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Character Education

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Digital Learning

First Day Tried and True

So excited to link up this week with a great group of bloggers, sharing ideas on how to have a great start to the new school year! Everything we are blogging about has been kid-tested and teacher approved!

I love this picture! It's my teacher desk! On the first day of school! That's my plan book in the background, totally visible and usable. My neatly organized writing and illustrating supplies are to your left and the neat and empty color coded baskets for collecting all of those first-day forms are to your right. You can't see them. No matter, because in a matter of hours, you won't be able to see anything clearly on the mess I'm about to  make of that desk. Oh, and the foreground? Just a little decorating touch that will never see October. Ha! The decorations won't even make it to Wednesday!

It's strange, I think, how much time we put into decorating our rooms in these days of Pinterest and Instagram, only to see most of it trashed in a very short time. (I'm speaking here for myself of course. I'm sure your room remains pristine all year. Insert smiley face and a few hearts.)

In the weeks before and on the first day, we all plan to be awesome. That impending awesomeness seems to depend so much on those perfectly arranged desks, perfectly sharpened pencils, and every detail being pre-thought and well-planned.

Then they send in the kids! Kids are messy and unpredictable! I'm messy and unpredictable! Giant clash! Priorities change quickly.

This is what my room looked like most days. We always had somethin' goin' on...

What never worked for me? The perfect room. What worked every year and won those new little learners over to my side? Stay tuned!

Here are some tried and true activities for the first day. Activities that made the day more fun and that started to build the relationships so important to an awesome year for teacher and kids!

I always enjoyed placing fresh new notebooks, textbooks, and a few special treats like decorated pencils or four-color lead pencils on my students' desks to give them something fun to do while they entered the classroom, some with parents hanging on and waiting for assurances from me that I had done this lots of times and everything would be ok. Having a whole welcome bag to look through really helped to calm my students and give them some clues about how the year was going to go.

Here's a little freebie I made for you in case you don't already have a welcome bag routine in place!

My favorite read on the first day is First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. I was always surprised at how many of my fourth graders had never heard this book, and how the few who had read it before kept the special secret of the surprise ending all to themselves! Let this be the first read-aloud of many that you and your students will savor together throughout the year!
And whew! What a relief to find that our teacher is just as nervous as we are on that all-important first day!

Another favorite (Just read some parts of it, and your students will beg for more!) is Amelia's Back to School Survival Guide by Marissa Moss. Inside my falling-apart copy, you will find two diagrams: the ideal student and the total disaster. Kids always love seeing  these side-by-side. A great activity on the first (or second or third) day is to ask your students to make a poster (I use 11x18 white construction paper.) of their idea of the ideal student STARRING THEMSELVES. Each student draws a large version of himself/herself on the page and adds arrows to body parts indicating how to be the ideal student. I call it the Ideal Fourth Grader and have been displaying those babies in the hall outside my room every September since the ink dried on the first copy of that book. LOVE!

Establishing the rules is important, and of course you already have your list in mind, but for some ideas on how to get buy-in and how to share ownership of the rules with your students, you might enjoy reading this post.

For a fun way to get kids to think about rules and come up with the important ones "on their own" (with a little guidance from you!), you might like to try this SCOOT game! My students loved it!

For a fun craftivity to end your day and send students home with a keepsake and prop for  talking points, this Explosion Box might be just what you're looking for! 

And when the day is over, and you are tempted to stand in the hall celebrating with your teammates on what a great day you all had, take a moment to savor your awesomeness. Close your door. Turn off the lights. Put your feet up. Spend a few precious moments with just you, thinking about how the day went and prepping yourself for all the awesome days to come! 



  1. I love your blog rainbow city, it makes me want to get some red sparkly shoes and go to OZ! It's soooo happy and delightful. Love the bag idea! Thanks for sharing it!!

    The Whimsical Teacher

    1. Thank you! I actually have a pair of those shoes! Let me know when you get yours, and we'll go dancing together!

  2. Ha! I love the opening to this post with the clean desk and then the real life picture! So true! We do all prepare to be awesome. . .and then the kids come! :-) Funny. I really like your explosion box activity. I just pinned it. Thanks for linking up!
    Undercover Classroom

  3. Great post! My desk is always so neat at the beginning of the year. I really like the explosion box activity. Thanks for sharing!

    Education Electrification