The first few weeks of school are crucial for SO many reasons. There are a lot of important things that need to happen starting the moment you meet students. Do you know what’s not a top priority though? Curriculum. Are you shocked? In this post, you will learn about why I hold off on curriculum and what I do instead.
First Week Priorities
If I don’t dive right into curriculum, what am I doing? Below you’ll find a list of my top priorities during those first crucial weeks of school with students.
Teaching Routines and Procedures
Building a Social Emotional Foundation
Helping Students Feel Welcomed and Loved
During those first couple weeks, our class spends A LOT of time setting up our classroom norms and expectations of what we want our classroom to be like. We begin to get used to the idea of how we are a FAMILY. One way we strengthen this idea is by reading Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen. We do activities that align with this book to help us create our family foundations. Having your classroom be a welcoming family doesn’t just happen, it takes A LOT of work up front to set it up for success for the rest of the year together, but it’s so worth it to do that work.
Building Relationships and Making Connections
In my opinion, this is one of the most important things you will spend your time on at the beginning of the year. This is how you will get that class family vibe. You’ll set the foundation and expectations on how students will respect you and all their peers. How do you make this happen? With a little bit of team building, some connection circles, and important social emotional topics, you will have that amazing tight knit community of learners who thrive.
This is the backbone of your classroom. It is one of the most important tools with classroom management. Want more ideas on how to build this piece? Check out THIS post FULL of great team building, relationship building, and connecting ideas!
Teaching ALL the Things
One of the most helpful hacks I’ve learned when teaching expectations is to teach students exactly what it looks like and sounds like for EVERY procedure. This lets them know precisely what is expected and don’t be afraid to hold your students to a high standard. When you practice, you make sure that EVERY SINGLE STUDENT is following the expectation. That way your year is a BREEZE with students, because they know EXACTLY what it looks and sounds like when they are totally on point.
Spending time creating rules WITH students, teaching ALL those routines and procedures, and of course setting high expectations for EVERY student to follow, is a recipe for success. Below you’ll find slides to help students learn about those procedures and of course practice, practice, practice! Creating anchor charts with student images is another great tool that helps students see exactly what they should be doing and motivates them to continue working hard to meet those expectations!
Go Slow to Go Fast
One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever learned during my teaching career is, “Go slow to go fast” and it means just that. Take your time building those expectations and spending ample time to practice, practice, and more practice. If you dedicate the first few weeks to slowly introducing students to ALL the routines and expectations for every procedure, the rest of your year will fly by because students will know EXACTLY what to do.
I can hear some of you saying, “ Yeah but I don’t have time for that, I have a ton of curriculum to cover.” Or “My admin wants me to start teaching curriculum ASAP.”
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to STOP those thoughts, take a deep breath, close the door, and do what’s best for you and your students. It may be challenging to be that bold but it WILL pay off. I have been told by many principals that my class runs like a well oiled machine and sometimes it even looks like I’m not even in the room. This isn’t a magic trick, it’s simply taking A LOT of time at the beginning of the year to set these practices up. So no matter how much curriculum there is, or what your admin is saying, taking this time is important and makes a world of difference for the ENTIRE YEAR. Let me help make it easy with the Teaching Timeline that will help prep starting from a month before school begins through the first six weeks of school. Grab yours below!
Grab this free resource now!
Social Emotional Foundation
Just like we need to spend time teaching rules and routines, we also need to lay a solid foundation for important social emotional topics in the classroom from day one. These topics include things like how to be a good friend, how to solve problems, and how to calm down when emotions feel so big. These will also serve as the backbone of your classroom and how to help your classroom almost run itself. So how do we get these up and running? Check out this post HERE as well as the GROWING Social Emotional Bundle below!
Make Back to School a BREEZE
Some of my favorite tools to help make the first weeks of school a BREEZE are my survival guide and first week of school kit! The Beginning of the Year Survival Guide is packed with thought provoking questions to make a back to school plan for the first six weeks of school. It breaks down the planning process into the ‘Big Three’, designing your classroom setup, outlining ideas for your classroom community, and of course deep diving into your classroom management piece. You can grab this newly published book HERE, or if you prefer a more interactive version, check out the Building a Student Centered Classroom course found HERE!
The first week of school kit is another resource that is sure to make back to school a breeze! During this week I tend to over plan so that there is NEVER down time and students are focused on learning about ALL the things that will make our classroom into what it will be. But YOU don’t have to do the overplanning because I’ve already done it for you!. With the First Week MEGA Bundle, you will have EVERYTHING you need so that you can have fun and get to know your students without the stress and anxiety. We’re talking jam packed lesson plans, engaging activities, and procedures to teach all in one convenient bundle for you to grab, print, and go. Check it out HERE!
I really hope you enjoyed learning about how to focus some of your energy for back to school during those first few weeks of school! Dash over to my store and grab the First Week Kit to help support ALL your needs. Don’t forget to subscribe to my email list! Not only will you get the most up to date tips, tricks, and classroom projects… and of course more fun FREEBIES including Back to School Teaching Timeline FREEBIE! You will also have exclusive access to tons of digital how-to videos! If you would like to learn about this and other things happening in my classroom follow me @sweetnsauerfirsties on Instagram.
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