Luckily, when I started teaching, someone told me to make sure I had sharpened pencils ready for the first day of school. What they didn’t tell me was what to do when the air conditioning stops working on your very first day in the classroom. In August. In Texas… I can’t warn you of alllll the things that could go wrong, but lets at least cover a few things you want to make sure you have in place for the first week of school.
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It is SO important the first week of school includes activities that build community, establish boundaries, and are engaging. That’s what this post is all about- necessary activities to do with your kids to set up for a successful year!
If you’d like some more help on Prepping for the First Day then join my free three- day challenge Prep for the First Day. In the challenge we cover:
- What to focus on as you prepare for the school year (complete with check-lists)
- How to set up your classroom in an organized way
- What things you need for your first day of school plans
First Day of School
When planning for the first day, you want to make sure you have some version of all of these items planned out. This will help you have a smooth first day with your new kiddos!
Write a DETAILED Plan
I can’t stress this enough. Incredibly detailed. Down to every five minutes if you have to. I like to create a “first day lesson plan” that is completely separate from my normal lesson plans. These first day plans are typed up by time and subject and include activity plans as well as materials needed for each activity.
I always include a scavenger hunt on the first day. This is how kids get familiar with the classroom routines and learn a lot of the expectations.
These are a MUST! The first day of school is so intimidating for little ones. Providing them opportunities to interact with their new peers is a perfect way to get them to open up.
I like to use team builders from the Silly Sports and Goofy Games book. There are a ton of fun and non-academic activities in there that kids kinder-5th can do.
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First Week of School Activities
Just as I do for my first day plans, I write detailed plans for the first week of school. They aren’t as detailed as day one. But I write a lot of notes about what I want to do. I also plan for two to three team builders per day during the first week. (After the first week I do one a day.)
Inside The Organized Teacher Framework, I share some of my favorite team builders, class builders, and strategies for Cooperative Learning.
One problem I often see with many teachers is the pressure to start the curriculum within the first week of school. I understand why administrators expect that from teachers but I don’t agree with it.
I recommend, instead, focusing the first two to three weeks of school primarily on teaching, implementing, and practicing routines. It might seem like a big use of time up front but it will come in sooo helpful as the year progresses.
Reading and Writing Activities
During the first week I love to read books to my students. Read Alouds are one of my favorite parts of teaching. I also like to incorporate writing activities with the stories we read. This way kids are making connections, practicing their writing skills, and slowly easing back into the swing of school with lessons that are manageable. It is also a great opportunity to teach social skills and have conversations about expectations in your classroom.
Amy Lemons, from Step Into 2nd Grade, has a great “out of the box” activity for back to school. (I am guilty of reading First Day Jitters every first day for the last five years…..) You can pick up her packet here, full of fun ideas for the first week!
Set Up Journals and Intro Stations
The first week is a great time to practice listening skills and following directions. Guide students as they set up their math, reading, and writing journals. I like to give them time to decorate the cover or inside page to their liking.
This is also a good time to start teaching your students station expectations. I go over these one by one and in a lot of detail. We practice our stamina and learn to read for long periods of time. After the reading stations are introduced and somewhat “under control,” we move on to writing and word work stations.
Stations are crucial in the elementary classroom. They are a great way to engage your students while you are meeting with small groups and they are an awesome activity for when you need to be out last minute. Here are some tips on how to organize stations in your elementary classroom.
Team Builders, Team Builders, Team Builders
Oh, and class builders! All this week you need to be providing activities for students to do that build team work and friendship.
STEM activities with their team is a great way to incorporate higher level thinking, social skills, and team work all into one lesson! The first few weeks are crucial to creating a warm and welcoming environment and one that your students feel comfortable in.
As I said above, I am of the mindset that the first week or two be very intentional with team building, class building, and cooperative learning structures. I will mix in some academics. However, I feel it is more important that students build a relationship with you and their classmates during this time.
Oh, and I forgot one more activity for the first week of school…Happy hour!
Here is a quick list of all the links I mentioned in this post. These will help you as you get prepared for the first day of school.
- Daily Routines for First-Year Teachers
- Classroom Management resources I recommend
- The Organized Teacher Framework
- 6 Steps to Setting Up a Classroom
- Tips for Setting Up and Organizing Stations
The Prep for the First Day 3-Day Challenge is available for you to start today! Head here to sign up and get all the info.
Until next time,