Laughter, high fives, warm silence: A range of first day in school emotions will captivate your elementary students and win them over immediately.
Each year your new class full of eager children is special. And if you show them they belong to a special classroom, you'll have your classroom community and classroom management plan halfway complete by lunch recess!
I start showing my kids that they're going to be in a special classroom before the first bell even rings. For years, I've used my "magic purple box" to grab their attention right away.
When I walk out to meet my new kids on the first day in school, I carry a sparkly purple box. Every child reaches in and pulls out a slip of paper that includes a day of the week. This day of the week corresponds to a particular table group at which they'll be sitting for the first-day.
Believe me, these table groups don't last. I move children - sometimes daily - all year long. They get used to it, and as personalities and conflicts develop over time these changes have to be made so all children can learn.
However, they have to sit somewhere on their first day, and reaching into a magic box and pulling out their table group makes them feel like they're getting a surprise, and perhaps even finding out who their first-day friends will be.
NOTE: All humans feel empowered by a little bit of choice...and even if they are just drawing card from a box it feels like a choice.
More to the point, it's something that no other classroom is experiencing - and they can see that. Right from the start on the first day in school, they feel like Mrs. Weigle's room is going to be a little bit different, a little bit more fun...
...and they are going to be special because they get to be part of that.
A little sparkle makes magic
I call the personality that I show my children on the first day in school (and every day after that) "sparkly." It means I'm...
...somewhat different from any teacher they've ever had
...a little bit larger than life
...and certainly different from what they're used to experiencing with their parents.
As I pointed out in a Q&A response, everything I do is a tiny bit exaggerated, as if I'm an actor making a point on the stage.
Children need to see some sparkle, but they also need to see hints of your other emotions on the first day in school.
One thing I do to show my personality during the first day is take what I call "bird walks." If you picture the tracks a bird makes in the sand as it wanders about you get the picture. A few little wandering stories (kept short) that have humorous notes let the kids get to know me a little better.
At some point during the day, my new students will always see a little bit of the stern side of me. There will come a time when a child blurts out and I'll use that teachable moment to show that fun is what we have in my classroom...but we do it according to my rules.
|This is just a foreshadowing of what they may experience in the future, and they need to see it in the midst of first day of school activity. They need to know that when my tone of voice or my demeanor changes, it's a signal that they need to pay attention and examine what they are doing.|
The first day, we shouldn't get much more than a little stern. I do have a personality that I call "Mean Mrs. Weigle" that they will definitely see a few times during the year. But she never makes her appearance until there has been misbehavior on a classroom-wide scale and they really need to focus on the impact of their behavior as a group.
(Their first day of exhibiting "sub behavior" will often bring this out!)
Again, children need the range of emotion in order to properly monitor and modify their own behavior based on your cues.
(William Shakespeare...sort of!)
If you are not naturally a person who has a wide range of emotions, then it's something you have to work on or you will never have the classroom impact you hope for. This is especially true on the first day in school.
Being able to project emotion and intent without speaking is powerful. Picture that actor on the stage, expressing exasperation with a simple raised eyebrow or conveying a question with a tilt of his head.
These small movements can be much more powerful than constantly talking, talking, talking at children until all they hear is a droning noise.
Everybody can exhibit this range differently. Even if you start by "acting," eventually, it will become natural to project a higher, more lighthearted tone of voice most of the time, and a more somber, lower tone at other times. Start with those basics and work from there.
Don't discount the impact of silence. For example, my kids are instructed from the very beginning that they are never - under any circumstances - allowed to interrupt me. If it happens, I simply stop talking no matter what I'm saying...mid-sentence or in the middle of a lesson...and look at the child.
They know from experience that they owe me a quick apology and the entire class waits until they provide it. That sudden, thundering silence in the middle of a sentence communicates more than any amount of words ever could.
Together with the other articles in this section, these first day of school ideas should help you add a little sparkle to your act...and winning over your kids from the first moment they see you walk out the door.
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