hit me... WOW! These kids are looking to me for guidance and support and to be a leader! It took me an entire year to learn behavior management skills that worked for me - those cookie cutter ideas they taught in college were a good starting point but they didn't tell the whole story! I had to find rules that worked for me and a teaching model that worked for me. I look back and to this day my first class was probably one of my favorite classes and there was a lot of learning going on in my room - the kids were learning from me and boy was I learning from them! I was learning how to be the best teacher I could be.
So what are some of the things I learned and the mistakes I made?
Mistake #1: Being a friend
My first year I was so excited to have my own classroom that I wanted my class to like me and I wanted it to be a fun year. The first few days I didn't set up rules or establish routines, we played get to know you games and had fun... it was great, the kids and I really enjoyed it... that is until I had to start my mini-lessons and I found that when I tried to establish my class rules and establish routines there was quite a lot of resistance.
NOW I establish routines and rules right away. On the first day of school I introduce some of our rules/routines - sitting Magic 5 on the carpet, tiptoeing/not running when you move from your chair to the carpet and back to your chair, lining up in two quiet lines and walking in the halls quietly. I have found that introducing these basic rules the first day really work for me. I introduce them randomly throughout the first day and practice them throughout that whole day (and every day after that!)
On the second day of school I formally introduce the rules of our class, they are very basic: keep your hands and feet to yourself, walk nicely, work quietly, raise your hand, respect each other. We read books about the rules, draw pictures of the rules and act out the rules to help reinforce them. We read our rules poster every morning (and afternoon) for at least the first few weeks - then only when they need a reminder. Usually on the second or third day I give them assigned seats at their tables and introduce all our table procedures - noticing which table they are at (red, blue, yellow, or green) and learning to put their supplies away (homework folders, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors) in the correct places. On the second day I also introduce where our backpacks, lunches, snacks and coats go.
I know it sounds like a lot but the kids are great and by setting up these routines and rules immediately and practicing them constantly I have found that the kids know what to expect from the get go and they are more receptive! Sometimes this means doing a little less fun the first few days and more rules/routines practice but once these are well established we have lots more time to have lots of fun!
Mistake #2: No clear signals
When I first started teaching I had NO IDEA how I wanted to transition my students from one thing to another. It was a mess - sometimes they'd pay attention, other times they wouldn't and I often found myself raising my voice which I DO NOT like to do at all! I actually hate when I hear myself raise my voice.
I picked on thing and stuck with it! It took a lot of thinking and trial and error before I figured out what worked for me... at first I tried to do what other teachers on my grade were doing, but then I found that it just didn't work for me! So what do I do now?
Mini-Lessons: I start my mini-lessons by always saying this little phrase: "I am the teacher, my job is to ____" The kids yell out: "TEACH", then I say "You are the students, your job is to____" and the kids yell out: "Listen and Learn!" They then sit magic 5 with their eyes and ears on me ready to learn. It takes LOTS of practice to establish this but I like it because they know I mean business when we say this! I don't use this for anything but my mini-lessons so they know what to expect when I say this and I don't want to over use it!
Math & Literacy Centers: I use a bell system for my center time and I really like it, again this is what I found works for me so it might not work for you but feel free to give it a try! When I ring my bell 1 time they students have to clean up - sometimes this means just putting the supplies in the middle of the table and other times it means packing everything up and putting it back on the shelves. If I want them to put their stuff back on the shelves, as I ring the bell 1 time I inform them centers are over put everything away! Once the tables are cleaned up the kids push their chairs in and stand behind them and WAIT! When I ring the bell 2 times in a row the kids switch centers and get right to work... Some of my friends have used various instruments instead of a bell, I may try using instruments this year - for example using a bell for math and a tamborine for literacy...
Lining Up: I use songs to help line up and remind them about the rules in the hall. The kids like the songs and it makes lining up fun. Some years I have given line spots to my kids other years I let me kids just line up wherever they want - this really depends on how the kids are each year. I give them a few weeks before I decide whether or not they will have line spots. I usually have a girls line and a boys line, for me it's the easiest... but a cute idea my friends use is to have favorite character lines. They use their two class mascots, mouse and corduroy, as the "line leaders" and each kid is assigned a line - either the mouse line or the corduroy line. They make a chart that hangs by the front door to remind the kids (and themselves). They have used this system because without fail they have had a lot more boys than girls in their room and they needed a system to line them up.
Getting Their Attention: I used to use a ton of different methods to get my kids attention and it just didn't work. Consistancy is key... most of our school uses a clapping pattern to get the kids attention - you clap a pattern and then they clap back. Since they often use this in the cafeteria to get the kids attention I have adapted this and use this method.
I am sure there are many more things that I have learned over the years but these are the important ones that stand out to me and the ones that I think every new teacher should be aware of!! What are some things you have learned over the years?