Remember this is a whole new crop of kids who you really don't know too much about. They may be way faster than last year's lovies or maybe they are super slow pokes. You may have to spend some time with a little one not quite ready to say good bye to blankies and cartoons at 8:00 AM (It's hard, y'all!)
So I have a few ideas and essentials that will help you be ready for anything after that first bell rings. This is lots of years of experience talking - if there's one thing I know, it's that the first few days set the tone for the year. You want your new students to feel happy, excited, safe, and secure. This is accomplished by welcoming them with an activity they can start independently right away. Imagine being in your student's shoes. Maybe you're shy, maybe you don't recognize anyone, maybe you're just scared of the "newness" of everything. You walk in, find your seat, and...then what? Wait for everyone else to come in? Let your mind race as your anxiety builds? Start to get a little more upset when you realize your best friend isn't in your class for the first time since Kindergarten? Help ease all of those fears with a simple activity. I've got a few ideas that I've used over the years.
•Play-doh! Put a little party favor style tub of Play-Doh on each student's desk before they arrive. This idea has been around for a long time and some teachers who have WAY more time than I do actually make the play doh themselves. I hear that it doesn't take much time, but for me it's worth the $10 to buy it. I found a bag of 15 party favor sized tubs at Amazon here, but I've also had luck finding generic brand Play-Doh at Dollar Tree. (works just as well). Put a note on the board that directs the kids to make something that is important to them or what they did over the summer. You'll have lots of busy hands, relaxed minds, and cute kid chatter as they start creating. Sometimes I put little baskets of tools out on the tables - plastic forks, knives, cookie cutters, etc. This will also give you the first glimpse of their sharing skills.
I actually like to save this activity for later in the day, like after lunch. It's a great way to break up the day. After we create, we do what I like to call a "half and half walk and talk". I totally made that up. Catchy though, right? Basically, it means that half of us get up and walk around the room while the other half stays seated. Then the "walkers" casually stop and the "talkers" tell about their creation. Then we switch. We do this a lot during the year, so we take the time to really set the standard for acceptable noise level, appropriate questions, eye contact, and having an actual conversation.
• Handprint Puzzles. I wouldn't suggest starting the day with this one, but definitely make time for it on the first day. I buy blank puzzle templates (you can get them here on Amazon in pack of 24 for $12.99). Be sure to tell the kids NOT to break the puzzle apart until they are done tracing their hand and coloring it.
I always have a kid or two try to color each puzzle piece a different color, which kind of defeats the purpose of it being a puzzle - so I have an example to show them the difference. After they color the puzzle, then we break it apart, and seal it up in an envelope (I like these self sealing ones).
Don't forget to add the little poem. You can snag that here from Dropbox. It's the best part! Day one homework is always to put together your puzzle and talk about your first day. Awww...
•Welcome Back Pack. This little pack has been a lifesaver for me. I typically put a pack on the students' desks with a fresh pack of crayons and a fun pencil.
This goes back to my philosophy of giving the kids something they can do right away to take the focus off of their nerves or uncertainty. All of the tasks are things that can be completed independently but can also certainly be done with friends. I don't expect them to come in, sit down and quietly do a packet of worksheets. It's just something for them to focus on and chat about with their new friends. Some kids are naturally great conversationalists (for SURE) but some are not. Those are the kids I worry about. The great part about this pack is that they can keep it in their folder and I can have them pull it out and work on it when I need a few minutes of teacher-time during the first couple of days. You know, when you realize you never sent your attendance, or a new second grade friend shows up at your door in the middle of the day, or you really, really, really have the urge to do a one-on-one with a new little friend to see what's up. The activities in the pack are not-so-much All About Me so that they don't overlap with the other things like that that we all usually do. It's a great way to practice acceptable behaviors when moving around the room to work in other areas, like laying on the rug, using the stools, or enjoying other alternative seating options. I've got separate packs for second and third grade and you can find them on tpt here and here.
•Icebreaker Game Ok, this one is probably my favorite, especially since it got a fun make-over last year. It's a super easy to prep board game that will help your kids get to know each other. It was meant to be a one time game for the first day, but my kids asked me over and over if they could play the "fish game" so I couldn't pack it up for a couple of weeks. It's also a really great way to set the ground rules for acceptable behavior when choosing parters, personal space, taking turns, cleaning up, etc. You can find it here on tpt.
When I was gathering up ideas for this post, I found so many cute things that I wanted to share, but I feel like this is a pretty good start. I'll do my best to come back in a couple of days to share some other ideas. I'll be in my room most of next week getting it ready and then we officially report back on the 15th. Yikes!