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DR. LORI FRIESEN

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How to Prepare for Your First Day and Week of School

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Complete Show Notes:

Now, I know that there are a lot of free resources out there for how other teachers plan for their first day and week of school, but I’ve never found these plans very helpful because every teacher is different and has their own way of running their classroom.

Although it’s interesting to get an idea of how other teachers plan, you will develop your own way that works for you, and today, I’m going to show you, step-by-step, how you can develop your OWN first day and week of plans, inspired by your individualized classroom management plan and teaching style.

You might be thinking, “I don’t even know what my teaching style is yet."
That’s okay, because very soon you will - largely determined by how you’ve decided to lay out your classroom management plan.


This is actually going to be very empowering for you because you’ll begin to see how your classroom can run in an efficient (and fun) way.

It’s only by doing this work now that you will allow for some white space in your day, and create a huge margin for spontaneity and for fun and for all of those amazing projects we all want to do with our kids throughout the year.

This is the first step to creating that space, so I can’t tell you how happy I am that you are here!

Now, if you haven’t listened to the previous episode, Episode #17: How to Create Your Classroom Management Plan: Materials, Routines, Rules & Class Jobs, I highly recommend that you stop reading and go back to that episode so you can also download your Classroom Management Starter Kit and get started with creating your Classroom Management Plan.

Having a clear management plan is essential to having not only a successful first day and week of school, but to having a successful year.

Also, ensure that you have the PowerPoint slides ready that you created as you completed the Classroom Management Starter Kit for each of the routines that you want to teach before you dive into this podcast for the next step.

Now before we begin, I want you to start thinking in terms of planning for the first week, not just for the first day. Having a birds-eye-view of the first week of school will help you to take some of the pressure off of the first day because you will be able to see the first day within a larger context.

I remember that I made this mistake when I first started teaching – I put so much emphasis on ensuring that I was super well-planned for the first day that the rest of my week felt a bit frantic because I hadn’t thought it all through as carefully as I should have. I don’t want you to make that mistake.

Keep in mind that it is going to take you much longer than just the first day to teach your students the rules and routines in your classroom, so thinking about the first day within a much broader context will help to take some of the stress off of that butterflies-in-the-stomach nervousness we all feel prior to the first day of school! 

Also, I’d love to see you get into the habit of planning for the entire next week one day each week so you can always feel ready for what’s coming up, so preparing for your first week is a great way to get started with this routine.

All right, so let’s dive in:

There are four steps to planning for a successful first day and week of school, and I want you to think about this process as a funnel that starts wide with big-picture planning, and then narrows so you can get into more specific details: 

  1. Birds Eye View Planning:

    First, I want you to take a “Birds Eye View” perspective of the first week of school.

    Talk to your principal and to your grade level team, and ask if there will be any major interruptions to your class and to your teaching that week, and write down the dates and times for each:

    So for example, questions you might want to ask include:

    1. Will there be any mandatory tests that I need to give?
    2. Are there any school-wide meetings/assemblies scheduled?
    3. Will my team have a grade-level meeting for all of the students?
    4. Are there any whole-school fire or emergency drills planned?

    Just make a list of events you will need to plan around before you plan for the first week.

 

  1. Weekly Planning:

    If you don’t already have a weekly schedule of your classes (when you will teach language arts, math, etc., and when your students have specials like library or P.E., create that schedule next and make enough copies for the next couple of months for your planning purposes.

    If you don’t already have this schedule, you may need to ask your grade level team or your principal for when your class is scheduled for things like library and P.E.

    I highly recommend that you go ahead and purchase a Curriculum Binder where you can keep calendars, schedules, lesson plans, curriculum maps, meeting notes, and pacing guides all in one place.

    Being super organized is one of the best ways to nip any sense of overwhelm in the bud, and purchasing one of these is also a great investment because you will see how other teachers have organized their planning in ways that have been successful.

    There are MANY different planning binders out there, and it's a very personal choice as to which one you choose. However, I created this one specifically for new teachers that you might want to check out on TpT. Just click the pic below.



    Keep in mind that you may end up changing your daily and weekly schedule a little bit once you get into your routine and realize that some things don’t work in the way you thought they might.


    For example, I did a lot of experiments in my science classes, so I started planning for those classes to be right after lunch so I would have a little extra time to gather any last-minute materials I might need for those experiments.

