I always feel the children coming into me are such ‘babies’. The 5th class children that I have just said goodbye to are matured and ready for 6th class, where as the children coming into me are little 4th class children. “They can’t do anything! Last year’s class weren’t this bad”, are a few of the complaints my fellow staff members will have to listen to from me for the first few weeks. We’ll get into the swing of things soon enough hopefully!
I do try and switch off for summer as I find teaching takes up all my time during the year. I’m a divil for getting lost in a rabbit hole of Twitter and Pinterest ideas about teaching. So I’m slowly beginning to wean myself back on in preparation for my new band of kiddies next week.
I’m a stickler for organisation, so I make sure that in terms of classroom prep I have all drawers/trays/areas labelled in my room, so that the kids can be as independent as possible from the get go. I literally have trays with ‘scissors’, ‘white paper’, ‘coloured card’ etc. which may seem silly but I have noticed over the last few years that this does benefit the children. I also give each child their own tray in the classroom and have a name tag on this as well. I use Twinkl Create to make all these items.
In my school the children line up outside the classroom door. I stole an idea from another teacher in my school last year and I put markers on the ground for each child to stand on, so that they’re lined up neatly and without squashing. I have 30 in my class so I printed the numbers 1-30 off on apples, laminated them and stuck them on the ground in twos using clear contact. As the children come to join the line they can just stand on one of the apples on the ground- makes life very easy and less scuffles in the corridor.
Apart from that I just make sure that I know where everything will be going on the first day. The children are going to arrive in with half a million books, so that always takes up a lot of time on our first morning. It baffles me how children come to school with no names on their books so I always make sure I have a roll or 10 of white labels to hand. I find it easier to assign each child a number as well, so that when I’m collecting copies/books it is quicker to figure out which child’s copy is missing. Then whichever of my little minions is helping me to collect the books they can just put them in number order and it’s quick to find out which child’s work is missing.
In my school the classes are mixed and changed every year which I think is brilliant, so on the first day it is always necessary to do getting to know you activities. On the first morning the kids are always arriving in in dribs and drabs so it’s hard to get stuck into something straight away. I usually just have some background music on the speakers so that there’s no awkward silences as the kids arrive. I put a seating chart on the board so they know where to sit and then a few random worksheets for them to choose from. Mindfulness colouring is always a good go to and then I always create a word search using everyone’s name from the class. https://tools.atozteacherstuff.com/word-search-maker/wordsearch.php The children normally have a lot of gossiping to catch up on at this time as well so the worksheets are just there if they want them, especially for the quieter students.
Shameless plug coming on my resources- but I do actually use them!
I find that explaining expectations clearly to the children as well as setting up classroom routines are the most important things from the start. For behaviour management in my room I used ‘punch cards’, the kids each have a little punch card and use a hole puncher if I tell them to get a point. Once they fill the card, they have a homework pass. The children are always unbelievably motivated to get a homework pass! https://mash.ie/product/behaviour-management-punch-cards/
I get the children to brainstorm on the classroom rules in groups on the first morning. I ask them to divide a whiteboard into 4 boxes and ask them in their tables to choose what they think are the most important rules for our class for everyone to be happy and safe. I always donate a lot of time to this as I think it’s very important. All the tables will share their ideas and it is usually all similar ideas. I then do a little ‘here’s one I made earlier’ and produce these posters, which I have printed on A3 for my classroom. I finish with getting the children to sign their names on a sheet of paper which I will display under these posters in the classroom. This is them signing our ‘classroom contract’ showing that they agree to abide by these rules. https://mash.ie/product/classroom-golden-rules/
This year I am going to do my little icebreaker activities in Irish. I normally do them in English but am going to make a big push with Gaeilge this year. I’m going to start with the fíor/bréagach teacher activity https://mash.ie/product/muinteoir-nua-fior-no-breagach-activ-inspire-download/ and allow them to ask me a few questions as well. Their Irish will be rusty so I’ll be grand with them asking the questions in English but I’ll be answering in Irish. I’m also going to get them to do these simple activities.. https://mash.ie/product/ce-a-bhi-scavenger-hunt-summer-holiday-review-an-raibh-bhi-ni-raibh/ This will just be getting the kids to interview each other on their holidays and the second one is just helping them to get to know their new classmates a bit better: https://mash.ie/product/back-to-school-new-class-scavenger-hunt-as-gaeilge-rang-nua-seilg-na-scroblachoiri/
At the moment that’s all I have planned to do over the next week in preparation for the first day back. In fairness I always find the first day flies by and I don’t get through everything I want to, so this year I’m going with planning less for day one. If we run out of stuff we can always revert back to the colouring/word searches or head outside for a run about.
At the end of the day I will send the children home with their SeeSaw logins for their parents to have access to their learning journal. (Set up the kids account the day before as they all have an individual code)
Their homework for night one is always to think about what their goals for the year are and that will be the start of our second day, allowing the bare look to be taken off one of our display boards as well!