I doubt I'm the only NQT who is feeling a little nervous about the next few weeks ahead of us. Planning and preparation for school placement used to consume my free time last year, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little anxious thinking about starting it all again. Like I'm sure most NQT's are feeling, whether starting in mainstream or a position in learning support/resource/special class, starting school this time round like a whole other ball-game in comparison to school placement. The first day of school placement you could chat to your co-operating teacher about the class, what they want you to teach etc.,. This time round you're the class teacher, and if you're anything like me, you probably feel like college hasn't adequately prepared you for planning for the year ahead. The good news is, college has actually prepared us, you're going to have an unbelievable year with the children and planning won't be that bad. Chances are your colleges will support you in any way they can (every teacher has to do the DIP, and in my own experience, most teachers will help each other out in any scenario or planning fiasco). If you are worried though, this blog post has ideas for the first few days of school to help you get to know your class before planning for the year ahead!
First Few Days of School:
First things first- names! Bring your class in from where they line up for school and get them into their seats straight away. I'm going to let my class sit where they like for the first day, it will let me see pretty quickly who's friends with who/ who work's well together/who doesn't work well together. I plan on leaving a sheet of paper on their desk and getting them to make name tag labels for their desk. I'll demonstrate how to do this first, and while the children make theirs I'll circulate and see how the groups are working while trying to get to know the children. Once everyone has finished, I'll get the children to introduce themselves with a few ice-breaker games (a quick google and you'll find loads of these game ideas), before I introduce myself. I think it's important for the children to know a little bit about me, my likes and dislikes and hobbies etc.,. I think this helps develop a good raport and working relationship. Before break time, I'm going to give the children a little slip of paper where they can write their name and who they would like to sit beside. I will tell them to keep the name of the person that they're writing on the paper a secret, but I'll try make it possible for them to sit together. To be honest, the purpose of this exercise is to see which children are more/less popular than others. I tend to use my class list and put a tick beside each childs name as their name gets mentioned on a child's slip of paper. I you're new to a school/class, this exercise will enable you to get a very good picture of who is friends with who in the class and who the "groups" of friends are in the class. I'll be using this exercise to organise my seating and class groups for the first few weeks of school.
Establishing rules and procedures is so important for the first few days of school. I've made up a PowerPoint presentation on what I expect and how we can ensure our behavior stays on point. In this PowerPoint, I've included snipets and images from the school's own Code of Behaviour Policy. I plan on discussing it with the children, getting them to talk about it in groups, and telling me what it means in their own words. This way- it is clear what is expected and there can be no confusion. I want the children to work in groups and create a concept map on what they think a great classroom has and and another one on what they would expect a group teacher to have. These concept maps will be the basis on what our class rules will be. Together, we'll discuss the groups ideas together and draw up a list of class rules. Instead of getting the children to sign a class rule contract, I usually get them to trace and cut out their hand on colourful paper. Their cut-out hand can be attached to the contract and this acts essentially as a signature from the child to promise to put their best foot forward in the class for the rest of the year. I have a general classroom management strategy in place with the older classes (blog post to follow). I plan on explaining it to the children and asking for the input on things we could change or add to it to make it more suitable to the class.
I haven't labeled any of the children's copies yet. I have fourth class so I feel they can do this themselves. In saying that, I will spend some time explaining where will we keep our books and copies, standard of work expected, where completed work will be left, and daily procedures for checking homework. Again, this might take some time, but it will be worth it in the long run. I do think children should be given an opportunity to discuss these procedures and say them back to you in their own words- it allows you as a teacher to check for clarity and understanding and ensure everyone is on the same page.
That's a brief overview on what I plan to get up to the first day of school anyway, it might not seem like a lot, but I really want to make sure I know the children well from day one. The better I know the children, the better I feel I'll be able to plan for their needs. This is important to me anyway, though all teachers are different. When you know what the children like or what they're into, you can plan around this to optimise engagement and facilitate differentiation. Your plans more than likely won't be expected to be done until mid-September, so spend the first few days getting to know the children as best as you can before diving into it!
Here's a few more ideas for exercises to do with the children over the first few days:
- English- My summer recount writing
- English- All about me writing piece
- English- Acrostic poem about going back to school
- SPHE- exploring the key to friendship and resolving conflicts
- Gaeilge- Mé Féin/ ag dul siar
- P.E- co-operative games
- Art- Van Gogh, self-portraits, how we see ourselves
- Maths- lots of revision games. Photo copy some pages from their maths book the year before to assess where the children are at.
- Music- pick a class song, learn to sing it together.
I'm not an expert, but I am organised and have put a lot of thought into how I would like the first few weeks of school to be (smooth I hope!). I hope you found this blog post helpful! And remember, don't forget to smile- this is going to be the most exciting year yet!