Mrs. McGowan       H. W. Mountz School         Spring Lake, NJ
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Here Come the Kids...        
               Is Your Classroom Ready?

books.gif (4346 bytes)My new class list and schedule will arrive in the mail in August.  That means it's time to start planning and get ready for another school year!  On this page, you can see what I like to do on the first day of school and some tips on how I get my own classroom ready.

~  Marci McGowan

Personal Numbers:  This tip was shared by my wonderful teacher mentor when I was student teaching in 3rd grade.  It's made my teaching experience much easier! I assign each student a number.  That number is used all year for lots of things:

* at top of student work for filing or adding to my grade book
* students are numbered same way in grade book
* restroom passes (see below)
* job assignments (see below)
* on anything that I don't want to take the time to write names
* do addition/subtraction mental math: "If you add John and Kim (#3 + #2), who do we get?" Answer is child with # 5.

Bulletin Boards - plan how you want to use them; save lots of room for student work; plan an activity that can be displayed right away!  A few years ago, I used a stretch fabric on all of my bulletin board area.  It's was a royal blue color and was still good after 4 years - never faded or showed holes! Now, my wall of bulletin board has been painted with the blue color and works just as well. I do use paper in one section for a little contrast.!

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Classroom Door - decorate the door! It's a great way to welcome your new students or introduce your theme for the year.

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Desk Name Tags - I like the kind that have the alphabet, numbers to 20, right/left symbols (hands). I program with student names and personal numbers and laminate. Attach to desks with fat masking tape underneath. I do 3-4 sets of these plus some blank ones to use through the year.

Student Folders - I buy pocket folders (no brads) in 2 colors during summer sales. I use one color for class work, and the other color for
writing folders.  In first grade, I buy strong, laminated pocket folders for homework (the kind with pockets on bottom, not sides, and they usually have great pictures on front).   I also like to get a 3-ring binder for each student to use for poetry and a private office (for test-taking and independent work).

Homework - decide how you want to manage this. It's good to check with the other teachers at your grade level and try to keep a similar schedule.  Make sure you let parents know your plan and expectations for completing/returning the homework.

Word Wall - decide where to put it, get letters up, have student names printed to use first; I try to have all the words I will be using for year available in a file box.

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1st Grade September Word Wall with students' names.

In second grade, I took my end of year word wall from first grade and added sight words from grade 2 Dolch list, photocopied on two pages and had students glue into back of their writing journals.   This worked better than having a big word wall and always was available for writing.  We made special temporary word lists based on topic or theme in both grade levels.

Calendar, Weather Chart, Math Activities - I like to have these all together on a bulletin board that's accessible to students.  We check the calendar, adjust the weather wheel, and add a link to count the days in school.

Backpacks & Lunches - where will they be kept in your classroom?

Library - it's not necessary to put out all your books, but have a good variety ready for that first day. I store books in see-through plastic bins (with covers). I bought several in the summer. They stack!

Classroom Behavior Plan - decide on a classroom behavior plan - think it through carefully! I have a poster of a student sitting at his desk ready to listen & learn. I use this as a model for kids to follow when I say"Give Me Five!"

Give Me Five!

Students need to focus 5 parts of their bodies:

ears - ready to listen
eyes - on the speaker
mouth - quiet
hands - still
feet - not moving

Getting Students' Attention - we practice this lots during the first 2 weeks of school! I rarely flip the lights.  Another good way to get students' attention is to clap a pattern - usually has to be done 2-3 times to have everyone ready to listen - very effective in classroom setting.

Using the Restroom - decide how you want to manage this. Make sure students know exactly where the bathrooms are (we go there early on the first day). Here's how I manage this: I buy two packages of calendar numbers - one color for boys, another for girls. I attach these cards to magetic business card pieces and cut around them so the numbers have a complete magnet backing. Our door frame is metal. I put the numbers on the door frame and allow 2 girls to go out to bathroom at a time (bigger bathroom) and just one boy (smaller bathroom). When I am not teaching a lesson, student can look and see if anyone is using bathroom by checking the numbers. He/she moves own number to higher spot on door frame and leaves our room. On returning, the number is replaced in original spot. I like this a lot because they are not constantly asking to go and I can see at a glance who is at the bathroom. Works for me and no passes are left in restrooms or dropped down the "you know what".

Forms/notices for Parents - copy all forms/notices that are needed  and have ready for each student to take home. You must know if a child has an allergy or health problem! Don't pass out any snacks until you know about allergies.

Books/poems to use on first day (week) - plan more than you really need.

Plan lots of activities to use the first week but understand that you may (probably) will not get to them all.  This is one I never leave out:   take digital photos of your students.  Keep them in your computer; the images can be used all year long with different projects.  Click here to see my favorite activities for first day of first grade.

Be ready to practice getting in line, fire drills (calling them evacuation drills now). I pick the tallest student to end my fire drill line for the whole year (I can see that child over all the others and know that no one else is behind him/her).

Classroom Jobs - lots of possibilites here. These are the ones I use: line leader, door holders (we need 2), weather helper, calendar helper, math helper, library helper, messengers (2), closet keeper, board eraser, paper passers, take a break. The # of students assigned to each job depends on # in my class. The take-a-break job is a substitute for any other jobs when kids are absent. We change jobs each week (all done with their personal numbers).

