In this issue......

* First Week of School
* A New Beginning
* A Welcoming Place
* Classroom Supplies
* Classroom Activities
* A Final Word

First Week of School

I have so many inexperienced and new teachers e-mail me telling me how nervous and scared they are about the start of the school year and what to do the first week.

The first week of school is so important, it can set the tone for the beginning of the school year and quite possibly the whole year, so I've decided to make it the focus of my August newsletter.

I know you'll find this newsletter valuable, especially if you're new or fairly new to our great profession, so read and re-read it and take what you can from it. It was written with love and experience. Happy New Beginnings!!!

I would appreciate it if you let your other teacher friends and colleagues know about this newsletter. Knowledge is POWER. I am still learning too.

Here's to A New Beginning

Every year (including my last), I was filled with mixed feelings about the start of the new school year. I felt excited, regenerated, nervous, overwhelmed - I could never sleep the night before school started.

Have you ever been on a blind date? A nervous wreck until you saw the whites of their eyes and their smiling faces. And believe me the students felt the same. But - I love new beginnings - go figure!

I always spent a week at the end of August to organize myself for the first week of school and set up my classroom to make it a welcoming environment.

I was one of those teachers that left the last day of the school year, never looked back and never thought of school until August - starting with dreams at night of what I had to do.

I do have teacher friends who came into the school in July to set up their room and got themselves organized and then appeared the first day of school.

Then again, I also had some teacher friends that never came in during the summer and did what they had to do during the first week of school.

Sooo, everyone is different - You do what's good for you! But, please keep in mind, YOU MUST KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!

Start off on the right foot, because believe me, the kids will know - they are sizing you up, just like you are doing to them. You can never take away that first impression.

Even if you are in the same room and same grade as the year before, you still may want to change the classroom seating arrangements, your desk, and revamp your classroom.

Perhaps during the summer, you came across some garage/yard sales and picked up some games, toys,books,etc. for your classroom. (I kind of told a white lie - I do sort of think of school during the summer - but I put it on the back burner).

A Welcoming Place

I mentioned that it is important to make your classroom a "welcoming" environment - and that is so true - for you, your students, any student, admin and parents!

You want your kids to feel safe and happy, as well as making it a learning place. You want them to want to come to school, just as you do. And you can start with the look of your classroom.

Please check out my pages on classroom layout, classroom displays, classroom decorations, and classroom bulletin boards. to get ideas and my suggestions. Look into other classes to see what other teachers have done to get some other ideas.

Keep in mind that desks, chairs, tables, etc. are not bolted to the floor. If you don't like the way something looks, change it.

Remember, this is your kids' classroom too, so ask them what they would like the room to look like. They may surprise you. Ultimately, you do have the FINAL say. Mutual respect really becomes re-enforced here.

Classroom Supplies

Primary and Junior grade teachers will have different jobs - things to do in order to get the classroom organized the way the want it to be. For example, I know a lot of primary teachers laminate their students' names for birthday months and classroom jobs. There is also more paperwork to photocopy as there are fewer textbooks for the primary grades than the junior grades throughout the year.

Making sure all your junior students have all the same or enough textbooks can be a real headache for junior teachers and that's just for starters.

If you are entering a new school or new classroom and hoping that there are enough supplies, be sure to read my page on back to school suppliesto get my list of the essentials.

You should also have a look at my page on cool school supplies to get some great deals.

Classroom Activities

Now, in regard to the first week of school! Some teachers like to start right into the curriculum from the first or second day. But, that's not for me! The kids are coming back from a two month vacation and so are you.

My first goal is to ease us back into the swing of things - which means a lot of review from the year before. For instance, if I'm teaching a 3/4 split class (terrible split - cross division - but been there, done that), I would give them a spelling test of 20 -25 words of the previous grade. I also gave them 15 add, subtract, multiply, divide questions from the year before - one operation per day.

My second and most important goal for the 1st week of school is to get to know my students(a little bit about their personality)and for them to get to know me. I do that through various activities.

Please check out these activities at my page on know your students.

The third goal is to set the foundations of the classroom - e.g. the rules, routines, timetables and what's expected for the year. Please read about my 7 basic classroom rules.

On the Friday of the first week, I will move students around if they are too talkative with neighbours or if I need to keep a closer eye on them.

I also have one really fun activity I do, that I call "Have You Ever". Each student has a sheet of 30 statements. For example:

1. Flown in an airplane

2. Been on a championship team

3. Had an operation

4. Ridden a horse

5. Been really proud of yourself

6. Been to the CN Tower (a Toronto landmark)

Students walk around the class looking for 3 other students (include yourself as well) who have done the activity. When they find one they print the student's name beside the statement.

This activity can take 20- 30 minutes and then we have a class discussion. For example, which statement was hard/easy to fill in, whose names are printed most often, etc.

"Have You Ever" is an absolutely wonderful activity and what a great way for every one to get to know each other, including you, to end the 1st week of school.

Now the second week is a totally different story - but just think - only another 39 weeks to go until June (Ha! Ha!)

One thing I did each Friday afternoon is have my "Special Talk ans Student of the Week". Please read my page on classroom team building activities to learn about this great activity.

A Final Word

The final thing I did to end the first week of school was to give out a little certificate that I sign and date, that said either I hope you had a GREAT FIRST WEEK" or "Welcome Back - Good Luck". It also had some type of school symbols or funny animal picture. And believe me, even the Grade 6's loved them.

Sooo, that's about it - How to prepare yourself - be organized for the first week or at least the first few days. be thankful and grateful that you have a job you love or really like. Be YOURSELF and ENJOY!!!

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