Teaching Ideas : First Day

September is one of the most stressful and exhausting times of the school year as you begin working with a new class of pupils. Both teachers and children can feel anxious about what lies ahead which can increase stress levels. There are also a number of hoops that teachers will need to jump through at the start of the school year which can deepen anxieties.

However, there are a number of techniques and strategies that you employ to make the start of a new school year successful and less stressful. September is an excellent time to refocus the children’s natural enthusiasm for learning as they can make a new start with a new teacher who can lead them in different directions as they progress further in personal, social, physical and academic development. Use the new term to establish routines and organisation to maximise the children’s learning in the forthcoming school term.

Learning Names
A new class brings a whole host of new faces with different abilities and personalities. it is important that you learn all of the names of the children in your class to ease routines and organisation. As a starter activity, you can get the children to produce a name label to display on their table. This will help the children settle quickly into their new classroom by providing them with a simple activity to complete as you call the register, sort out lunches and perform other admin tasks. Encourage the children to add pictures to their labels to indicate any favourite activities of hobbies. You can use the displayed labels to help learn the children’s names as you move around the classroom during the day. You should also keep a seating plan on your desk which you can refer to when asking different children to perform different tasks and activities. As a follow-up activity, you can get the children to introduce another pupil to the class by providing details of their name and information about special interests and activities. You can also use this activity to begin assessing the children’s oral presentations skills.

Classroom Organisation
Spend sometime on the first day introducing the children to their new classroom. Help the children identify the location of different classroom resources by getting them to participate in a scavenger hunt where they collect labelled resources in a specific time limit. Work with the class to discuss rules that could be followed when accessing and using the resources to help develop the children’s independent learning skills. You should also look closely at how you have arranged the tables and other furniture in the classroom once the children are settled and working. This will help you identify any bottle necks or other problems areas around the classroom so that they can be adjusted to improve the flow of children as they are working and moving around the space.

Rule Making
You can devote sometime in the first day to discuss with the class some of the rules that should be followed to create a happy learning environment. Avoid dictating some of the rules for the children to follow. Get the class to split into groups to discuss some of the rules that the class should follow in regards to behaviour and academic work. Following the group discussion, you can work with the children to select the most important rules for the class to follow. Try and avoid long lists of don’t in the class rules. Instead select a few positive rules outlining what the children can do to ensure a happy learning environment. You can get some children to word process the selected rules for the whole class to then sign as a contract which can be displayed in the classroom. Make sure that in the first week you can make constant reference to the selected rules to illustrate when they have been broken or met.

Classroom Display
Ensure that you produce some initial classroom displays to develop a positive and productive learning environment. Use any written work that the children might have produced when transitioning to your classroom at the end of the last school year. The display of this work will help the children feel ownership of the classroom. You should also have some initial displays introducing some of the topics that the class will be learning about in the forthcoming school year. Use posters and questions to help the children begin thinking about some of the ideas and concepts that they will be discovering and exploring over the autumn term. You can also display some English vocabulary that the children can use in any initial literacy work along with examples of maths calculations and techniques that they will be covering.

Work Expectations
One of the best ways of demonstrating your expectations as to how the children should be working and learning in the classroom is by getting straight down to work. Try and not too rush initial lessons so that you have plenty of opportunities to instruct children about how to listen carefully, answer questions, discuss ideas and start working on paper as they begin a topic lesson. You can demonstrate on the board about how you expect any work to be presented on paper which the children can then use as a model to follow i.e. how to record the date, how to title a piece of work, how to correct mistakes etc

Reading Books
You should try and ensure that each child has selected a reading book to take home on their first day. If you have the support of a learning assistant you can target them to help children choose a book matching to their reading level using the records passed on to you by the children’s previous teacher. More able children can be encouraged to select their own reading book. Encourage the class to use the five fault rule so that they should try reading the first page of a book and if they make more five mistakes then they should try choosing another title better matched to their reading abilities.

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