School is back in session and I am so excited to talk about activities for the first days (or weeks) of school!
The first days and weeks of school can be a busy and stressful time for teachers and students. That’s why I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to do it all during the first few weeks of school! I know, I know assessments and baseline data need to be taken, curriculum needs to be used, and students need to learn but I promise you that will come. What needs to come first are routines, behaviors, and relationships. After spending some much-needed time on those; data, assessments, and academics will soon follow!
Keep reading to find out what I do in my classroom for the first couple of weeks of school.
Teacher-Led Center Activities
My classroom is primary grades TK, K, and 1st grade which means many of my students are new to the school or have never been in a school setting before. This means they have no idea how to follow a routine and need a lot of practice. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is teaching my students the routine and watching them follow their schedule!
In my classroom, my students rotate through centers. Students are not expected to do academic work during the first couple of weeks of school. Instead, I want them to WANT to visit each center, so we play. Some play ideas for academic centers are: puzzles, fidget toys, sensory boxes, or whatever interests the students most (iPads work too). The goal is to get my students to transition, sit, and engage for a few minutes at each center.
After two weeks or so, I transition students to errorless tasks or file folder tasks to get them used to more work-like activities. My favorite work activities to transition to are the Easy Matching Weekly Workbooks from The Autism Helper.
Independent Center Activities
On the first day of school, my students are expected to rotate and do independent work centers in the classroom. My independent centers are books, task boxes, play, and Boom Cards. I have one paraprofessional who floats around between my independent centers on a daily basis however, she cannot effectively float between them all the first few weeks of school. Because of this, I leave my center to focus on the independent centers for at least two weeks. Making this sacrifice ensures that I am able to sit and teach at my center later in the school year.
Activities for the first weeks of school at my independent centers include:
- Digital Easy Matching Weekly Workbooks and Boom Cards: Errorless tasks or simple matching. You can read my blog post on my Boom Cards center here.
- Play: Various toys and sensory items to entertain and engage the students.
- Task Boxes: 1-2 errorless tasks on their schedule followed by reinforcement. Read my blog post explaining my task box center here.
- Books: The Epic app on iPad or bins of engaging books.
While making sure I have engaging activities planned for the first few weeks of school, I also need to make sure I use this time to build relationships with my students. This time is vital when building relationships with my students and their families because change is hard. I find by giving my students time to adjust to the new environment, having fun activities available, and calming spaces around the room help build relationships in the long run. The more I focus on relationship building with my students, their families, and my paraprofessionals, the more we can accomplish together.
Ideas to build relationships with students:
- Greeting them from the bus in the mornings.
- Playing with them at centers or at recess.
- Lots and lots of reinforcement and direct verbal praise.
- Holding a safe, calm, and reassuring space for them when they are struggling.
These are some ideas to build relationships with students’ families:
- Daily communication logs.
- Sending messages (text, remind, dojo) with photos.
- Making phone calls home or taking time to chat with families.
Ways to build relationships with my paraprofessionals:
- Communicating the daily schedule.
- Talking through what it is I am doing and why I am doing it.
- Giving direct verbal praise.
- Buying coffee, donuts, or small gifts and writing a nice note.
To conclude this post, I want you to remember that it is okay to go easy on yourself during the first few weeks of school. Take time to get to know your students and have fun while working on routines and building relationships. You will be so happy you took this time at the beginning of the year!
What questions do you have for me? Ask me in the comments and I will get back to you! Thank you for reading!