Math Manipulatives - have some ready to use in an exploring center.

Supplies You Need - keep these in a handy spot: paper, crayons, markers, scissors, glue sticks, pencils, stickers, bandaids, vinyl gloves for emergency use, tissues, soap/paper towels at your sink.

Teacher Desk -  I cover my ugly metal desk with a large piece of calico fabric - ends cut with pinking shears. I tape the fabric in place with masking tape to keep it smooth. Add family pictures, tissue box, tray for kids homework, plant, etc. I lay my plan book open on desk. That's about all I use the desk for - storage.

Teacher Stuff - hand lotion, cosmetics, toiletries that you might need, Aspirin, baby wipes, bottled water, hot chocolate mix, instant coffee, coffee cup, extra car key (so important!!)

Send letter to your students - I like to send an introductory letter to my class 2-3 weeks before school starts.  Here's a sample:  Student Letter.

Finally:  set your alarm clock for that first day!

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2010 - M. McGowan - All rights reserved.



Day 1

Mrs. McGowan       H. W. Mountz School         Spring Lake, NJ
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What To Do On That First Day???

Now that your room is ready and you have sent a letter to your new students, what exactly will you be doing on that first day?  Here are my favorite activities:

Decorated Shoe Box: I mail the letter to reach my students at least a week before school starts.  In it, I ask them to decorate a shoebox to bring with them on the first day.  We'll use that as the first thing they "share" (tell about) during the first week of school.  It also gives them something to hold or chat about while waiting outside to come in.  At the end of the week the boxes go home and can be used to store the paper books and word cards given out all year.

septfriendsBB.jpg (14782 bytes) Name Banners:  When I get my class list, I start to program banners for the children to color.  I trace big block letters on strips of paper.  You can do this in Word Art on computer or make banners using Print Shop.  On the first day, the banners are spread out on a big table.  Students come into room, are greeted and asked to find their desk (name tags are on desks).  Then they have to find their name banner.  This actually is my first assessment - to see if they can find their own name (hmmm ... if they can't do this).

The banner is taken back to their desk to be colored.  Some make patterns with stripes, dots, etc.   The students are comfortable doing something familiar, especially with a new box of crayons!  When finished, the banners are posted on a waiting bulletin board ("First Grade Friends").  As soon as a few are hanging, the others move a bit faster to be done too.  Once again, those assessment wheels are clicking away.   I can see who dives right into the assignment, who moves slowly but stays on task, and who seems distracted.

During this time, I also can talk to individuals or parents as needed.  Students can look at the new textbooks (Social Studies, Health, Science) in their desk while waiting for others to finish.

Name Chant: After a while, we gather on the carpet.   Each child is given a 5 x 7 card with their name printed on it.  I start, " Bobby, Bobby who are you?  Who's that sitting next to you?"  Bobby says, " I am Bobby (last name)."  He looks to one side, and says name of that child using the same chant.  This continues around the circle.  The we start to talk about the "important" things:  where bathroom is located (bathroom procedure), when we will go to lunch (if full day) or have snack (early dismissal day), what will happen to their decorated boxes (some will be willing to leave in school, some may want to take home and bring back), and of course we'll talk about classroom/school rules.  By now I have already praised those children who raised hands and waited to be called on. Students return to their desks (usually I'll do by color of something they are wearing).

Writing Alphabet: I have them write the alphabet in capital letters.  Then on the back of that paper, they have to write the lowercase letters too. There is an alphabet above chalkboard that all can see and another one on their desk tag.  These are two important assessments.  I observe as they write and notice how they hold their pencil, if they use the alphabets in classroom, if they follow directions, and if they can recall, write the letters in order and correctly.

* Before this writing, we learn another chant, "The first thing I do is always the same.  I pick up my pencil and write my name."  Students print their first name on the paper.

Take a Walk: Next, we practice getting into a line.   I teach them the lining up chant:

Once, we're ready, we take a walk upstairs.  There's more practice holding the doors and walking on stairs.   I point out any room changes from previous year or special rooms (art, gym, music room, computer lab/library) for new students.

Story Time:  Arriving back to our room we take a bathroom break (I explain procedure again) and gather on carpet for a story.  First the procedure for making comments and asking questions is discussed.  Depending on the time, we'll share one or two brief stories.

Math and Alphabet Work:  If we have a full day, I start with beginning math and alphabet lessons - all review and done orally.   This helps me plan lessons for next two days.

The rest of the day includes more practice with lining up, being called on, taking turns, another story or two, and a special (art, music, gym, library, computers), browsing through class library, having lunch and/or snack.  We definitely discuss how our room looks different than their K rooms (we have desks, textbooks, no housekeeping area or toys).  I always ask what they expect to learn in first grade.  The day simply flies!

Days 2 & 3:  It's similar to the first day with lots of practice of procedures including evacuation (fire) drills.  I give them some work to be traced or colored and introduce our work trays (where to place finished work).   We do math and phonics lessons (alphabet review), share read from a big book, make self-portraits, and listen and respond (orally) to read aloud stories.

** During this first week, I send home a copy of correct manuscript printing directions, permission slip to be signed for posting student work on my website, information about our book order club, schedule of our specials, and a schedule for show and tell.  I try to contact all my families by the end of the first full week to let them know how things are going.

Have  a Great Year!

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2010 - M. McGowan - All rights reserved.