First Day at the Elementary Level

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If you're looking forward to your first day as an elementary teacher, you certainly have a lot to consider, everything from learning all your student's names to being sure you don't leave anybody behind on the playground after recess. Consider some of these suggestions for activities and procedures for your classroom:

It's Elementary

I like to have students do a name poem on the first day. Provide each student with a sheet of colored construction paper. Ask students (or assist them) to write their name vertically down the left side of the paper using large letters. Then invite them to write a self-descriptive adjective or phrase for each letter in their name. Here's an example:

J—Jumps rope
U—Understands Spanish
L—Loves cats

These name poems can then be posted throughout the classroom. Take time during the first 2 to 3 weeks to refer to the name poems regularly.

  • Meet parents and greet them with a smile and a welcome. Some will be reluctant to release their children into your care. Assure them that this will be a great year.

  • Take time to introduce yourself and talk about who you are. If you have a difficult name, pronounce it several times for students and invite them to repeat it several times.

  • Provide an opportunity for students to introduce themselves. Each student can stand and briefly (3 minutes maximum — use an egg timer) talk about his name, community, any summer adventures, books read, and/or family members.

  • Let students know about early morning procedures—how attendance will be taken, collection of lunch or milk money, where to put their coats and book bags, etc.

  • Take time to give students a tour of the classroom. Some teachers prefer to have students in their desks while they provide a visual tour of materials, computers, cabinets, supplies, bulletin boards, etc. Other teachers, like me, prefer a walking tour of the classroom to point out the specific locations of objects and items.

  • Set up a classroom employment agency for various classroom jobs. Inform students about the assignments necessary to a well-functioning classroom. These can include botanist (waters plants), sanitation engineer (empties trash can), interior decorator (manages bulletin board), zoologist (cares for class pet[s]), etc. Invite students to apply for jobs (using a standard application form) on a set schedule, and rotate the assignments regularly.

  • Read a book or a story to the students. Begin with a positive literary experience, and invite students to discuss their enjoyment or comprehension of the book.

  • Engage students in a get-acquainted game such as a Human Scavenger Hunt. Make up a set of index cards, one for each student and then ask the students to find someone in the class who …

    • Has been in an airplane.

    • Has a baby sister.

    • Has a summer birthday.

    • Is wearing something blue.

    • Is from another country.

    • Is in an after-school sport.

  • Take time to talk about rules and procedures. Show students a basic set of rules (remember the Rule of Five), and let them know that they will help decide on additional rules as the year progresses.

  • Introduce the curriculum. Show students the books they'll be using and the subjects they'll be studying. Demonstrate various materials, point out the computer(s), and highlight the textbooks.

  • Wrap up the day. Provide a final whole-class activity that encourages students to work together and get to know one another. Tie it to part of the curriculum. Better yet, provide students with part of an activity, but leave them hanging. That is, don't complete the activity on the first day, but let students know that when they return the next day, they will have an opportunity to finish the activity, project, or assignment.

  • Send the students home with warm wishes and all the necessary forms to complete. Don't forget to send a letter home to parents telling them about your plans for the year and your wish to have them actively involved in their children's education.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Success as a Teacher © 2005 by Anthony D. Fredericks. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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