Saturday, May 30, 2015

Calming the first day of school jitters

I will be having my 11th first day of school this fall. 

I may have been through this a few times, but it never fails...I always get first day jitters. 

The only thing that keeps my nerves in check is having every. last. minute. of the first day of school planned out. 

I thought I would share with you all the things I do to prepare for the first day (which generally spans over a few days). 

Greeting the students/random seating
Before school ever starts I label all my desks with randomized labels. 

One year I did playing cards, one year I did numbers, last year and this year I did numbered candy. 

Each desk got a label stuck to it with a type of candy and a number 1-4 on it. I covered the labels with packing tape to make them last a little bit longer.

I also printed out index card sized versions of the labels: 

On the first day of school I stand at my door with the index cards in my hand. As each student walks into the room, I hand them a card and say, "Find this seat please."

Doing seating this way helps in several ways. 
  1. It randomizes students so that they are not trying to sit next to their friends and talk, talk, talk. 
  2. I am getting older and it takes me longer to learn 95 new names each year. While I am still learning their names I am able to say, "Gummy Bear #1, how would you define inference?"
  3. If I decide not to start the year in groups, it is easy to group them later by candy or by #. 

Taking Attendance
Once the students are in their seats I collect all the index cards and send a role sheet around and have students sign in.  I rarely, if ever, take out loud attendance. 

Here's Why:
  1. It wastes time. 
  2. The amount of unique and never heard before names boggles the mind:
  3. I am supposed to be bonding with these kids the first day, not ticking them off by pronouncing their name like I am having a seizure. Instead, I learn how their names are pronounced by listening to them talk to one another. It takes a little longer, but at least I say their names right the first time.  
Introducing Yourself
I always tell the kids a little something about myself. Mostly true things (I like animals and reading) and throw in a few lies (I am 87 years old). This year I decided to up the ante and create a "Meet your teacher Prezi"

Here are a few screen shots from my prezi:

Introducing The Classroom Rules
The next thing that I do is introduce my classroom rules. 

I have students get five Post-It notes out and number them 1-5.

I show the students where the rules are posted and read each one out loud. 

For each rule students are asked to write down why they think that *I* would choose that rule and why it might be important. I stress to them that I am NOT asking them THEIR opinion, I am asking them to write down why it could have relevance and why I might have chosen it. 

I then go through each of the rules and ask students to volunteer their answers. After they tell me their possible reasons I tell them mine. I then have students place their Post-Its on chart paper labeled for each rule and read their classmates responses. 

 I have done this for the last two years and I have had a really positive response to it and the kids really seem to grasp the rules (and that they are not just arbitrary) after this activity. 

Learning Styles
The next activity that we do is my Learning styles prezi

I give students a copy of the handout and play through the prezi. 

When the prezi is over and students have determined their learning styles, I give each student an index card in a specific color based on which class period they are in (To read more about my class color coding Click Here)

I have students write their name and learning style prominently in the middle of the card. 

I then ask them to draw symbols or write words associated with their learning style around their name.

I display these on my wall grouped by learning styles. Because each class is color coded I am able to see at a glance if once class leans more towards one particular learning style. 

Knowing the majority of each class help me know which activities are best to do with what block of students.

Social Media All About You
The last activity that I have students complete is a two part social media activity. 

Part One
First, I let students fill out either Instagram All About Me or Facebook All About Me Page.
I choose the top 36 best filled out all about me pages and file them. Once a week I randomly pull one out and that student becomes the student of the week. Their page gets displayed for a week and they get to choose a prize out of my prize box. The kids really like it and it's a lot of fun!

Part Two
I decided to try something a little more out of the box this year and decided to have kids tell me about themselves through cell phone apps and display these on a bulletin board.

For each app students are tasked with introducing a specific aspect of their lives (Ie. In the Instagram activity they introduce the class to their favorite foods).

Once all the cell phone pages have been filled out, they will be cut out and either glued/stapled together on the side or at the top. Once completed, each student will have a complete "cell phone" all about them. 

If the students can't finish either of these activities in the allotted amount of time, I give them until the end of the week to return them. If they don't they don't get displayed or considered for student of the week. 

Closing Thoughts
It is true that all of these activities will probably take more than one day. Some years my class lengths have been an hour and twenty minutes, while other years it has been fifty-two. However, I know that each year, without fail,  I will start the year with the same basic format. 

I love order, routine, and having a plan. 

I still get the first day jitters...they just don't bark as much! :)

I know that this post has been crazy long, but hopefully it was informational!

Activities From This Post:
Back to school bundle
Meet Your Teacher Prezi Template
All About Me Back to School Activity: Cell Phone Bundle
Instagram All About Me Back to School Activity
Facebook All About Me Back to School Activity
Top Ten Prezi (Back to School Activity)
Back to School Learning Styles Inventory Prezi and Handout
All About Me Newspaper Activity
Free Candy Grouping Labels

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