Saturday, July 26, 2014

Get Ready! Get Set! Teach!

It's that time again! School supplies are filling the store shelves, teachers are planning out their upcoming year, and eager students are getting ready to invade the schools.

The first few days of school can  be hectic for teachers, students and parents if you aren't well-prepared!

I'm so excited to be a part of the Back-to-School Blog Hop this year! First, a HUGE thanks to Mackenzie from Brownbag Academics for hosting this event! Be sure to check out her blog for many more exciting Back-to-School tips!

                                      First Days of School 

Tip #1 - Over Prepare
I have learned over the years that it is better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. There is nothing worse than having a room full of excited children and not having enough to do. Most classes do not start "teaching" curriculum on the first day of school at the elementary level, but you must have something for the students to do. Something to get them excited and ready to come back the next day.

Have something on their desk for them to do immediately when the enter the room. This will free up a few minutes for you to meet the parents, answer questions, work out any kinks with the roster (this happens... I once had a first grader sitting in my fourth grade classroom before anyone realized he was at the wrong school in the wrong class. Yes, he was a little smaller than most of my students, but since I had several short and young-looking fourth graders it wasn't that noticeable. As the day progressed though, I realized something wasn't quite "right" and checked into the matter so he could be placed in the correct school.)

I usually have a welcome pack for my students to work on for the first few minutes. This includes a survey, a glyph of some kind and some general fun back-to-school puzzles.  This works out well since the students are anxious to use their brand spanking new school supplies! :) However, ALWAYS make sure you have extras for those who didn't bring any supplies.

Tip #2  Teach and PRACTICE rules and procedures

This can't be said enough. Spend the first few days of school focusing on expectations, rules and procedures. Practice, practice, practice! Have the students line up correctly, take them on a tour of the school to practice walking in straight line without talking or bothering someone. Spending a few days at the beginning of the year reiterating your rules and expectations can save you a major headache throughout the year.

Tip #3 Teach Cooperative Groups

During the first few days of school plan several cooperative group activities to teach students HOW to work in a group. One of my favorites is the marshmallow/spaghetti building activity. The kids love this!

Disclaimer: These are not my students, I had forgotten to take a picture of the activity last year. :(   But, this is an example of what we did in our groups.

Tip #4 Start each day with urgency!

After a few days when your students have learned your rules and procedures, you'll be ready to begin curriculum. Start each day with urgency! Make sure your students WANT to arrive to class on time and get started immediately!
Establish a routine and stick with it. This way students know exactly what to do when they arrive to class.

Some examples would be:

Morning Work
Daily Word Problem
Daily Edit
Bell Ringer

My favorite is a challenge of some sort. Have students compete as individuals or as a team to be the first student/group to answer the challenge questions correctly. Challenge questions could be any skill they have previously learned etc.  Have a bulletin board ready to spotlight the winning student or team each day. This will give the students a sense of urgency to be the first one finished with the CORRECT answer! They will be ready for the day's lessons and already thinking by the time you get started.

To help you get started with the first few challenges I have a FREE set of HINK PINK CHALLENGE cards which can be used for upper elementary students. These are great for groups or partners! They can be found HERE or you can click on the picture!



  1. Teaching cooperative groups is a great idea. Helping them hone their skills instead of letting them muddle through will set them up for a much more productive year. And help the level of teacher frustration!

  2. I agree! I had a Survivor Theme for my classroom last year and students worked in "tribes" with the spaghetti/marshmallow activity to earn points for their group.They loved it!

  3. I really want to do that spaghetti/marshmellow activity next year. It will be a great cooperative team-building activity for my kiddos. I pinned the picture.
    First Grade Found Me

  4. So true! Over preparing makes the teacher feel confident too. Love the welcome packs with busy work! Jean
    The Teacher Gene

    1. The student surveys in your welcome pack will be great to add to your Annual Portfolio under "Knowing your students" if you have to do one each year and use the Charlotte Danielson Model. :)

  5. I completely agree with starting each day with urgency. I want my students busy the minute they enter. It certainly sets the tone.
    Artistry of Education

  6. I usually have a bell ringer for my students, but this year I plan to make it into a contest (either individual or groups) so the students will be excited to get straight to work. :)


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