Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I changed to make my first week a success

Last week was probably the best first week of school I've ever had! My new friends are a sweet little group, and I think we're going to have a great year together!

I tweaked some things this year that helped me have first week success. I used to plan out every minute of the day with story time and coloring sheets and art projects and school tours. None of those things are bad, but I was constantly "on" and by the end of the day, I was exhausted! Plus, I had to endure these questions all day:

"Can I play with the playdough?"
"Can I play with the Legos?"
"Can I play on the computer?"

That's when I realized that all my kids really wanted to do was PLAY! So this year, I LET THEM!! I changed my lesson plans and let go of some of the cutesy activities (not all, but some). Instead, I put in a lot of free play. Each afternoon, I pulled out some super easy activities for my kids to do:
  • unifix cubes
  • links
  • pattern blocks
  • 3D blocks
  • Legos
  • playdough
  • art (markers and paper)
  • toys (old princesses and dinosaurs)
  • computers

Let me back up...Before we started stations each day, we practiced our 4 station rules:
     1. Stay in your spot
     2. Use an inside voice
     3. Share the toys
     4. Work the whole time.
These are the same rules we use for math stations and reading stations, so now the students are already familiar with them.

Then, I split the kids into 5 groups of 4-5 students, and they had about 10-15 minutes to play at each station before we rotated. This was FABULOUS!!!! It gave them time to explore the materials in the classroom, get to know their classmates, and practice their station behavior. Plus, this was a time when all eyes weren't on me. I could breathe. I could double check how everyone was going home. I could give baseline tests. I could sit at a table and just enjoy my students.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to use many of these same stations, but I'll replace one or two each week with more academic activities (handwriting, letter puzzles, spelling color words, rolling dice and counting...that kind of thing). This gradual approach will hopefully set us up for station success this year!

By the way, here are some cute videos we used this week to introduce station rules:

Inside voice...


Whether or not you've started back yet, I hope some of these ideas help you with your first weeks of school!


  1. Great idea! It's funny how we figure out one thing and then think "Why didn't I think of this before?" On the first day I always made the kids unpack immediately when they entered the room (we only had about 20 minutes before needing to be somewhere). Um, this year I just had them all put their backpacks by their seat and we waited until afterwards to unpack. Duh. Only took 8 years for me to figure that out, lol.

  2. Hi Amanda, Glad your first week went so well! You're right, they love to play. And it gave them lots of practice of your center rules. Whenever I introduce a new type of hands-on "play" activity for free choice time, any time in the year, I make it a morning center first. That way they all get a chance to check it out and kids who might not otherwise choose it, learn a new activity. Thanks for the videos, too. We Share Everything is on my list of first week books to read several times, so having the video as an additional read is a great thing. Pin! See you later. Kathleen Kidpeople Classroom

  3. What a great post! I think sometimes we teachers plan only the things we like & want to do but forget the kids are just anxious to PLAY!

    Learning at the Teacher Table

  4. I LOVE your first week ideas and totally agree! I get so hung up on having them do those cutsie things- and basically it stresses me out. I am going to slow it down and try to enjoy and ease into it. You are so right- they want to play! And that is actually great "data" for us- to learn about the kids! :)