FIRST DAY-Hey everyone here is my favorite theme to do at the beginning of the year. I do “all about me”, because then it gives the kids a chance to show who they are, to their classmates, and their family.
Side Bar- I usually had parents come in on the first day of preschool, first to help the child get used to a new environment with their parent, and also to let the parent find out what their student’s life will be during the next year. I also found that this helped with parent separation issues. I know not everyone feels the same way as I do, but I have found a lot of success with this over my years teaching. The other bonus about having a parent there is that you get to know them a little bit better and get to observe their parenting style: are they more hands on, are they a hover parent, or are they a drop parent that drops off and goes home. One last bonus I would like to make with this first day parent visit, is that all the parents mingle and get to know each other, and it gives you a chance to hand out a lot of crucial information on that first day directly to the parent so it CAN NOT get lost. Those homework trolls like to steel all that homework and paperwork you know. With this in mind of lot of my first day activities will include a parent.
First Day (cont.)- The first day is a whole different ball game then the rest of the week because you have the parent there, but at the same time it should be exactly like a normal day. The only difference should be you have to squeeze all those big parents into your classroom.
(My classroom had picture labels for each of the kids, through the years I honed a system in which I tried to find a shape or animal that started with the same letter as the student’s name, and then I would use that for their cubby, their chair, their storage containers, where I displayed their artwork, folders, where they stood in line, and even their spot on the circle carpet. I changed where they were about 4-5 times a year, unless necessary, but this way they knew where everything was that was theirs with out much help.)
As parents would arrive I would have a table I would direct them to that they would find things like the parent handbook, a newsletter for what was happening this week, school information, contact information sheet for me directly, and an activity or two for them to do while they waited. You know you always have those parents that come extremely early.
All about me Scrapbook page- (Activity 1) For this activity I had full sheets of 8 by 11 card stock that I gave the parents, baggies for holding supplies, page protectors to put their completed project in. Then I also supplied some stickers, ribbons, pipe cleaners, glue sticks, sequins, buttons, and any other dudadds I could find. This was a take home activity in which the parents were to help their student gather pictures and create a scrapbook page to tell us all about their student’s family life. Then I graciously asked the parents to keep them at school so that if a student was having a bad day and missed their family we could take a quick peek and hopefully help with those home sick blues. Just make sure you give it back at the end of the year so they can hopefully add it to their own scrapbook at home, or else I found it beneficial to make this a cover for their portfolio at the end of the year and include all of their amazing artwork from the year. This project is also designed to include the parent and to show how important they are to the learning process. Then on Friday, gotta give those parents some time to finish it, we shared our pictures with the class and we put them in our binder.
Classroom Treasure hunt- (Activity 2) For this activity the parents need to help their student by reading the clues on the paper then let their student guide them around the room to find each of the items on the list. I included things such as the sign in spot, their cubby, their chair, their carpet spot, their hanger for artwork. Then I also included things such as a teacher, a place to cook meaning the kitchen area, where to go to the bathroom, where can we draw a picture for mom and day, etc. I came up with about 20 things. They loved doing it. Another option is to add things on their to ask other students like who is wearing purple today ask their name? Another option would be who likes peanut butter sandwiches? You can come up with as many different things to look for. I generally stick to the classroom hunt with physical things because if you have preschoolers they might be a little too shy to go up to someone they don’t know especially in a new room with big adults everywhere, but if you have an older class of students like, first or second grade, the student search might work for them better, because they can read, and usually parents aren’t present.
Literature- The Kissing Hand by: Audrey Penn is my go to for first day. ( Make Sure to have heart stickers, or Hershey kisses on hand for this book) I was lucky my first year teaching I found this book and have used it almost every year since. My first book came with the heart stickers included in the back of the book.
- How I do it: is after I know everyone has arrived, signed in, got their paper work, dropped off supplies, and got their scrapbook supplies, and did their treasure hunt, I call them over to the rug. Parents can sit on chairs or with their student.
- I ask them to tell me, if they want of course, how they felt this morning coming to school. Some might say they were excited, jumping out of bed, and some might say scared, or sad because they didn’t want to leave mommy or daddy.
