I don’t know about you but planning for the first week of school is one of the hardest lesson plans that I have to create. Why? I think the answer lies in all the unknowns that you can’t plan in the first week of school for no matter how hard you try. After several years of “first weeks” I have learned a few tricks to create a smoother week. Read on to discover tips to help you de-stress that your first week of school!
There are so many unknowns during the first week of school. I have separated them into three categories:
- Class dynamics – you probably don’t know many, if any, of the students you will get and therefore you can’t plan specifically for them. Are they a rowdy group? Who are the talkers? Who are the attention-seekers? How well do they listen? Who will be upset? Whose parents will have a hard time letting go?
- Last-minute changes – there are so many changes and unanticipated emergencies that will crop up during that first week – Will any of the children have bathroom accidents? Did each bus rider get on the right bus? Do they have their lunch? Do they know their lunch number or where to find their lunch card?
- Admin changes – and then there are the changes that admin sends down, sometimes without any warnings. New students that you weren’t prepared for. All those forms that need to go home. Schedule changes. Last minute details that have to be ironed out. Curriculum changes…
…sigh, all of it makes for a lot of confusion.
So-o-o, what do you do? My advices is to keep it simple and don’t stress out. Being on the brink of chaos is totally normal in the first week of school. In fact, there will be many days this month where you will say to yourself “This class will never get it together”. Don’t worry…they will. Just stick to your plan and procedures, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Make sure your students have all rules and procedures down first before you start teaching new concepts. Remember, primary grades are about reading and writing, yes, but a good portion of it is about teaching independence and preparing students for the rules and procedures they will need to know for the rest of their academic career. You are setting them up for success so don’t stress about the first month. Just calmly repeat, repeat, repeat…Did I say that enough already?
Here are a some very basic activities that I use during the first week. What’s great about them is that each one is easy to plan for and easy to drop or rearrange based on how your day/week is going. I hope you will find some inspiration here to make your first week as stress-free as possible.
While you are busy greeting new arrivals and organizing the hundreds of papers that students bring back, have Back to School theme coloring sheets ready for each day. Try Bestcoloringpagesforkids.com for great Back to School coloring sheets.
I use this portion of the day to work on students’ oral and academic skills. I love Smorgievision on YouTube. Greg Smedley-Warren has tons of fantastic ideas for running a classroom.
Here are some other activities that I use:
- Greet each other individually
- Have each child say hello to the person next to them and continue around the circle.
- Play a “Hello” song of choice.
- Teacher greets each child and they respond.
- Teacher picks students to share with the circle about the night before or important events.
- Play an ABC game such as I Spy.
- Play a counting game
- Students stand then the first child says “1”. Students continue to count off one by one. The person who says “10” has to sit down. The count then begins again.
Movement during the First Week of School
For the first month, you will want to insert some type of activity to get the wiggles out of your students. You can try yoga or stretches or you can play any song from Laurie Berkner. I like to use Movement time to teach as well. Here are some fun activity songs that are also educational (except, maybe, Baby Shark…I can’t help it, I love that song!)
Go Noodle – signup is free
Alphardy song by Jean Warren
There is never a bad time to read a book. Not only do the kids enjoy it, it is also another chance for you to practice oral language as well as critical thinking with them. Teach them the physical elements of the book – back , front, title, author, dedication. Show them that print goes from left to right, top to bottom. Point out page numbers.
Here are five of my favorite first-week-of-school books:
- Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
- Don’t Be Silly, Mrs. Millie
- Don’t Eat the Teacher
- The Day the Teacher Went Bananas
- The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School
After reading the book, discuss it. Use a white board or interactive white board to model writing skills. Some activities I use:
- Ask a question about the book
- Map out the sequence of events
- Ask the students if they have ever experienced something similar to the events in the book. Use this time to make personal connections to the text.
- Vote on the book. I use the thumbs up or down method. After I read the book, I ask everyone to hold out a fist with thumb extended in a horizontal position. Then on the count of 3, I ask them to give a thumbs up or thumbs down signal. I usually pick 2 students (one up thumb and one down thumb to give their individual opinions)
I hope you will use some of these ideas to simplify and de-stress your first week!