Saturday, August 4, 2012

What I Do On The First Day Of School

I know many of you wonderful teachers are busy getting ready for the first days of school... some of you may even be starting soon! I still have a few more weeks left with my little munchkin at home before I head back but I thought I'd share how my first day of Kindergarten has gone over the past few years... and some updates I am thinking of trying this year!

 For the past few years (actually for as long as I know) the Kindergarten classes in my district have started the year with 2 half days (the teachers typically spend those two after noons putting away supplies as well as planning for the remainder of the month). This year there is talk that the Kindergarten students will have one half day and the second day will be a full day... this means rethinking and changing a whole lot of things!

Many of you have posted about your first days, the activities and lessons you do. You've also posted about having a meet the teacher day BEFORE the first day of school. What a wonderful treat that is, in my school we don't meet our children until that very first day of school and the parents are not invited to join them in the classroom, we pick them up from either the cafeteria or the school yard (depending on where our designated pick up area is that day). This means it's not only their first time in our rather large school but they don't have a chance to meet me or our classroom with the support of their parents - I try to plan activities and lessons that will help ease this transition for them.


Before the kids come in on that first day there are a few things I always prep:

  1. I make a sign with my name and room number on it, usually the size of a piece of paper which I put on my clip board and hold up when I go and get my kids on that very first day. 
  2. LABELS!!! I print out ALL of my labels before the first day so I can start labeling the students notebooks and folders immediately. I also have their labels printed for the closet (one label for their coat, one for their backpack and depending on the closet one for their lunchbox). 
  3. Large index cards with each child's name clearly written in black - I always keep extra on hand incase a new student shows up or a name is spelled wrong (I use these for an activity). I also punch two holes in the top of the card and attach string so the students can hang them around their neck. 
  4. Camera! I always bring my camera those first few days to make sure I capture their first experiences in Kindergarten. 
  5. The basics - I make sure the typical basics are also done (calendar is up, attendance sign in board is made, tables and bins are all clearly labeled, etc.)


I always go pick my kids up a little early on the first day. I usually show up at the designated spot and take a moment to say hi to the kids and give them time to see me. I take it slow and we don't rush to go upstairs. Once I feel they kids are ready to move up to our room I explain to them where we are going and that they must keep their eyes on me at all times. Then off we go... when we get to our room I have the kids line up outside the door and again introduce myself (it's a lot less noisy right outside our door). I tell them that they can pick any chair they want to sit down. Once all of the children have found a seat I introduce them to our classroom and explain to them a little about what they will do while in school, the special's they will go to and all the fun they will have. Then I have them pay attention to what table they are sitting at and talk about how we tippy-toe from the table to the carpet and back again. We practice this a few times, over and over again, of course giving lots of praise for the students who tippy-toe perfectly.

Once on the carpet I show the students the attendance chart and explain how it works, the students can't actually use it at this point because I always add their pictures to the chart after the first day of school. Next it's time for our first getting to know you game. I take out a small stuffed animal or ball and we go around the room sharing one thing about ourselves - usually a favorite color or a favorite game. After the game it's back to business. I introduce the "Flow of the Day" and explain explicitly what they will be doing for the day, mapping it out so there are no surprises.

Next we go on a tour of the classroom - usually I just walk around and show the kids around the room. I'm thinking that on the second day of school (especially if it's a full day) I might try a classroom scavenger hunt, I've been seeing a lot of them on the teaching blogs and taking lots of good notes! At this point the kids are ready to be moving and want to explore more. I go over the procedures of how to line up and practice a few times. Then we take a walk to see where the bathrooms are. This gives the children a chance to get out of the room for a little while and they learn where the bathrooms are which is very important.

After our bathroom break it's time for our first mini-lesson... right away I introduce the term 'mini-lesson' and explain that my job is to teach and their job is to listen and learn. I usually repeat this mantra often throughout the year before my mini-lessons, it seems to help the students realize it's time for business! Our first mini-lesson for the year: MAGIC 5! I make a great poster using pictures of a former student and the kids love it! We talk about what it means to "sit with magic" and why it's important. We practice it, sometimes I take out a magic wand and sprinkle magic dust on them to help them! Now that they know how to sit quietly I can introduce our next activity.

Before I go on let me just add, at this point ALL of the children's belongings are still scattered around the room, on the floor and at the desks. Don't panic, I'm getting to putting them away, I promise!

It's time for our name tag coloring activity. Each child gets their large name tag and they are going to color and draw pictures of things they love. (I have old crayons already set up in bins for each table to use). I had seen on another blog (I'm so sorry I forgot which one I saw it on.... if this idea is yours please let me know so I can link up and give you credit!) about making name headbands using sentence strips. I might try this as it is something different and could be a lot of fun.... BUT I usually keep the name tags for the first few weeks so the kids can wear them to specials so I'm going to have to really think about how I want to do a name tag activity this year! Anyways, I have baskets of books and extra drawing paper also sitting on the tables so if a student finishes early they can keep themselves entertained while I FINALLY do my supply check.

