Saturday, August 9, 2014

Back To School

There are lots of posts about what to do the first day of teaching, but what about the first week?

On Tuesday, I start my 11th year of teaching. Every year, I have the same pre-first-day-anxiety that I had my first year. Maybe more. Definitely more. I liken the feeling to the nightmare where you show up at a place and people are staring at you, and - for the life of you - you can't figure out what they're looking at, that is, until you look down and realize you're not wearing any clothes.

I'd love to say, after having done this for 10 years, that I know what I'm doing. But every year is different. Every child is different. Every year there are different parents and different coworkers and different government mandates. And so, every year, I worry that I won't have solutions to the problems. The teacher will call on me and I won't know the right answer.

To help me alleviate some of my anxiety, I'm reflecting on what I need to do the first week of school. One of the things I need to do is help students transition from 3rd grade and summer to 4th grade and my classroom. Here are 28 things I've done (with the exception of the goody bags) to help students transition:
    1. Teach content the first day.
    2. Make a seating chart.
    3. Introduce yourself.
    4. Write and send home a parent letter.
    5. Hand out a syllabus.
    6. Give a homework assignment on the first day.
    7. Do a hands-on group science lesson.
    8. Teach procedures.
    9. Discuss good study skills.
    10. Teach students how to clean up.
    11. Teach students where supplies are and how to use them.
    12. Discuss safety.
    13. Talk about what students can do when they finish early.
    14. Give an interest inventory so you can find out about your students.
    15. Give a learning style inventory to help students find out about themselves.
    16. Share a list of online resources for help with basic skills.
    17. Hand out a list of good books for 4th graders.
    18. Give students a preview of the kinds of tests you give with sample questions and sample answers.
    19. Put in writing your policies about absences, late work, testing procedures, grading, and general behavior, and teach explicitly.
    20. Let students know when they can talk to you about topics that don't pertain to the whole class.
    21. Let parents know how to reach you (school phone number, school email address) and when you're available to conference.
    22. Hand out goody bags. (I never have, but some teachers do.)
    23. Explain what plagiarism is and that it is wrong.
    24. Discuss the importance of honesty.
    25. Talk with a different student every day about their personal interests. (With 30 students, this has to be done over 6 weeks.)
    26. Assign students to write about the important things that are going on in their lives. (The past three years, I've asked parents to write me a letter telling me what they think I should know about their children.)
    27. Talk about the difference between independent work time and group work time.
    28. Find out about students' time commitments outside of school (church, youth orchestra, etc.).

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