I mention kindergarten a lot in this post because obviously it is what I taught, but some of these tips could be helpful in any grade level. The first
week three weeks are no joke. I am sure each grade has their hardships but I think kindergarten is a different caliber. We get kiddos where the majority of which are starting from scratch. Some have never been to school before, never been around other kids, never had rules, even some have never opened a book or seen a pencil (trust me, I’ve had a few). It is incredibly draining and for some reason we forget just how hard it is because when they leave our class they are reading and excelling leaps and bounds. It is hard for us to remember just how rough it was. Now picture these struggles and throw in the immediate need to test to determine their levels…. CHAOS. These are some of the things that helped me survive the first week of school: 1. Name tags These were essential for us in kinder! Not only do we try to remember our own kiddos names but it was a big help on the playground during recess. We don’t get fancy shmancy with our tags… just a simple name, teacher name, and room number on colored paper in a Walmart name tag cover. All of us teachers printed our class name tags on a different color so we could easily identify the kiddos on the playground, at lunch, class dismissal etc. For example, if we are at recess and I see a kiddo scared and crying (or hurt, or misbehaving) I could quickly see that his name is Henry and he is from Mrs. Smith’s class. Because let’s be honest if you say “Who is your teacher?” at any point during the first couple of weeks, there is no way he/she will know. Been there, done that. Click the images above to purchase from Walmart. It was the cheapest I found! Oh and last minute tip: place a piece of scotch tape along the back. It keeps the paper in and food, spit and who-knows-what-else out. Trust me on this. 2. Behavior charts I know there is a big movement on getting rid of them (I even attended a training on it) but I truly believe it depends on the kiddos you have in your class. Two years ago I didn’t need them. I had behavior issues but working together one on one worked very well. Last year when I tried this, it just didn’t work. I had a very visual group so I put my behavior chart back up. Seeing the “goal” of being on green helped tremendously. This is the chart I use in my classroom: Click to purchase from Really Good Stuff. Believe it or not, my kids really enjoy this chart. I pair it with my behavior chart calendar. We spend the first week learning how to color the faces the correct color that our bee finished the day on. Click to purchase from my TPT store. It was also my tool to communicate with parents. 3. A really good classroom management plan Yes, I mentioned the behavior chart but you should not consider that your management plan. It is only a tool. I have heard so many new teachers complain about their kiddos and how bad their days are. Yes I know we live in a new age where respect isn’t as prominent as it used to be but it is what it is. You have the power to fix that in your classroom no matter what grade you teach. So start researching. Will it change after you planned it? Yes… it better change. You need to conform to what works best for your group of kiddos. Knowing that it is going to change doesn’t mean to not go in with a plan and make one after meeting your kids. They will walk all over you, trust me. I like to introduce Ron Clark’s Essential 55. YES I do this in KINDERGARTEN. I give the list (tweaked to fit my classroom) to the parents and review them with the kiddos all in the first week of school… parents are expected to follow the rules too! It’s rough but after that, we are one huge super happy family in my classroom (don’t get me wrong… we have hiccups here and there). If you walk in to my classroom, we are loud but focused and you will always, always be greeted at the door by one of my students who will shake your hand and welcome you to our classroom. It works wonders, I promise. And when your admin catches sight of it? You will be so proud. The fifth grade teachers actually send their students to my class if they need a review of rules. Classroom management is something I spend a lot of time researching and trying to perfect each year and is something I am very proud of. 4. Quick contact forms It is ESSENTIAL that you get release information and emergency contact info right away. At our school, bus release is always the craziest. We have tried to revise it but it’s just ALWAYS. CRAZY. This form works wonders: You can get it from me for free by clicking the picture. 5. Busy work for the first little chunk of the day We all know how insane it is… kids crying, parents crying, everyone asking questions at once, trying to make sure all the necessary paper work is complete… insane. I have tried “First Day of Kinder” booklets and tasks where they had to write their names… my suggestion is to not even attempt it. You will be talking to parents and trying to get important information while students (and some parents) are asking you what to do. Do it as a class later, NOT to keep kiddos busy the first part of the day. Something simple like a copied page from a coloring book worked best for me. Kiddos color somewhat quietly while you rush through the first day essentials with parents. 6. A good book (or two… or three…) Click to purchase from Barnes and Noble As most of you veteran teachers know, this book works wonders to calm nerves on the first day. I create an anchor chart with my kiddos that contains all of the emotions that the kiddos felt the first day of school. We then trace our hands on construction paper and draw our emotions inside of them. We follow up with new emotions at the end of the week. My absolute FAVORITE children’s book is The Day the Crayons Quit. It is hilarious!!! Click to purchase from Barnes and Noble. I read it at some point during the first week and then have my kiddos do their best drawing using ALL of their crayons. It gives me insight to the artistic side of kiddos and who may need help with fine motor skills. 7. Get to know your kids Spend the first week really getting to know your kids. You can teach and still take the time out of your day to sit with them and really get to know them. I am sorry but every teacher I had that was just there to teach the information was one that I thought was boring and was a class I never liked. The ones that I remember and loved are the ones that actually talked TO me and not AT me. Sit with them while they are working and converse with them (as long as they continue to do what they are supposed to do!), go eat lunch with them! I know lunch is “our time” and I totally get that. I am not saying everyday but why not once a week or every other week? Your kids will think you are a rock star and want to pay attention a little more in your class because they think you are so darn cool now! Teaching is more than just teaching information… and if you don’t think so then you might not be in the right profession. Teaching is so much more!!! 8. Do not overload kids I know everyone says don’t over plan but when it comes to the first week I like to over plan a little bit. BUT I do not overload. I plan so I have back up stuff and know that I more than likely will not finish everything. I am okay with that. Do NOT freak out and try to cram everything into the week because it is on your lesson plans. You will be frazzled and the kids will be even more frazzled. 9. Play a game and have fun Now I wouldn’t suggest this the first day but at least play a game at some point during the first week. I think this lets the kiddos know that we are still going to have lots of fun in this class. Let’s face it, Kindergarten is hard work these days. For these poor kiddos that have never been to school and for the poor parents that didn’t know how intense kindergarten is now, it can be extremely overwhelming. About midweek or the end of the week I like to play something fun. It brightens the mood and lets the kiddos know “hey, its going to be okay!” 10. Breathe First weeks are hectic but don’t forget to stop and take a deep breath. And if all else fails, buy a vanilla scented candle from Bath and Body Works (my favorite) and take a long warm bubble bath. The next day is always better. Happy teaching!
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