I have several posts about the beginning of the year, but never before have I provided my complete plans for that important first week. Now, here they are! Before you take a look at my plan, it's important to understand my thinking about the first week of school...
I know my planning philosophy differs from some of the more popular philosophies and advice given in certain books, and I'm okay with that. I tried taking that advice for a few years, and the first few days felt slow, my students weren't engaged or excited about what was happening, and I never really felt like it was setting groundwork for the rest of the year.
Instead of baby steps, we dive right in to our normal schedule. As I plan for the first few days, I keep our schedule almost exactly as it will stand for the rest of the school year. That means we have morning work, morning meeting, reading, math, writing, and science or social studies. I infuse discussions about expectations as we move throughout the first week, we reflect on what is going well and what we need to improve upon, and we start to learn specific routines to be successful for the rest of the year. While we do this, though, children are engaged in exciting and academically challenging tasks. We are getting to know each other well, as humans and as learners. My goal is that my kids leave school excited and are eager to come back the next day and the next day.
Every single thing I do during this week is to prepare my class for the upcoming academic year. They learn the procedures that we need to have in place to accomplish all of those rigorous academics that will be facing them. This set-up has always worked quite well for me, and I end the first week with solid relationships with most of my students. Our classroom has a foundation of trust and expectations for the year to come. They know what to expect from me, from our schedule, and from many of our daily routines. Do we have moments where we have to stop, take a breath, and reflect on a little chaos? Absolutely! But we learn from those moments, and we understand why they don't work.
You don't need to squint to read these plans! I have them compiled in a big document, complete with explanations of all the activities. A few notes as you begin looking through all of these plans...
- Plan Big! If you get through all of these plans in the first week, YOU ARE MY HERO! I have this set up as what would happen in an ideal world, but keep in mind that there is a lot of front loading expectations that must go into this plan before it can all be implemented. You can't expect your students to know how to function in centers, in morning meeting, etc. so anticipate needing to take time to set up expectations as you move through the plans. I briefly touch on expectations and procedures in the plans, but you will need to fill in a lot of blanks that fit the needs of your classroom.
- YOU DO YOU. I mean it. Please don't take these plans and implement them 100% into your classroom. You have amazing ideas that will bring your own personal touch into your first week of school. Some of these activities won't resonate with you, or they won't help set up your classroom routines. For example, I use Topple Blocks and Task Cards during the first week of school because we use those a lot in my classroom. If you don't use that type of resource, replace my plans with resources you DO use.
- Expectations are Key. I kind of sound like a broken record here, but please make sure that as you implement these activities, you are focusing more on setting up expectations than on the activity itself. I simply can't stress this enough. What you do during this week (and the following weeks) will set a precedent for the rest of the year.
- If you don't do workshops/centers/rotations... First, I'd implore you to do a bit of research into this style of teaching and see if you can perhaps implement it at least one or two days a week. It is so beneficial. BUT, if you are not accustomed to running workshops or you don't anticipate running a workshop model for the rest of the year, adapt these plans to work for your schedule and routines. You don't need to spend time setting up a workshop model if you aren't going to use it later on. Instead, just pick and choose some of the ideas to implement whole class.
- Where's the Tech? We use a lot of technology in my classroom, but slow and steady wins the race on this one. I don't introduce iPads or laptops during the first week for a few reasons. To begin, it never fails: The first time using iPads or laptops always results in a little bit of anxiety for some kids (okay, and teachers) because it's just never a seamless process. Second, I want us working face to face and building relationships without the distraction of technology.
- On Differentiation: This is the one week of the year that I don't do a ton of differentiation. I want this week to be accessible and exciting for all of my students, so I choose activities that most students can participate in and feel successful. That being said, with some adaptations, these plans would work best for grades 3-6.
- What You Need: I have done my best to make a list of exactly what you need to have prepped for each day. Some of the resources include products in my store or others' stores, or may include an Amazon Affiliate link to books or supplies. Most links are clickable to make it easy for you to find what you need!
- Still not enough? If you find that you still need to supplement some more ideas, check out this huge post about First Week of School Activities for Big Kids!
- What's next? After the first week is over, we really dive into our normal routines and academics. This is when I begin my formal math and literacy mini-lessons, start our typical workshop/center routines, and get my curriculum rolling.
- EXPECTATIONS! Really, though. The number one thing you should be focusing on during this week (aside from building stellar foundational relationships with your kids) is expectations. My favorite saying is the 3As. Again and again and again until we get it right.