Thursday, August 01, 2019

Begin the teaching year with a focus on respect and community building

There's a temptation to rush into the curriculum during the first days of the school year, but if you do that and ignore the need to welcome and build a strong, respectful teaching/learning community, you will pay the price of a less invested and collaborative student team.

It is essential to spend the first lessons of the year establishing a strong, respectful community of learners. I thought a lot about this today, and this is the way I'll begin the school year:

Day One

  • Greet children at the door with a smile and ask them to bring their bags in and find their table space and start with the morning work. (Tables will display children's names). Morning work will be a class name word find. 
  • Ask students to say their names, check off the attendance list. Discuss importance of names and why it's important to say each others names with respect and accuracy. Talk about TedTalks as a resource for positive learning. Show this video.  Then talk about what the video teaches us about respect for each other's names. 
  • Review supply list. Make sure that every child has supplies he/she needs. Organize and store supplies. Collect summer math study packets (review in evening).
  • Make beautiful name cards: Have students proudly make a name tag. Teach supply use with a simple lesson about where drawing/making supplies are and how to use them. Walk around the room and listen to children's name conversations, observe their comfort level, respond in welcoming, interesting ways. 
  • Introduce recess protocols, play equipment, and have a recess. Have snacks available for students who may have forgotten a snack--you don't want anyone to be hungry. 
  • Introduce myself via the three word project. Teach computer protocols. Let children work with computers to create their three word posters using Google Drawer. Observe students as they work on this project, help out in any way that you can. 
  • When students begin to tire of the activity, gather them on the rug. Talk about the day so far and ask if students have any questions. Tell them that I am there to partner with them and serve them well throughout the year, and my goal is that they learn successfully all year long. Ask what they think I can do to help them. 
  • Review and practice transition and lunch routines. Then time for lunch.
  • After lunch, discuss our "survival theme" briefly and begin read aloud: Hatchet. Allow students to sit up front on the rug or sit at their tables. Students may drawer quietly as I read. 
  • Talk about the fact that students who play together generally get along better. Share and discuss kickball rules and play a class game of kickball. 
  • Students return to class. Review homework: The Big Day paper and student/family member surveys--a way for children to express their needs, interests, and thoughts about the first day of school. 
  • Review end-of-day routine, dismissal, and have a few minutes to play. 

Day Two
  • Greet children at the doorway and collect homework. Ask them to read and follow the start-of-day schedule which includes sign-in, readiness tasks, and morning work. 
  • Morning work: students are invited to continue working on their My Three Words projects.
  • When students have worked a bit, start the first lesson which is a lesson on good listening. Begin with the question, Why does good listening matter? Then ask, What makes good listening difficult or easy? List students' ideas. Then have students exemplify what poor listening looks like and what good listening looks like. Partner students up and have them interview each other with a few questions, ask them to use good listening behaviors at they listen to their partner's answers. The questions may include:
    • What is one activity you over the summer in your home that you really enjoyed, and why did you enjoy that activity?
    • What is one activity you did in fourth grade that you really enjoyed, and why did you enjoy that activity?
    • What is one activity you hope we'll do in fifth grade, and why do you hope we'll do that activity? 
  • Have students then create sticky notes with a headline that answers each of those questions and their first names--create a sticky note graph of that information together, and tell them that you'll use that graph, in part, as you think about the best ways to help students learn, be happy, and work together this year. 
  • Recess
  • Tell the story of our United States Constitution, and review school handbook which is like a constitution for our school. What makes our school handbook similar or dissimilar to the United States constitution? Active Reading: The Student Handbook: What do we do well and what can we get better at--how can we shortlist the handbook rules and protocols to a memorable phrase, sign, poem, or acronym? How can we make these rules and protocols are own?
  • Work in teams to determine our class government? Share ideas. Work on using handbook and class government ideas to write a class constitution. 
  • Review lunch routines. Lunch
  • Read Aloud. Review protocols for sitting and behavior during read aloud. 
  • Independent reading - review protocols, let students read quietly.
  • Class game time - about 30 minutes
  • Closing Routine