Q&A #6734

First day of school

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From: Gail (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Aug 22, 2001 at 07:54:11
Subject: Re: First day of school - Elementary

Dear Joshua,
I am an elementary teacher, so what I do will probably be a little different
from what a high school teacher would do, but I will share it anyway.

There is a great book by Harry and Rosemary Wong called "The First Days of
School (How to Be an Effective Teacher)" that is a wonderful resource for
any teacher, beginning or experienced, at any grade level.

I begin before school starts by taking the photos from my students'
cummulative folders and making flash cards to help me learn their names. Then,
as they enter my room that first day I am able to greet most of them by their
name. They know right away that I care about who they are.

Since I am busy at the door, I have a sheet on each student desk with the
outline of our classroom and furniture drawn in (a classroom map). The
directions ask them to sit down, look around, and find a list of items (globe,
pencil sharpener, calculators, trash can, etc.)  I get several pieces of
information from this activitiy. One thing I learn is seating preference,
since I don't assign seats that first day. I want to see what
they choose, and if they can be productive from that spot, they will stay
there for a while. But if something causes them not to be able to produce
work, like a chatting neighbor, or a vision problem, etc., they will be moved
by the end of the week (day -- if it is too serious!)  I also learn who can
read and follow directions, who is a self-starter, who needs lots of
supervision to complete a task, etc.

I try to pose my "rules" in positive terms, rather than a list of "Don't" I
stress the "Do's".  And to keep this session from being too dry, I let my
students tell me what they think the rules of the classroom should be (already
having what I want in mind), and then, as I record, I make any necessary
changes (always asking them for approval, of course, before recording the
ideas on the chart) so that what ends up on the list is what I had in mind,
but they think they thought of it.

In that same vein, I have students model appropriate behaviors (and I play-act
the inapropriate ones, and have them act as teachers and tell me what was
wrong.) the first day, and reinforce those behaviors for the first week
(month) to be sure they are clear to my students. I want them to have some
autonomy in the classroom, so I let them get up as they need to, to use the
pencil sharpener, stretch, use the restroom (with a sign out system), get
needed materials. I want them to do all of this without disrupting the
learning that is occurring, so we practice ways to move about without causing
a stir.

I will have my students figure out the value of their name (using the "a= $1,
b=$2, etc.) and then make a graph of the data as an icebreaker. That way we
can do a little math, and find some connections at the same time.

That first day is a chance to establish the tone for your year. Details will
change, but that first impression is what students will hold on to.

 -Gail, for the T2T service

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