Here you go.
20+ students all to yourself. The first week of school has begun. Between getting your classroom in order, and trying to survive on what is (most likely) a few hours of sleep, you now have a brand new set of kids to work with.
What is a teacher to do?
First of all, don’t panic. Just like the kids in front of you, this is a learning experience. You are all about to embark on a (roughly) 180 day journey together. It may seem a little nerve wracking, but at the end of the day, you are all new to each other. Capitalize on that idea!
Not only are you meeting students for the first time, but they are meeting you for the first time. Also, they may be meeting new peers for the first time. Use that to your advantage and make it fun! This will be one of the few times per year where easing into something won’t be so jarring, as curriculum/testing/whatever-it-may-be-is going-to-be breathing down your neck at every turn. It is important to establish your classroom as an environment that budding minds will look forward to every day. Build that foundation from the start.
There’s a whole slew of ideas you can find online for enjoyable “First Week of School” activities. For example, there’s print-outs of robots that have boxes/robot parts that identify features of the student, such as their favorite food, favorite sport, subject, etc. You can either make this an assignment to work on in school or make it a week long homework assignment that the kids share on Friday with the class. (Robot printout can be found here.)
You could also just save magazines from around your house, or collect them from family and friends, and have students make a collage of pictures that identify their loves in life, and have the students present as they finish them. This will definitely demonstrate what kind of kids you have in a visual form!
There’s also the well-known icebreakers. Google some ideas that work best for you. Just a note to think about — when administrators observe you during the year, it is important to take into account the elements of small groupings. For the younger ones, you can term this as “think-pair-share.” When doing an icebreaker game, work it into your week of learning about everyone. Have students “think pair share” or communicate traits to each other, and then have the students repeat back to the class and to you about what they learned about their buddy. Not only is this showcasing an element of the classroom that will be revisited over time, but it also helps students build comfort with the people they don’t know.
Of course, you’re going to get to a point where the socializing quietly ends and you have to introduce curriculum, and possibly start Developmental Reading Assessments (DRAs). However, think about it this way-you just learned a little something about each one of the students you have in your brand new class. These individual moments won’t happen as much as you want, so it’s good to to get them in while you can, and those first five days are crucial. What you take away from the first week of school is extremely important, as you can tap into the (within reason) interests of each kid you have when it is necessary for their understanding. With that being said, good luck and have a great year!
Logan J. Fowler is a Special Education Instructional Assistant at Manville School District. He also is a freelance writer for Pop-Break.com, The BingeCast, and Rush Order Tees.