I am so glad that the first week of school was only four days – the first few days were at times exhilarating, sometimes frustrating, always eye-opening, and extremely exhausting! Overall, though, I felt that my first week was one of the smoothest that a first year teacher could have. None of the scenarios I’d pictured in my nightmares, like kids screaming and running wildly through the room, came even close to being realized…thank goodness!
This year, I’ll be sharing my classroom with 14 (soon to be 15 when my new student arrives during the third week of school) bright-eyed and curious students. Because my school is so small, I am the only second grade teacher and all of my students were in class with each other last year. Thus, this week, I didn’t have to expend a lot of energy on ice-breakers and get to know you games — though I do plan to utilize lots of these types of activities during the early months so that I can hopefully shake up some of their pre-established friendships. Things seem a little bit “cliquey” in my class — there are definitely certain groups of students that always congregate together. Thus far, I’ve been using popsicle sticks with their names on them to randomly assign groups in hopes of getting them to mingle with each other a bit more. So far, they’ve also taken my requests to talk to someone new to heart, which I hope will continue to happen.
We’ve done so much this first week! We started our September read aloud book Matilda on the first day and the kids adore it — they were very disappointed on Thursday when I didn’t read it to them during their snack because I was also hungry! The students have also been great sports during the benchmark spelling and math tests that I gave them to assess where they currently are in terms of second grade material. At my school, we’re also working on having flexible grouping of kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders, so we’ve had our first few “get to know each other” meetings. My students have really impressed me with their ability to act like role models for the younger kids.
My kids had a ball brainstorming our classroom rules. I asked them to picture the WORST classroom that they could imagine — a place where no learning could possibly take place — and we wrote down their descriptions of that classroom on the board. Then, we brainstormed our own rules that will ensure that our room doesn’t turn into that nightmare room. The kids loved sharing the details of their imagined classrooms. We also learned all about blogs and made our first blog post together; talked about the purpose and importance of school and equity while reading The Story of Ruby Bridges, the first book in our biography unit; and spent time exploring the five iPads that I received from my district for my classroom.
The students favorite activities of the week were the classroom scavenger hunt that I designed as a more exciting way to familiarize them with our classroom. classroom_scavenger_hunt and filling out the applications for our classroom jobs. (Announcing that not everyone got their first choice job, however, could have gone a little bit better!) My principal came in to check up on how I was doing during these activities — if he keeps coming in during all of the best moments, he’s going to think I know what I’m doing!
Overall, things have been going really well. I’m eager to start to delve into some of the curriculum that I’ve been working so hard on, but I am also trying to balance that with establishing our routines and procedures, because I know we’ll get far more accomplished if the students are invested in and familiar with how things work in our classroom. I’ll be sure to post some of our classroom community creations and describe my September unit of study — biographies — in more detail in upcoming posts.
Well done on a great first week! Remember “kids don’t care what you know, until they know that you care”- never underestimate the effect that quality, personal, student-teacher relationships have on learning. The ice-breakers are a great way for you to get to know them but also by participating yourself, them to know you (so the fact that they already know each other doesn’t matter)! Keep having fun and keep us updated.
Thanks for your thoughts – your comment about how essential it is for them to know me made me push them through the ice breakers this week, even when they were at the point of “Why do we have to do this?” — they had fun once we got going!
That’s great. I always try to revisit as often as possible but like you said in another comment, “stuff” does seem to get in the way!