    I also realized that Friday afternoons needed to be more low-key for myself and for my students, so I often scheduled a catch-up period and something else that my students loved on Fridays called “Special Fridays,” which we will likely talk about in another episode because we can’t get into everything today!

    Once you have your weekly schedule printed out, go ahead and schedule any mandatory events that your principal and grade level team have told you about into your first week calendar.

    Also, be sure to ask your grade level team when specials will be starting (they don’t usually start these until after the first few days of school in elementary school, so ensure you know that so you can also schedule this into your weekly planning.
  2. Daily Planning:

    You will want to begin by choosing some back-to-school, getting to know you activities you will want to do with your students in the first few days.

    Also think about which books you might want to use (I’ll be doing another podcast all about great books for back to school so watch out for that one), but if you’re looking for a couple of quick ideas, I love Kevin Henkes “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse” and “You’re Finally Here!” by Melanie Watts.

    I know that some teachers and schools will say that you must get straight into teaching curriculum, but I believe it is incredibly important to help your students develop into a community of learners who know and can trust each other before you dive too deeply into content.

    Also, as we are going to talk about in Step #4, the first two to three days is when you are going to be teaching your routines, and this is the most important thing you can be doing during this time.

    Some of my favorite ideas for the first week of school (we will talk all about some awesome back-to-school activities next week) include making time capsules with my students that they can open on the last day of school to compare how they’ve grown and changed, and taking student pictures on the first day of school holding a special large picture frame decorated for my grade and class that they can later include in their year books. Again, I will share more of these activities and how to do them in the next episode.

    Once you decide which back-to-school activities you want to do with your students, on your “Birds Eye View” page, write down each getting-to-know-you activity you want to do so you have a loose plan for when you will do each.

    Also be sure to write down any materials you will need to photocopy, gather, and buy.

 

  1. Materials, Rules, and Routine Planning:

    Now, this is where it all comes together, and this is the most important part: It’s time to think through how and when you will teach each rule and routine as your students need to know them each day, using the PowerPoint slides you created when you completed your Classroom Management Starter Kit.

    Go back to your Classroom Management Plan.

    Do you remember how I asked you to leave the third column blank?
    That’s where you’re going to write a number to indicate on what day you are going to teach each rule and routine.

    How do you know when to teach each rule and routine?
    You will teach them as you need them, based on the back-to-school activities you have chosen.

The next day, you will review all of these routines with your students and then teach one or two more, such as your routine for Name and Date on Assignments, How to Walk in the Halls if your class needs to go to another space in the school, and What to Do When We Finish our Work Early, as well as begin to teach your Class Jobs.

So in your Classroom Management Starter Kit, think through which day you will want to teach each of your routines using your PowerPoint slides, and be sure to make this an integral part of your first week plans.

Each day, you will want to review the routines you have taught the day or days before, and then add in any others you haven’t taught yet. Also, please be patient with your students as you teach these routines. They may seem like common sense to you, but this is a lot of information your students need to digest, so they will need time and consistent, positive reminders for how to get it right.

Again, if you haven't yet downloaded the Classroom Management Starter Kit so you can create this plan, get your copy now by clicking here!

One final tip for you – be sure to over-plan for your first day and week of school. Have extra activities and books on hand that you can read aloud to your students so that you always have something to do with them if any of your lessons are shorter than you had anticipated.

If you don’t use these activities, you can always tuck them away in your sub file to use when you are sick or file them away to use during the first week of school next year. 

Now, I know that I’ve given you a lot of information, but taking the time to set up your classroom community in a way that students know how to be successful will keep you well organized throughout the year and help to minimize stress, and will set you up for success throughout the year.

I know that you can do this, and I am SO excited to hear about how your first week of planning is going and how it all went.

Just a Note: If you are getting great value from this podcast and blog, please go ahead and leave me a positive review in iTunes. I love to hear from my listeners and I am very grateful for your feedback! Just click here to leave your review now.

Finally, don’t miss next week’s episode and blog topic, where we will talk about how to do some of my all-time favorite activities for your first days and week of school – you really don’t want to miss it!

I hope you have a wonderful week and don’t worry – you’ve got this – and I’m here to help you, every step of the way!

Remember, just because you’re a beginning teacher, there is no need for you to struggle like one. Bye for now.

❀️ Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.

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