I cannot believe how close we are to the first day of school!
Such an exciting time of year…but, let’s face it, it’s also a STRESSFUL time of year. I am actually feeling a little guilty for pausing in my preparations to write this blog post! My to do list is still longer than humanly possible…and time is running out. I figured that some of you may be feeling the pressure as well, and looking for some ideas to help your first few days run smoothly.
La maternelle is especially challenging – most of our new munchkins have no idea about school/classroom expectations yet, someone is usually crying most of the morning, and everyone and their supplies are ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Kindergarten is always exhausting, but never more than the first few days of school. Read on for some of my tips & tricks for first day planning, as well as a peek at what my first day plans look like!
TIP 1: PLAN THE ORDER OF YOUR ACTIVITIES…BUT NOT THE LENGTH
We all have schedules with how many minutes we should be spending on each subject/activity. Once you know your students and their pace, these provide great guidelines. On the first few days…forget it. I plan the order that I want to complete my activities (and sometimes change it on the fly if necessary), but I try not to rely on them being completed within a certain time frame. I try to stick to the order as much as possible, but don’t panic if one activity takes forever, or if another is done and over with in five minutes. Here is a photo of my plans for the first two days (don’t judge my handwriting or my franglais, ha!
You may notice that my first day plans are written in, but my second day plans are on sticky notes. Usually, I plan out my weeks via my pacing guide (see image below), and then write my daily plans the morning of in my planner. This way, if we don’t get to an activity, or if we have extra time and start something I had planned to do the following day, I don’t have to erase anything, cross anything out, or ruin my pretty planner with white out. It also helps me mentally prepare for the day to come, and ensure that I have everything ready. The first two days of school do not go into my pacing guide, so I planned on sticky notes first.
I don’t imagine anyone else will understand this pacing guide, but all you need to know is that I write a tiny reminder of what I want to do in each block each day for each term. I keep it in the back of my planner. This keeps me on track. I use it as a guide for writing my plans – if I am behind or ahead by a few days, it is no big deal. I just need to see the big picture and this is the only way I have found to do it that works for me! I can go into more detail in a future blog post if you like.
You can see that these plans for the first few days don’t have time stamps beside them – I will allow my students to take the time they need to complete each activity. I try not to rush or pressure too much on the first few days. I teach with a lot of urgency the rest of the year, but I don’t want to scare them off just yet ;)
That being said…
TIP 2: HAVE BACK UP ACTIVITIES
The main activities you (and I) have planned probably seem amazing… on paper. However, the reality is, your new students may just not have the stamina yet to do them. They may be done with colouring for the day after that one tiny morning colouring activity. They may have never used scissors before and chop all their papers into tiny pieces instead of completing the adorable craftivity. They may not be able to listen to a whole story… especially if they don’t know any French yet and have no clue what is going on. They may not be able to listen to your morning message, or sit still to complete an anchor chart together.
Don’t try to force them to do something if they just aren’t there yet. Try again tomorrow, or in a week, or in a month… they learn so quickly and will progress, but if they aren’t ready on day one, it’s okay.
Practice makes perfect!
I try to start the first day with NO expectations – I assume they know nothing and will be able to do nothing. My expectations get very high very quickly, but it is easier on everyone if you don’t allow yourself to feel frustrated the first few days. Just make sure that you have some back up plans if something isn’t working – maybe a tour of the school, a short movie in French, some Just Dance videos, a visit to another classroom, a little trip to meet the receptionist or the janitors, a special snack, an extra recess, etc.
TIP 3: DON’T DIVE INTO THE CURRICULUM RIGHT AWAY
No one expects your kindergartners to leave the first day knowing all their letters, sounds, and sight words. To me, day one in kinder is a success if no one gets lost or hurt, and they have a smile on their face at more than one point in the day. Don’t start teaching outcomes until your students are ready – until they know your expectations, and have practiced all the procedures you want them to know, more than once.
Note that not diving into curriculum is not the same as not diving into routine.
I begin my reader’s, writer’s, and math workshops all on the first Monday of the school year, so that they get used to that routine – but I am just teaching routines and procedures during those blocks, not anything that I will be evaluating for report cards. Put in the time in the beginning of the year to build positive relationships with your students, and to allow them to feel success. Have fun, get to know these sweet little humans that you will be spending the next 185 weekdays with, and teach them how to do what you expect.
HERE IS WHAT I PLAN TO DO ON DAY ONE…
In case you are stuck on ideas, here is an outline of how my first day will (hopefully) go:
– As students enter, they will put their supplies in the appropriate bin (they only come with a box of Kleenex, a box of Ziploc bags and a change of clothes). They will find their spot at the table and say goodbye to their parents (hopefully, ha!).
– We will start the day making these adorable first-day crowns. My students arrive at different times between 8:20 and 8:40 depending on their bus – I let them get started colouring right away. You can find the crowns HERE for free on TPT – they are completely editable, so you can switch them over to French, and add your students’ names, school, and grade. If you can have an assistant or another teacher with you in the morning, it is super helpful to have them put the crowns together. If I didn’t have help from the Reading Recovery teacher in the morning, I would have my students do free play with Play Doh instead of the crowns.
– Once everyone has arrived, is settled in, and have mostly done their crowns, we move to the carpet. I teach them to sit on the perimeter of the carpet from day one as we move into our agenda routine. After that, we practice our “Comment ça va” circle. I have a talking stick and everyone says how they are (lots of help, encouragement, and gestures are used by me!). On day one, our choices are “ça va bien,” “ça va mal,” and “ça va comme-ci comme-ça” – later in the year we say much more!
– I do not do a morning message on day one… we have enough going on and they are not at their most focused. We also would usually have a school-wide assembly around this time as well.
– I make a huge deal about how I NEED to know their birthdays because when it is their birthday I will give them a little surprise. In order to let me know when their birthdays are, they will colour a cupcake with their name and the date of their birthday on it. I got my cupcakes from Créations Claudia Loubier’s TPT store. I hang them on the wall under the appropriate month once they are cut out. By explaining it in this way, most kids are pretty pumped about completing this activity.
The month labels are free from Mme Émilie – grab them HERE.
– We practice snack/recess routines and if we have time I will walk them around the perimeter of the playground where they are allowed to play before the bell.
– We will have time for free play with classroom toys. I will bring them all back to the carpet before asking them to clean up and we will go over clean up expectations together (with an anchor chart). I will play them our clean up song and they have to be back at the carpet with their toys cleaned up by the time it is over.
– Lunch/cafeteria procedures
– Free play with math manipulatives, centre style. We will go over staying in one place until the timer goes, then tidying up and rotating to the next manipulative.
– Fire alarm procedures/practice and time to relax
– Getting ready for home procedures
Some of my back up activities include: a tour of the school, practice walking in line, learning a song/poem, Just Dance videos/freeze dance, practicing putting things in our duotangs, going to meet the receptionist/cafeteria lady/custodian, etc.
The routines/procedures you can see on the blue sticky note earlier in this post are other things I can teach/we can practice when we have an extra 5-10 minutes.
That’s about it! Holy long blog post. I hope it helps you in your first day planning!
Just a note about my teacher planner – our school does provide us with one, but…it is ugly and I don’t like the layout.
So I use an Erin Condren teacher planner. It looks like this and I am in love:
If you want one too, you can use my referral code and save 10$ by clicking here: