“Giftedness is not what you do or how hard you work. It is who you are. You think differently. You experience life intensely. You care about injustice. You seek meaning. You appreciate and strive for the exquisite. You are painfully sensitive. You are extremely complex. You cherish integrity. Your truth-telling has gotten you in trouble. Should 98% of the population find you odd, seek the company of those who love you just the way you are. You are not broken. You do not need to be fixed. You are utterly fascinating. Trust yourself!”

Linda Silverman~Gifted Development Center Denver


Friday, 28 August 2015

First Day...NO Jitters!


People have been asking me what I recommend for the first day and first weeks of Back To School.  I have been teaching junior students for 25 years now and have found a few things really work well.

Before school even starts, I send home a letter to my incoming class.  I want them to know a little about me, and a lot about our upcoming year.  I know the parents and the kids themselves really enjoy getting mail from me at the end of August.  This idea has become so popular and I have had so many people ask me to share my letter that I have added it in my TpT store this year.  

Photo of Back to School Letter @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Click on image to get your own copy.

Start the day with a surprise!  Each year I give out a Back to School Survival Kit to my students.  I have been doing this long before there was Pinterest and TpT (Teachers Pay Teachers).  This year I am making them with plastic, reusable water bottles from the dollar store, but in the beginning I used humble brown paper bags and fastened my note to the top.


Photo of Back to School Survival Kit @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Back to School Survival Kit for Students  http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
Click on the image above to get your own copy of this EDITABLE file.
Back to School Survival Kit for Students  http://teachingisagift.blogspot.ca



I also like to start the day off the way I expect each to start...so I have my Daily Math bell work copied and on the student desks.  It is a great way to introduce them to this daily procedure.  You can read more about how I use Daily Math by clicking HERE.

Photo of Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca
Click on image to find out how to buy your own copy.

After announcements and Daily Math, I have the students get up and out of their seats using my Back to School with Post Its activity.  I put up the prompts up around the classroom and give each student 6 different coloured post its.  I put them in small groups randomly and have them move from one prompt to the next. I give them a few minutes at each prompt to fill out a response (anonymously if they want) and then POST IT underneath the prompt.  

Photo of Back to School with Post Its @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca


Photo of Back to School with Post Its @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca



Picture of Back to School with Post Its @teachingisagift.blogspot.caPicture of Back to School with Post Its @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

If you are interested in doing this in your own classroom, you can grab a copy of my new, editable prompts by clicking on the image below.
Picture of Back to School with Post Its @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Click on image to get your own copy.

Usually by this point it is recess so the kids go outside and I run to the washroom!  After recess I like to introduce myself in greater depth and review my expectations for the year.   I like to use a Powerpoint presentation that I insert a variety of teacher memes into.  Most of my students have yet to be exposed to Powerpoint or memes, so they think it's new and novel.

Picture of Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Picture of Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

This year I found this funny video online from Mrs. Neal's Fifth Grade class, so I have added it to the end of my presentation.  This should make the kids smile!

video


I have a packet of fun activities on each student desk.  I want them to tell me a bit about themselves, and it gives me something for them to work on if I need a few minutes of time filled.  You can find lots of great free ideas on TpT.  I have created my packet from a variety of sources, and I tend to change it up each year based on feedback from previous years.

By now the French teacher is usually tapping her heels, waiting for me to finish my spiel.  After that the kids go off to lunch and I go and try to fix or copy whatever I have forgotten to do before school.

After lunch, we review how to come into class and they start their first bell work for language arts.  Last year I found that using the Nelson Communicating Skills workbooks the school purchases worked really well for after lunch bell work.  I post the page number on my whiteboard BEFORE lunch, and they have their books out before we go to lunch.  If you don't have workbooks such as these, you could use any daily grammar/or language program out there. 

After we review our Communicating Skills answers and make sure our planners are filled out. I introduce my favourite art activity. I have written about it before here.  This piece of art becomes a laminated desk mat which stays on the student desk all year.  They usually take great pride in finishing it, as they know they will be looking at it all day, everyday.

Each student receives a large sheet of cartridge paper.  Using a pencil, they make a border of 10 cm all around the page.  This border will be filled with pictures of school supplies.  I keep a large bin of different school supplies just for this project.  I try to find interesting shapes for the students to trace.  Using these found objects, students trace them around the outside border in pencil.  I show them how to overlap the objects so that there are no overlapping lines.  The more three dimensional the objects look, the better.

Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca


Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

After students have traced as many objects as they can, the go back over them using a black, fine line marker.  They also add as many line designs as they can at this point.  I do not have them do the designs in pencil first as this will take too much time.  


Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

This does NOT get finished the first day!  It usually takes an hour a day for the first week or so to finish this project.  You can see the next step is to have students fill in the center of their desk mat.  I allow them to put anything they want here, and this is where they are allowed to use COLOUR.  Some students draw something to represent themselves, others bring in pictures of family from home. I allow them to be as creative as they want.  

Back to School @teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

The very last step before I laminate them is to have students fill in all the white space in the border with tiny dots using their fine line marker.  This technique can be ponderous, but the effect is amazing.  Some students vary the size of the dots from one area to the next, some vary the number of dots and others just want it done!  I rarely have a student who does NOT want to take their desk mat at the end of the year.  Many tell me years later that they still have them on their desks at home.


Usually by this point in the first day, it is time to pack up and go home.  I introduce my students to my last minute checklist which is posted on the cupboards in my classroom.  
Back to School Last MInute Checklist@teachingisagift.blogspot.ca


As you can see from the photos, I recently updated my checklist posters.   I am going to print and post them again this year.  If you are interested in seeing the new ones up close, or if you would like your own copy, click on the image below.
Back to School Last MInute Checklist@teachingisagift.blogspot.ca

After many years, I am still excited to go back to school each September.  I have learned that if I have a plan, and some fun things for the students to experience on the first day, nobody has the first day jitters!



11 comments:

  1. What a great post! Sounds like an awesome way to spend the first day of school! I'm trying your art activity this year. :)

    Renée

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Renee,
      You will LOVE it! You really don't need a lot of supplies either! I hope you are able to laminate yours because they look great all year long!

      Delete
  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the desk mat idea! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is always a great success Krista! I hope you get some pictures and show me how they turn out!
      Sidney

      Delete
  3. Oooo! I love those desk mats! We can't send a letter because we don't get our own home classes for a week! I think that causes a lot of grief for the kids (and the teachers) but it's even worse if you have to move a child after s/he has been in a class a few days I guess. I wish there was a better way.

    Shelley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Shelley,
      I can see the reasoning behind not sending the letter home, but there will always be reorganization. Students still really like to connect with the school, and I think it creates a strong sense of belonging, whether the lovelies are lucky enough to stay with us is often beyond our control. I wish there was a better way as well! Thanks for the compliment on the desk mat! I love this activity EVERY>SINGLE>YEAR!

      Delete
  4. This was a fun post to read and I LOVE the place desk mat activity!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by and taking time to read my post and leave me a comment Shey! I hope your back to school this year is the best ever!
      Sidney

      Delete
  5. Love these first day activities! The small gift is such a great idea...I'm sure it lets your students know from the get go that you care! How do they respond to these?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Breanne,
      They are often so surprised that they don't know what to do! I have kids who love it so much they won't touch it all year...they want to keep it just the way it was the day they received it. It's always worth doing!

      Delete
  6. Loved this post. It actually got me a little excited to go back! :)
    So many great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete