Lets make them ones to remember...
For most children it is an exciting time where they get to make new friends and play with lots of new toys, and for some children it can be a terrifying time anticipating the unknown... they might feel completely out of their comfort zone. Your job is to be prepared for every event! No pressure...
Next, staff members(resource teachers) greet parents and children at the entrance to give the children their name sticker which also has a room number on it. They are accompanied to the school hall with their parents where they are meet by the school principal. After a short 'Hello and Welcome' speech they are lead, one group at a time to their new classroom, where I am waiting patiently. My coat hangers are outside my room so the first thing I will do is direct parents to look for their child's hanger and leave their coat on it.
In the classroom...
At the start of a new school year we are always full of enthusiasm and excited to get going! But with infants you must remember, that in the early days it is not about the quantity of work you get done but rather the quality of time spent on simple focused tasks. Keep it interesting and fun, but take it slow and always remember... if they're not listening when you're talking, they're probally not learning.
9.45 - 10.15 Welcome play. I have a selection of toys all set out and visually inviting for the children. Not just at the tables but around the room, blocks on the carpet, home area nicely set up, sand box in the corner, play matt with cars on the floor. The children can play wherever they like with whoever they like. They can take any seat in the room and sit beside whomever they choose. It is important to allow the children this freedom. Let them make this new environment as comfortable as possible for themselves. Whatever makes them happy is most important. With some quiet gentle music playing in the background I welcome the parents and allow them a little time to say hello and goodbye (10mins). Do not encourage them to hang around. A gentle "Thank you moms and dads for bringing in your little ones, they are in safe hands! We look forward to seeing you back very soon at 12 O'Clock!' And usher them to the door politely. (See below on what to do with a crier/criers). Once you have the children to yourself, try and get around to say a quick hello to each child and get a sense for your new class. Have plenty of extra activities on hand for children who get bored quickly. When you are ready to tidy up, get everyone's attention and explain that in 2 minutes time they will tidy up (give them a chance to finish up what they are doing). I have a jingle bell that I shake when it is time to stop and clean, I let them hear it once so they know what it sounds like and tell them to continue playing, that I will shake it again in 2 minutes. See how the first tidy-up goes but you will need to move quickly around the room (hopefully you have a helper) and show them how to tidy things up, here is a fun song to play at tidy up time. Tell them to take a seat on the carpet or at a chair when they're done.
10.15 - 10.30 Carpet Time First thing you will do when everyone is sitting and has their eyes on you is point out a 'good' sitter (chair pulled in, feet on floor or legs crossed on the carpet) make a big fuss and ask the children if they could sit like little Jenny! Rule one taught... good sitting. Have a little welcome chat. You might ask them:
10.30 - 10.50 Toilet Routine Ask the children what they have to remember when they go to the toilet (our toilets are outside the classroom) Go through it step by step...
1) make sure they have all their clothing pulled down fully (I know! but it's important)
2) Sit/stand at the toilet and do your business.
3) take a few sheets of paper (not too much or you'll block the toilet) and so on...
You really need to teach them everything one step at a time. I also teach how to line up at this time as we stand in a line outside the toilet.
10.50 - 11.20 Break reinforce good sitting on the chair. They can take out their lunches. They have to stay sitting during break. Keep all dry rubbish to be brought home in lunch boxes. Any messy rubbish they have to wait until the end of break to put it into the bins. From day one I will never open packets for the children. I teach them how to do it for themselves. Explaining that the plastic has been heated to stick together and they have to undo that seam will help them remember.
11.20 - 11.40 Story I always read Dr Suess - Oh, The Places You Will Go! It's a personal favourite of mine. The language is quiet difficult for them to understand but if you read it using plenty of expression they get the feeling of it. I play the version below but mute the audio and read the words myself. The animation keeps them focused too. I have always had a quiet, engrossed room when I've read this.
11.55 - 12.00 Home Time I get the children to line up again, with their colouring in sheets and schoolbags on back (always send them home with something they've done on their first day, their grown-up will love that) I give the 'Well Done on Your First Day' speel, and give them all a nice big sticker. The parents are waiting outside and I open the door and call out the child's name and the parent comes forward. I do this one by one and no child is allowed to rush off, if they do I gently pull them back and make them wait. Infants should never leave with someone unless they've said goodbye to you and you've acknowledged the person who is collecting them.
And that's it for day one! I don't get a whole lot done but I don't expect to in the first few weeks. It is more important that the children are given time to adjust, and understand what school is all about. It is all new to them so don't expect them to know that they aren't allowed to just take out their lunch and start eating in the middle of a carpet discussion or that they can't launch themselves head first down the slide (both happened to me today!) Be patient, be clear on expected behaviour but most important be kind.
Day one checklist
How to help tearful children
It is possible that you might get away with no tears on day one. However, it's unlikely you'll get off the hook that easily! Quite often you'll get more tears on day two when the children realises the have to go back again... hang on a moment!... you mean I have to go to school again today? I had more criers on day five then any of the previous days (I try not to take it personally! lol) So here are some ideas that might work:
Here are a few alternative things you could do on day one or on the first days:
Well done Lucy!
Lucy well done!
I hope you had a good day,
I hope you had fun!
We sit in a circle and sing it to the name of each child, clapping to the beat on knees and hands. As we sing each child's name each child receives a First Day/Week certificate with their name of it. It is also a chance for everyone to learn the names of their new friends. This may work depending on your class size.
Play-doh is great for the early days because the children get tired and this is calming and easy. Teach them to roll snakes, balls, pancakes etc. But on the first day I just let them play with it. The only thing I show them is when tidying up how to collect up crumbs and roll the play-doh into a ball. I always play some calming classical music quietly in the background.
While this was a long post, that's just the way it works in infant classes... everything is one step at a time! I can only imagine how foreign this must seem to a teacher teaching in infants for the first time but you soon get used to it.
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