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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

First Day of School - Part 1: Arrival

I am moving to a new grade level at a new school and district this year, so I am feeling those "first day jitters" for the first time in 8 years. I can really sympathize with what my students feel on that first day, which reminds me of how important a soft landing upon arrival is on the first day of school.

When my students walk in on that first day, the first thing they will do is hang their backpacks in their cubbies, which are labeled with their name. Labels are important; they show the kids that they have a personal space that is theirs and theirs alone, which reduces the stress of separating from the backpack, which is their last connection to home.
(These labels are included in my Watercolor Classroom Theme that I can't wait to start putting up in my classroom next week!

Next, they go to the meeting area on the carpet, where personalized name coloring pages have been placed in a circle, showing each child where they should sit. This is important too, because it eliminates the stress of wondering where to sit.
(Note the coloring pages in this picture actually say "Last Day of 2nd Grade", that's because I do the same activity on the first and last days, I just only have a picture of them from the last day! At the end of the year it provides a great sense of closure to do the same activity they did on the first day of school.)

From there, we hold our first Morning Meeting of the year. On the first day of school, some kids might not be comfortable speaking in front of the class yet, so for our greeting I introduce each student rather than students introducing themselves (they will speak for themselves on the second day). I say, "This is my friend, __________." and the class responds, "Hi, ___________." I then ask a simple question like "What is your favorite color?" and each student shares their answer. Afterwards I'll ask if anyone can name three people in the circle. Then each day I increase that challenge!

Normally an activity and a morning message come next, but on the first day I skip those two things. We keep it simple and work up to a full morning meeting over the course of 3-4 days.

After everyone has been introduced, I have students take their name coloring pages to their tables, where they can begin coloring with crayons. Coloring is familiar to them, so this is a safe activity to begin the day with. (Note: This is the only material I have available for them to use at this point in the day, as I will do deliberate introductions of other materials as the day and the week goes on, in order to explicitly set expectations for how materials will be handled and organized. More on that to come in an upcoming post!).
Coloring pages are available here ( for grades K-3.

While they are coloring, I can check in with students, help a few students at a time sort supplies, and get any loose ends tied up that I need to. I also use this coloring time to teach our two quiet signals. We practice the bell signal, and the raised hand signal by playing "the freeze game".

(Note: These coloring pages, when completed, make really cute bulletin boards or banners as decorations for Back to School Night! It's important for kids to see their work on the walls as soon as possible so it starts to feel like THEIR space, not like they are just visitors in MY space.)

This arrival routine gives students a soft landing on what can be a stressful day for some. After this soft landing, I usually find that students are ready to come out of their shells bit by bit, but I still take it slow and easy the first day. Less is more.

Stay tuned for...
First Day of School Part 2: Routines and Procedures
...coming soon!

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