- Cover Talk: I show the cover and tell them about Chester, and how he is very nervous for his first day of school, and I want them to listen for how Chester’s mommy helps Chester feel better.
- Read the book, their is an audio book too, if you want to seem techy. I love reading so I always read it to them, and make sure I am asking questions about pictures and what they think will happen next. The main point is that Chester’s mom leaves a kiss in Chester’s paw that he can save for later and hold to his cheek if he misses her.
- Finally, after the story I ask the parents to be a Chester’s Mom and leave a kiss in their student’s palm, and we give the heart sticker as a reminder that it is there. Make sure to review the fact that the kiss can not be washed away when we wash our hands. We don’t want any kids refusing to wash their hands because they don’t want to loose their kiss.
Math and Social Emotional- Graph if you were a Chester, (nervous) a bear (brave), or a bunny (just hopping a long). We talked about how each of these animals kind of represents a feeling. Then we count and graph together and compare, less, more, same, etc.
Gross Motor- Today being a special day we get extra time running outside on the play equipment and getting used to and reviewing rules for the outside and line up procedures. We even play follow the leader to try and prepare for how a line works. Another option I do is to be a choo choo train and take a tour on the train around the play set.
Snack- I use Cheese its scrabble crackers and I give them sheets with their name and they have to spell out their names with the letters they are given. Probably won’t go the best, but its all in the practice. We also review snack time rules
Dramatic Play– For this I stick to the good old House dramatic play area. They are most used to their home as their community, so we need to have them grow from their comfort zone of themselves and their homes, to other areas in their bigger community and city and eventually world, and even galaxy, but I stay small especially for the first week.
For the Rest of the Week:
Fine Motor: Laminated Names that they can use regular old washable markers on to trace, I often use the sentence strips, it is big enough for their little fingers to trace, and they are usually card stock so it holds up better then regular old paper. If they are big enough you can switch it up another day and have them use play dough. Then one day you could have them use magnetic letters to match the letters in their names. One last idea might be to have them decorate a bracelet using the letters from their name, using the sentence strip to help them put them in order. I do as many different ways to work with their name as possible. I also usually do this first thing in the morning as a morning activity that way I can work with kids as they come and spend a little more one on one time with them.
- “Llama, Llama misses mama” by: Anna Dewdney,
- “I’m Special I’m Me” by: Ann Meek and Sarah massini
- “Clifford Goes to school” by: Norman Bridwell
- On Friday’s I usually asked them what their favorite story from the week was and I reread that and discuss why that was our favorite.
Social Emotional: For Social Emotional you could talk about how it feels to miss someone or something with the story, “Llama, Llama misses mama.” Discuss how that might feel to miss someone, maybe it is just not wanting to do anything, or a stomach ache, or just sad. Then talk about how we can make our selves feel better, how did Llama, Llama start feeling better about missing mama?
Gross Motor: I like to work on Body Parts and play Head, shoulders, knees and toes. Here is my Version I use.
At this point we also practice walking. It seems so silly, but often kids aren’t taught the proper way to to walk, heel to toe, how to swing their arms or how to watch out for other people. We practice walking in our own space, and we practice walking in a line. You can never practice this too much. They use this skill all the time, and if I catch them not doing this correctly I take 5 minutes and have them try again, and again if needed.
- Language Experience Story: Rules and Classroom procedures. I take literacy time to create a list. We talk about what lists look like, and how we use lists in our lives, and then I introduce our project which is a language experience story(LES) in which we write a list as a class of our classroom rules. I use large poster paper for this. I don’t use lines yet, because I don’t really expect them to write on lines quite yet. Not this early in the game. The I ask them what might be some good classroom rules, I guide them by asking questions like, “do you think we should run in the classroom?” I wait to see what they say, and then hopefully they say no. I ask why? Then I ask do you think that this could be a rule? I always try and have them dictate what they think it should be. The five main rules I follow in my classroom that I like to get in some way shape or form are: 1. We respect others, 2. We respect our classroom things 3. Walking feet are for inside (except the gym) 4. Inside voices are used inside, and outside voices used outside and 5. Always listen to the teacher. I usually do this activity day 2. Then I laminate the chart and hang it up. If you are saying well these are very generic and open ended, yes, but almost anything I don’t want them doing falls under one of these categories. If they are pushing or not sharing are they respecting others. If they don’t clean up are they respecting our classroom things? I also like to teach the meaning of respect. It is a little more explicit then be nice to. I think kids can learn and understand this very early on. Also if they are not listening to the teacher in class are they respecting the teacher? The answer no, they just broke a rule. The other thing I want you to notice, is I did not word these as don’t do’s or is not allowed, I put a positive spin on them. Kids need more positiveness in their lives. Don’t do’s automatically send a negative impression to your students. Then I use this chart and each day for the first month or two we review them as part of our morning routine. That way it gets ingrained in their minds.
