I don’t know about you, but I am starting to feel the pressure of heading back to school. This upcoming week I am going to head into my classroom to start setting up. At the same time, I am trying to think through my first few days to make them meaningful, engaging, and exciting for my new batch of kinders. I swear, writing lesson plans for the first week of school is the HARDEST!
Since this is the schedule that I will be using this year, I’m trying to stick close to this schedule the first week to create a sense of structure and stability with my students.
Here is a play-by-play of what I have planned for the first week of school. We start school on a Tuesday so my plans are for four days.
Each of my students will have seen our classroom during “Meet the Teacher” the Friday before school starts. Therefore, every child will know where to hang up their backpack on the first day. During drop off I will set out a bowl full of legos at each table spot so that the children will have something to do while all the craziness of the first morning happens. I’m lucky to teach a small private school where most of the students know each other. The first day of school at my school is always a mini reunion. It’s so much fun to see friends reconnect!
After this, I will teach my students our quiet chime and the expectations with it. Once I get everyone’s attention, I will demonstrate how to clean up the legos and let the students show that they can. I have my students put two thumbs in the air when their spot is cleaned up. Then I will model how to come to the carpet. One by one students will show that they can come to the carpet with controlled bodies and find their name.
After everyone has found their spot, I will have them sing a finger play song with me. (Probably, “open/shut them”) Then we will launch into the expectations of morning meeting. I will teach them that if I put up my “quiet rabbit”, they in turn need to put theirs up in the air and become silent. (The quiet rabbit signal is a peace sign. ) After this I will introduce myself showing the kids some of my favorite things and pictures of my family. Then I will introduce each child and have them say their favorite color.
Jitter Juice is a really popular first day of school activity that Abby created. I have used it for a few years now. The kids absolutely love it. This year I am changing it a bit. I have been doing (way too much research) on health and nutrition and do not want my students drinking soda. Therefore, instead of making Jitter Juice with Sprite and Hawaiian Punch (which has SO MUCH SUGAR) I am going to bring in my citrus press and let my students squeeze out their jitters with the press and then enjoy the juice they made as a group. While the juice still has sugar in it, at least it is a bit less than the punch and soda mix.
You will notice often during my first few weeks of school that my lesson plans will say “Guided Discovery.” Guided Discoveries are a great way to foster independence in your young learners.
According to the book, “The First Six Weeks,” A guided discovery consists of five stages:
1. Naming (The teacher names the activity/item the class will be exploring)
2. Generating ideas and modeling exploratory work (Students come up with ways that they can use the materials)
3. The children explore (As the students are exploring, you are facilitating the exploration, making sure students are handling the materials correctly, and offering prompts/ suggestions to help the students continue working.)
4. Children share their explorations
5. Clean up
During a guided discovery, you don’t just take out the manipulatives and let your students go for it. Rather, this is a focused, purposeful technique used to introduce materials. It is a way to get students to think deeper about items and use them in ways that they might not have thought about before. Because you are guiding their discovery, you can have conversations with your students about what they are doing and why they are doing it. This also prevents the, “I’m done!” attitude that kids sometimes have. When a student runs out of ideas of what they can do with something, you are there to prompt them on. For example, if you are doing a guided discover with pattern blocks you can first ask them to make a beautiful design. After five minutes you can ask them to create a different design. Then you can offer different suggestions: can you make something high? something flat? an animal? something strange? By being there with your students, you are giving them different ways to think about the items in your classroom. This will also set in their head that they can’t just do one thing. They need to keep creating, keep exploring, keep discovering.
On Day 1 as a class we come up with a “class promise.” After the peacemaker/peacebreaker lesson, we talk about how we can keep the peace in our classroom and sign a poster that says, “I will be a peace keeper.” We will use this motto throughout the next two days as we learn how to behave in the classroom.
Students will come in and hang up their backpacks. They will come right to the carpet and once everyone is seated, and we will discuss how we behave at chapel. On day 2, we will add a bit of academics into the mix of the day!
After reading the book, “Giraffes Can’t Dance” we once again will talk about and practice using kind words with our friends.
On Day 3 students will have a fairly good sense of the expectation in the classroom. On this day, we will create a class set of rules. I will chart my students ideas and then create a poster of 4-5 positive rules that we all agree on. Examples of some rules might be, “We will use kind words and actions. We will take care of our school and friends. We will try our best. We will control our bodies. We will make safe choices.” The rules will not tell the students what they can NOT do and rather tell the students how they should behave and act. This makes it easier for the rules to relate to any situation. Do we walk in on our friends when they are using the bathroom? No, because that is not controlling our body or using a kind action. Do we go down the slide when another friend is on it? No because that is not a safe choice. Instead of saying no, no, no, no these rules help create a kind, safe environment.
Where you see the phonics lessons for the day I *will* teach the letter names, sounds, AND formations of the letters. As the day goes on, we will practice recognizing the letter around the school and our classroom. During the Guided Reading block, my students will work with the letter of the day. They will not only make the letter with a few different manipulatives but also work with with me in small groups. During this “rotation” some of my students will be making their letters with write and wipe pages, with the ‘Handwriting Without Tears’ big sticks, and also in their workbooks. I will assess which rotation needs the most help and work at that table/area.
By the end of the first week, my goal is that my students have used many of the tools in our classroom and have had an opportunity to explore with them.
In case you were wondering, here is what week 2 looks like!
I hope that this gives you an idea of what you might want to do during your first few days and alleviates some of the weight that seems to hang over planning the first week! Remember, take the time to go slow and MODEL, MODEL, MODEL and then model some more. In case you would like to read more about the first few days of school, here are some older blog posts that might help: