With less than two weeks left of summer, it is time to start thinking about our first days of school. This year is unique for us as we are starting with a full five-day week. This is a first in my 17 year teaching career as in the past if we go back before the long weekend it is only for a couple of days and if go back after the long weekend, the holiday Monday makes the week four days long. This makes it even more important to allow for transition time for both the students and the staff in the room. Those first days are exhausting and so I plan almost all group work for the first week. I also allow for longer stretches of down time and leisure style activities in these first days.
This year, our news-2-you topic (Super Sand Castles) will be driving much of the group work we will be doing in our first week. I have outlined some of the activities in my "Super Sand Castle" thread but did want to note how it ties in to a couple of the big things that I try to do at the beginning of each year.
Hallway Bulletin Board Introducing Students to School: I try to set up a bulletin board in the hallway each year introducing our students to the other students in the school. I like to include information that other students can use when interacting with our students. For example, we include a list of things the student is interested in/likes to talk about, information about what the student is good at or enjoys doing, information about family...etc. Last year the bulletin board was a newspaper board. On the top I put "Extra, Extra, Read All About Us!" and then each student made their own newspaper about themselves. I created a Boardmaker file that they used for an outline. If you would like to take a look at it or use it, you can download "Extra, Extra Read All About Me!". This year I am going to be putting together a bulletin board that has a beach theme. Students will be making booklets that are their "Auto-ball-ographies". Download "Auto-ball-ography". The booklets are in the shape of a beach ball and there is an outline of what to put on each page. When putting things on the page, students use mostly pictures or tactile items (example: a student who liked lego but real lego on and a student who liked make-up put make-up on a drawing of a girl). Seldomly are words used. Some students simply communicate what to put on the project by answering yes/no questions. Cutting and gluing are done as independently as possible. Some students cut by activating a switch hooked to battery operated scissors while the staff cuts.
Decorating Our Ceiling: We have a very high ceiling in our room and its nothing to look at. I like to try ot bring the ceiling down a bit and also give students who spend time in positions that have them looking upwards something to look at. Last year our opening theme was related to flying and so we made kites. We decorated them first by painting them - students are given a lot of options for this including finger painting, brushes, painting mittens, balloon painting (easier to hold on to balloons), bingo dabbing...etc. some students choose to use a variety of techniques while others choose to use only one. After the kpaint was dried students chose what pictures they wanted to put on their kite. Basically it could be any picture they liked. Same set up as outlined above for cutting and gluing. Tails (made of stremers and bow tie pieces of paper) were added to the kites and they were put up on the ceiling. This year we are doing almos the same project but are working with surfboards instead. The decorating part presents a bit more of a challenge because surfboards are solid where kites could flow up and down. I'm playing around with a way to include waves so we still have some flowing motion on our ceiling.
Becoming Familiar (or Re-familiar) With People and Places: Last year I did this through games and interactive books. We had a Bingo game for the people (teachers and students) in the classroom as well as interactive books that had students matching people's names to their pictures and one that was set up as a school tour. I downloaded these books from a Boardmaker sharing site and modified them a bit to work with our class but they are not my original work so I will not post them here. This year I'm trying to come up with a scavenger hunt with beach items that will have students going around the school and interacting with others in the school. I have not fully formed the idea but will share as soon as it becomes clear to me.
Those are three big tasks we do in the first week of school. Other things I really try to focus in on during the first week include:
- establishing routines - coming to the room in the morning, morning gathering time, transitioning between activities, diapering/toileting, assemblies, snack, lunch, how choices are made, packing and going home...etc.
- allowing for a higher amount of recreation/leisure time so that things change slowly - going for community walks, spending more time with sesnory bins, making playdough that we will use in the classroom, setting up the Snoezelen room in a way that the students respond to it (trying different things), setting up our sensory wall and sensory boards (students assist with this and also help with choosing what should go on them)...etc.
- interacting with the students - although this is important throughout the year, more time has to be allowed for the "how was your summer" kind of stuff at this point
- getting to know new students and/or staff - this year we are fortunate as we only have one new student. I find that much time needs to be spent with anyone new to the room in these first weeks and try to set up a schedule that allows me to do that.
- getting started on our Religion project by decorating the front covers of our binders that will be used for Bible projects.
And so with less than two weeks to go, I'm thinking I'm almost ready at least for the first week ;).