- Practice: Play Teacher Says: This is like Simon says, but it focuses on listening when the teacher says to do something. When I did this often times I would say things like, “Teacher says find your seat.” “Teacher says, stand up.” “Teacher says, line up.” This way I could practice some of our classroom procedures as well as practice listening skills. Make sure to forget to say teacher says once in a while to get their attention.
- Speaking: Show and Tell. Bringing in their favorite toy for show and tell and then having to talk to the class about their toy. I try to ask questions like; why do you like it, who gave it to you, and why is it your favorite?
Math: This is the week we focus on all about me, and what do the me’s like, all our favorite things.
- Graphs: I love graphs, they teach so much, so for the first week we GRAPH everything we can. Graph our favorite food, graph what kind of pets we have or if we don’t have pets. We graph do we walk, take a bus, or drive. Sometimes we can even graph what type of houses we live in. We graph boys vs. girls. For a lot of my graphs I use the small sticky notes and have the student put them on the chart. I also have them come up and color in squares, or put on stickers. I find the sticker dots very useful. The other thing I try to do is what I call a human graph. I have the students line up in rows according to their responses. The human graph works especially well with boys and girls. After doing each graph, I discuss most, least, and same. We also practice counting and comparing the sizes of the charts.
- Calendar: I work on a calendar everyday with my students because it covers so many of the math standards for preschool as well as literacy, and science principles as well. For the math principles it works on counting, and adding on one more. I also worked on number recognition by have a special helper come up and find the number for the day. It worked on the days of the week and sequencing the days of the week. It also worked on graphing because we graphed the weather every day. For Science we discussed and recognized different types of weather. For literacy, we worked on letter recognition when I asked the helper to point to the day of the week, and if they needed help I told them the letter it started with, this I did later in the year once we start to know our letters better. Even more important than letter recognition, the calendar helps us practice reading right to left. The calendar is more of a routine than a math subject, but I had to include it because I feel it was a very important part of our day every day.
- Measurement: I measured each of the student on day three. Then through out the year I remeasured and we saw if we were the same, shorter, or taller. They always laughed when I asked if they shrunk.
Science: Examined our bodies. We compared our eye colors, our hair colors, our heights, freckles or no, glasses or no, etc. I loved doing this because then I would read, “I’m Special, I’m Me,” by Ann Meek and Sarah Massini, and discuss how we each may be different but God made us each special, and we each have a different role or job to play. Then I have them take a mirror and draw themselves on oval cut out. Have them draw themselves as they see themselves in the mirror and encourage them by saying I am looking at my eyes and they are brown, am I going to color them green? You still will probably have a few students who end up purple, but I guarantee, they will be a little more careful and try to match themselves. I usually put these in their portfolios, which I will talk about in a different post some day.
Social studies: We compare our homes to our classroom. We have rules at both, we have a leader at both, parents and teachers. We work together maybe we even have chores and have to help around the home and classroom, maybe you even have a pet at school like some at home.
Scrapbook: This is the time I encourage the kids to share their scrapbook pages that they made with their parents on Monday. I usually do this activity on Friday so the parents have as long as they need for this activity.
Art: The Scrapbook is part of the art activity, because that is artsy. The other art activity that we do is the science drawing of ourselves. Final art project I get in for the week would have to be a hand print project to take home to parents. I do this because it is a nice reminder of their first week and who they were on their first days of school. My favorite hand print project is to paint their hands red and press them down into a heart shape. Then I have printed out a little poem, “