I used to actually sit down and check off EVERY supply for each child - that was WAY to time consuming. Now I make a simple sheet to just check off who brought in the important things: folders and notebooks. Everything else I don't worry about any longer... this makes putting away the supplies so much easier. While the kids are working on their name tags I call the students up one or two at a time to help me put their supplies away. I have lots of bins and boxes in the front of the room labeled and I challenge the children to sort their supplies. As they do this I monitor that they are sorting correctly - I also work on trying to put all some of the larger supplies away where they will stay for the remainder of the year, such as: paper towels, tissues, and baggies. Crayons, glue and scissors go into larger boxes that I then split into smaller community bins. I try my best to get most of the supplies into bins and boxes that are manageable for me.

I try to get through ALL of the students supplies while the children work at their desks. I do not keep them at their tables for longer than 20 minutes and I constantly look to see what they are doing. If they seem to be getting antsy before 20 minutes is up then we clean up and move on to the next activity. Anyone whose supplies I do not get to I just pile in the corner and pretend I don't see them.

Now that supplies have been collected and name tags are decorated we play the name tag game! The kids bring their name tags to the carpet and we play 'I spy' and 'We both like'... the kids look around and find someone who drew the same thing as them, at times I will call out 'I spy' clues for the kids to find certain students in the room based on whats on their name tag. This game helps the kids realize that they have things in common as their peers and really helps them warm up even more.

It's time to read a book! I review 'Magic 5' and remind students to leave their name tags alone (or collect them). I usually start the year with a Miss. Bindergarten book, I LOVE all the 'Kissing Hand' books BUT I like to read them back to back so I wait until we are in school for a full week so we can do a mini/informal character study. After the book I introduce the students to our circle talk procedures and we discuss how they might make friends in our room!

We do A LOT of work in our school using famous artists and looking at artwork. I introduce this component to our day and we look at Norman Rockwell's painting Coming and Going, 1947. We talk about the painting and where the family might be going... I use the painting to lead into a discussion about our favorite summer memories. After discussing our favorite memories on the carpet I let the students draw pictures of their memories. This is a good way to see who can write their names, who might attempt to write a sentence or add labels to their drawings, and I can see who can follow directions.

Next we move on to Math - I introduce the children to the Math area of classroom. I show them our Math bulletin board and go over the calendar routine. I then take out some of our Math manipulatives and let them have some free exploration. IF I have a lot of supplies left to go through I take this time to do it... otherwise I walk around and sit at the various tables and chat with the children about both the supplies and how their first day is going. (Of course as any good kindergarten teacher would do I always review the rules of how to use the manipulatives BEFORE the kiddies go back to their seats and start playing working.)

To end the day I introduce a STAR book and read it. Our star books are 'favorite' books that we read for an entire week to help the children build the confidence to be able to 'read' the book on their own. I try to pick a favorite fairy tale that many of the kids already know.

At the conclusion of the book I tell the kids how proud I am of them and how much fun I had meeting all of them. I also tell them that tomorrow is going to be a GREAT day! I go over the schedule for the next day and give them some fun things they can look forward to! I've seen a lot of posts about Jitter Juice and I think I'm going to have some for the second day of school - I can tell the kids about a special treat I'll be bringing in the next day and that might help keep them excited to come back!

Before the kids leave we review how to line up and our dismissal policy. For the first few weeks of school I explain that NO ONE can leave my line without receiving a sticker. I usually purchase smelly stickers or really shiny ones that the kids will love!

Well my friends, that is a glimpse into the first day of school for my kiddies! I'm exhausted just typing it all out! I'm sorry I don't have any pictures but I will try to get some this year and add them.

So what do I want to add/change this year?

  • First day pictures - I saw some great pins about taking first day pictures with kids holding picture frames or chalk boards. I think I am going to get a small chalk board and decorate it. Then I will have each kid write their name on the board to the best of their ability and I will take a picture of the kids holding the boards. I will do this again during the last month of school, what a great keepsake it will make! I will still take a picture of the each kid without anything in their hands so I can use the pictures to label the attendance chart and other things.
  • First day name tags - I usually do the index cards but maybe I'll do headbands - anyone have any other fun ideas for this?
  • Craftivity - It might be fun to introduce a craftivity on the first day, although all the supplies wont be organized so this might be a good idea for the second day of the school. Does anyone have a cute craftivity to try?
Well I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my first day of Kindergarten.... I'd love to hear your ideas and insight!!

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