Surviving the First Week


Our first day of school was on Tuesday and this week was crazy busy, to say the least!  It's easy to forget how exhausting the first week of school is, until you are in the midst of it and this week was no exception!  It has been a non-stop week and I'm looking forward to a relaxing weekend (is there such a thing?)!  The night before school began, as I was putting my daughter to bed, we talked about going back to school and it was hard not to feel a little emotional about leaving my little birds.  she told me, "Don't feel sad about going back to school, you have so many friends there."  And she was right, it was a fun week seeing all of my teacher friends and meeting all of my new fourth grade friends...oh, the advice of a three year old!   

While reflecting on the first week of school and thinking of some of the new things that I tried that were successful and the old tried and true methods that work year after year I have a smile on my face.  We had a really great (and busy) week!  The students started on Wednesday and they all arrive at different times, whether dropped off, walking or riding the bus.  This year I put a "Welcome" letter on their lockers and a book all about myself inside their lockers.  When they got to school they read the letter on the locker and it gave them directions for where to put their things, to find their seat, read their book about me, and then I had a coloring page that they colored and hung on their locker for the first day.  This worked really well for our first morning.  I felt things were much less chaotic than usual!

Our first day was filled with a lot of procedures and getting to know each other.  I feel very strongly about taking a lot of time to practice classroom procedures so that students know what is expected of them and this has always helped our classroom run smoothly!  To review some of the procedures we went over throughout the day, I created some "Hot Seat" questions.  While the students were at lunch, I taped a card under one student in each group's seat.  When I yelled out, "Hot seat!" students had to get out of their chairs and check to see if they had the card underneath.  They discussed the questions in their groups and then picked one person to share their results.  It worked out really well and I will try to do a few times each week with any type of question, procedures or subject area questions.  I made these cards editable and they are now available, here.

At the end of last year, I had my students think of some advice for my new class.  They created a brochure and also a QR code so students could listen to their advice via iPads.  On the first day of school, students were so excited to get to use the iPads and it was a really fun way to discuss some of our classroom procedures, projects, and topics.  My students from last year did a great job filling them in on some of the fun we will have!  In June, we used the app Audio Boom to record our voices and it turns them right into QR codes, so easy!  I have a feeling we will be using QR codes a lot this year with this app! 

We read the book "The Best Part of Me."  It is an adorable book with real photographs and writing from students in grades 3-5, telling all about the best part of themselves.  The kids just loved it and I did too!  We did a short writing activity and then they took their own pictures of themselves using iPads.  They were all so creative!  I did their pictures in black and white and they turned out amazing when I printed them!  I loved doing this on the first day because it was a great way for me to get a glimpse into their writing styles and also get to know them a little more, based on what they wrote!  We used an activity page, available here, where they brainstormed their idea and they met with partners to do a quick (very quick for the first day) revising & editing.  I can't wait to hang up their pictures and writing!

 



We send home A LOT of paperwork on the first day of school...parent handbook, photography permission, internet permission, emergency release, etc.  I find it overwhelming when the kids bring all of these papers back and I'm sure parents find it overwhelming when they come home too.  This year I made an envelope of all of these papers for parents, so all papers were in one place, they could read through and sign them and send them back right in that envelope.  It really made my life MUCH easier when kids started bringing them back and I hope it made parent's lives easier too.  You can grab this letter for FREE here!


Like I said, I love to focus on procedures and proper behaviors in the first week of school.  One activity that I love doing in the first week is creating a "Recipe for a Good School Year."  I usually take their pictures with aprons and chef hats...but I didn't have hats this year, so we just stuck to the recipe :)  We talked about the habits of good students and why these habits help to create a good school year for everyone in the class.  I LOVED the discussion we had as a class together.  I can tell these fourth graders are ready for a great year!  I found super cute baggies at the Target Dollar Spot, but you could use Ziploc baggies too.  Some kids wanted to save their trail mix we created but some ate as their snack and it worked out great for the students that did not have a snack for the day.  You can find this activity for FREE here! (I do have a typo on my copies shown here, and have fixed it before posting to my store!)





We read a lot of great books together this week, but I think my favorite was "There" by Mary-Louise Fitzpatrick.  We read this book and talked all about setting goals for ourselves, in and out of school.  Next week we will focus on SMART goals, but this was a great introduction into goal setting.  The students then traced their hands and wrote a goal on each palm.  One had to be school related and the other could be their choice.  I love the goals that they chose and the variety of things that they chose!  Some want to work on organization while others specific subjects and topics, like multi-step word problems.  Some are working toward an athletic goal outside of school and some hope to make their family proud with their piano lessons.  It was a wonderful activity and I love how our display turned out!

Another favorite thing, that is actually one of my goals for the year, was our daily morning meeting.  When things get busy, it is sometimes easy to push small things like this meeting aside and I set a goal that no matter what, we will start our day with a morning meeting.  And it was wonderful this week!  I feel like I have gotten to know the students so well and hopefully they feel they are getting to know me better too!  On Thursday, I was feeling really down because my daughter had her "Meet the Teacher" day at school and I was unable to attend.  I shared my feelings with the kids and they were so kind!  When my daughter was done at her school, she called to tell me about her day and the students understood why I wanted to talk to her at the time.  She ended up talking to the class and it was something I'm sure they won't forget!  We also read "Peanut Butter and Cupcake" and it started a great discussion because we have a few kids in our class that are new to our school.  We also shared happy thoughts each day using "Our Happiest Thoughts" jar.  I love this addition to our classroom and love that the students have been using it!  I hope that they will continue to have happy thoughts and take those thoughts home with them at the end of each day.  You can grab the label and student sheets as a FREEBIE here!



To keep parents in the loop of what is new in our classroom, I send home a newsletter on Fridays.  There is a complete parent communication pack available here!  I also do a weekly report for each student on Fridays to let parents know how their child's work and behavior habits are each week.  You can grab this for FREE, here!

I also noticed a lot of fun stuff happening around our school this week and I loved this bulletin board display from my kindergarten teacher friend.  It says: Caution!  This bulletin board is under construction!  Student work coming soon!  I'm sure her kinders will love filling this in soon!

One last thing that worked out so well this week were the new addition of glue sponges to our classroom!  If you are curious about glue sponges, you should give them a try!  They are not messy and have saved a lot of time, even in the first week!  There is a great tutorial from Kindergarten Smorgasboard, here!


We had a really great first week!  I hope you did too!  I hope that all of our hard work setting up classroom procedures and getting to know each other has set the stage for a happy classroom environment that will continue throughout the year! 

And there is one last FREEBIE for you to enjoy, here...I hung this welcome sign on my classroom door as a reminder that we are all welcome in our classroom!

Happy Teaching!









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