The first weeks of school are so important for setting the tone for the rest of the year. I don’t jump into curriculum immediately because the first weeks of school are ideal for setting expectations and getting to know one another. The priorities during the first weeks of school are to make students feel safe and welcome, build relationships with them, and establish routines and procedures. Here’s how I set up my classroom for success:
1. Recognize Student Individuality
One of my favorite books to read to my students is Chrystanthemum by Kevin Henkes. This book is about a little girl who loves her name until the first day of school. Her classmates make her feel embarrassed by her name. Chrysanthemum learns to appreciate the uniqueness of her name. I love reading this book in the first weeks of school because it reminds students that each of us is unique! When we read this book, I ask my students to create a chrysanthemum flower with their name or to tell what is special about their name. It’s helpful for them to ask their parents or guardians about their name before completing the writing piece. They love learning the meaning behind their names!
There are a lot of other great read aloud books about names and their importance. I’ll include a list below or you can check out this blog post about celebrating names in the classroom!
- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
- Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
- Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal
- That’s Not My Name by Anoosha Syed
- The Change Your Name Store by Leanne Shirtliffe
- How Nivi Got Her Names by Laura Deal
- My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada
I created companion activities for some of these books that make great bulletin board displays! If you’d like to check them out, click the button below.
2. Make students feel connected to your classroom
An easy way to make students feel connected to your classroom during the first weeks of school is by displaying their names or photos somewhere in your room! I like to take photos of my students ‘pointing’ things out in the room like the photos above. I’ll put their little photos near important places in the classroom and then I give them their photo figure at the end of the year. Watch this reel on Instagram to see how I make them!
Another way to incorporate student names is by making a class name crossword. This could be somewhere inside your room like the one above from Fancy Nancy in 5th or it could be on a bulletin board outside your classroom. This is something you could do before your first day! I also love the display pictured below from Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.
One other activity that I always do with my students is read the book All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman. This book sends the message that all students are welcome in my classroom, regardless of their background. We then make banners with their photos and names and display them in the classroom or on the bulletin board outside! This is always an activity that my students enjoy.
3. Teach routines and procedures
These first weeks of school are incredibly important for setting expectations with your classroom management. It’s during this time that you’ll introduce and practice and procedures your students will need to know for the year, such as a morning routine, how to turn in work, dismissal procedures, etc. It’s also important to explain your classroom management plan and practice using it with your students.
For example, I like to use a command center in my classroom to keep track of where my students are, especially if I have students that are pulled out frequently. This is part of their morning routine as well as something they will need to do throughout the day.
Another routine I teaching during the first weeks of school is our morning greeting. Each morning my students will choose a way they would like to be greeted as they come into the classroom. You can read more about how to implement this from The Core Coaches. They also created the signs that I use in the photo above! If you’re looking for a free management system, check out my punch cards! I use these in conjunction with my class coupons to encourage positive choices in the classroom.
4. Build excitement for learning
We want our students to see themselves as successful learners. There are so many ways we can build their excitement for learning! Students can set goals for the year or choose a word that they hope will describe their year.
When you’re setting goals with your students, make sure that they are measurable and attainable. Christina from Mrs. Winter’s Bliss has a great graphic organizer for this!
5. Smile and laugh a lot!
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘don’t smile until Christmas’ in reference to classroom management. I disagree! In the first weeks of school, our goal as teachers is to make students feel safe and loved. You can smile and laugh with your students while maintaining high expectations of their behavior. If you build relationships with your students and you show each other mutual respect, your students will trust that you have their best interest at heart.
I hope your first weeks of school go smoothly!
Hi, I’m Libby!
I’m so happy you’re here! I love all things first grade – the curriculum, the content, and the sweet kiddos. I’m passionate about helping K-2 teachers save time in the classroom with fresh ideas and fun, engaging resources.