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August 14, 2012

The First Day Back to School

Written By: Brandi Jordan
Category: The School Year
X The First Day Back to School

The First Day Back to School

by Elizabeth Supan, Guest Columnist

Just the phrase itself sends shivers. Doesn’t it? I still get so nervous and excited on the night before the first day back that I have a hard time sleeping. I think the reason I am a bundle of nerves is because I want to make sure that I cover every detail that first day. Will I remember to go over fire drill procedures before they ring the fire drill? Will I remember to turn in attendance on time? And the most dreaded question…will I send every child home the correct way on that first day of school? Will they get home safely?

The First Day Back to School

Sometimes we, as teachers, are so excited, nervous and filled with anticipation that everything goes “just right” that sometimes we lose what I feel is the most important goal for day one: Does every single student feel loved and appreciated enough to want to come back the next day?

Years ago, I made this my number one priority for day one. What about lesson plans? I don’t keep any for that first day. I simply create a list of the essential items that need to be discussed or completed.

  1. Fire drill procedures
  2. Transportation details
  3. Bathroom procedures

Really, those are the only three things that have to happen. I used to fill the day going over every single procedure: properly writing in agendas, how to have homework on desks in the morning, how to line up for lunch, how to ask to sharpen a pencil, etc. You get the idea, right? BORING. I know that we want to set these procedures in place, but it can wait for another day. Not every little detail needs to be covered on day one. It took years for me to realize this.

I try to make my life a little easier by doing a few simple things. First, each student comes in with a million school supplies. Some students have their supplies labeled, but most do not. My solution is to grab gigantic, sealable plastic bags (already labeled with each student’s name) and dump all supplies into them. Then I gather them all and put to the side for another day. They can use my supplies on day one.

Most students have stories they want to tell you. Let them. This is how you are going to be able to achieve the goal of having them want to come back the next day. So, how are you going to have time for this? Have students create an “All about Me” poster. I have students partner up for this activity. Once they create the poster, they share with their partner, and then, if they want, they can share it with the class. Not all students want to share aloud. So, keeping my number one goal in mind, I don’t make them. I do, however, take the time to ask each student questions about his/her poster.

Finally, the first day should be fun. Fun? Yes, fun. One of the fun activities that I like to do is to have a snowball fight. Students fill out a simple questionnaire and then crumple it up to make a snowball. They are puzzled and confused about why they had to crumple up their paper. I tell them that I have a secret. That we are going to have a little fun, but that they have to keep that a secret or other people might get upset that we are having so much fun at school. Then, I throw the first snowball high into the air and yell “Snowball fight!” It is pandemonium, but so fun. I’ll then blow a whistle and the students must pick up the nearest snowball and read the questionnaire aloud to the class. That way, we learn a little bit about each student.

Each year I remind myself to keep that first day simple. Enjoy the day and make sure my students are happy enough to want to return for day two. Then, I can hit them with all of the rules and procedures.

 

About the Author

The First Day Back to School by Elizabeth SupanElizabeth Supan is an elementary school teacher in South Carolina with 18 years experience.  Currently she is a 4th grade math teacher.  She uses small group math instruction to meet the needs of her diverse learners.  You can read more about her teaching on her blog Fun in Room 4B.   Aside from teaching, Elizabeth enjoys crafting, completing DIY projects and spending time with her husband and children.

 

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  • Profile photo of Christine
    Christine
    July 31, 2016

    I agree with you and many of the comments – so important to begin with a sense of community and the idea that my classroom will be a fun, safe place for all. Definitely give them a chance to talk – they all want to! I pepper in some procedures, and of course, those necessary for safety regarding fire drills and such, and we all start to feel like it’s home – right on the first day!

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  • Janaye
    August 18, 2012

    You are so right, Elizabeth! The first day needs to be FUN and not just filled with rules and procedures. Definitely needs to be spread out. Plus, they won’t remember it all! Great article. 🙂

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  • Jeanne
    August 18, 2012

    Love you post! I’ve done the snowball fight for several years and the kids LOVE it. I also try to do it several times throughout the year. I can relate with you on your classroom reveal from your blog, I used many ideas from Pinterest this year. Your room looks great! Have another rewarding year!

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  • Amber Polk
    August 14, 2012

    This was a great post Elizabeth! It was a great reminder that you don’t have to go over every single procedure day one! Oh and I LOVE doing a snowball fight the first day of school!

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  • Elizabeth
    August 14, 2012

    Thanks for all of the nice comments today, everyone. It made my first day back at work even more special. The first day back can be so overwhelming that sometimes it is OK to take a break and have some fun. Thanks for agreeing with me. Happy 2012-2013 school year!

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  • Kristen
    August 14, 2012

    I loved reading your advice Elizabeth and I think you are so right. It does feel like you have to cover so many routines on that first day, but there is always time to build those routines in the beginning weeks. I think it is very smart to keep the most important routines in mind that you mentioned and I will be keeping your words in mind as we start a new year.

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  • Judy Dean
    August 14, 2012

    Thank you for your enthusiasm ~ it is contagious!

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  • Terri Browne
    August 14, 2012

    I love the idea about having a snowball fight in the classroom! Thanks:)

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  • Kim
    August 14, 2012

    How wonderful, Elizabeth, that you focus first on belonging and community! Without that, all of those procedures won’t stick. Your students are lucky to find a reason to enjoy that first day back–Lucky them–and lucky you!

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  • Hadar
    August 14, 2012

    Great post Eliazabeth!! I am all about fun!!

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  • Jessica
    August 14, 2012

    I definitely agree with you. I used to think I needed to cover all the procedures on the first day, but now I have a little fun, then talk about some procedures, have a little more fun, and talk some more. I want to get to know my students (they already know each other). Then, I space out the procedures a bit because what student (or teacher) wants to talk about procedures all day? And, how are they going to remember it all anyway? I’ve done snowball fights before too with various subjects. So fun!

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  • Jan
    August 14, 2012

    Sounds like your classroom is a fun place to be – I don’t have “first day” until Thursday – but now there might be a snow ball fight in California. Thanks

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  • Mary
    August 14, 2012

    Love the ideas you have given me for the first day! You’re right, I always try to cram in all the procedures the first day and the students get so bored. This year, since moving down from 7th to 4th and 5th grades, I think I will try to mix it up with some fun! I love a good snowball fight, too!!

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  • Cheryl
    August 14, 2012

    Thanks for these great tips! I hope you have a great first day back! We go back next week!

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  • Lisa
    August 14, 2012

    I completely agree with your thoughts about the first day! We also do a snowball fight in my classroom and my students just love it. I think it gives us all a chance to relax and let our hair down. We are all so nervous and trying to make just the right impression….it’s tough. The silliness of the snowball fight allows us to all to be ourselves and remember that school IS fun!

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