First Week Back
I have had a query from Michelle from my Starskills Facebook page how I prepare for my first weeks so here is a post! There is lots of preparation that goes into welcoming a new set of children. Please understand what I write is for my situation. This will change with every new year. Your set of circumstances and children are different. Always keep in mind the children. All years of teaching are different. There are however certain things I do to get to know my families and children. Allow yourself lots of time to let the children and families settle in.
I like to get parents to write their child’s autobiography. This will help me to get to know the children.This will also be used in their portfolio.
Before I have interviews with parents I get them to fill in a survey. It includes any questions they may like me to answer. Having these surveys helps me to answer any queries but also address concerns parents may be have. I prefer to be prepared for interviews so we make productive use of this time. Surveys help to get to the heart of matters.
I prepare a booklet that outlines as many things as possible. Recess, Lunches, Preparation for Kindy (please tailor it to your situation). You can introduce parents to the EYLF and communicate how important play is. I am part of a school community so the “formal side” of learning is also addressed. Please note all situations are different and the expectations you have may be different. Importantly the booklet it has routines, how to pack a bag, what to pack etc…. You can edit this to suite your situation. I include our timetable. However one note here is your timetable may change once you know your children. Don’t be bound to the timetable as things can change as they invariably do. Especially during the first week!
First Day Letter & Roster Booklet
First Day Welcome letter shares what will be happening. I like to establish rosters early in order to ensure smooth sailing! I have a yearly laundry and sensory play roster prepared. Recipes and dates are included in my Roster Booklet which I set up for the year but give out each term (10 weeks or so)
Classroom Set Up
Each child has a clearly labelled drawer. It has their name as well as a symbol. Often children cannot recognise their name so this saves alot of time as children can simply search for their symbol.
I have a set of name tags ready for parents to place on their child before they come into class. They have the symbol that matches their drawer on the name tag that will help them.
Daily Mat Session – Name Charts
My first mat session involves the children writing their names on their Name Chart. I like to place this in thick menu like plastic covers. I welcome the children and we sing our name song and children will begin to recognise their own name during this mat session.
First weeks are about getting to know you and routines
Helping children to be comfortable and secure takes time. When they know what is going on they will develop your trust and things will progress. Take time to teach how you want things done. The small things matter. How do you wash your hands, go to the toilet, look after paint brushes, stacking chairs, wiping tables, using a dustpan and brush, where does everything live. So very important. This teaching will set you up for the year!
Observation Name Charts
I like to take brief notes on the first day. My Observation name charts are excellent for notes and for writing what the children’s quotes for their artwork, ticking of children who have completed work and so on. I like to do things once so I will have 50 or more sheets ready to go!
Letter of the Week Displays
Each week I set up a new display. Children will bring in a news item that begins with the letter of the week. I do like this as it provides an outline for oral news. It is also fun to add the news items to the table.
I have carpet mats that I use for each child to sit on. Absolutely brilliant for helping children to know their personal space and the space of others. Love my mats!
Beginning of the year I deliberately have the room with as little visual clutter as possible. I believe it helps children to focus and allows you to draw the children’s attention to what you are teaching. It also helps children to know where things belong. I love clean but add colour with crayons, popsticks – simple things.
Settling In Time
Children that come into a completely new environment can often be very overwhelmed. You will need to think of this and have some extra help in your room :)In my experience there will be some tears! That’s just the parents! No just kidding! Jokes aside a plan is necessary. I have a few puzzles out, we ring a bell and I usually say “Parents are leaving now one kiss one hug”. I have found to keep the process short and sweet will help the children to settle. Having said this thought, this is my experience in my setting. You must understand your community and children before introducing this. Be sensitive as this can be very hard for parents too!
Model, Demonstrate & Act
Children learn best when they are happy. Your work in the first weeks is to establish routines that help children to feel secure. Allow children to bond with one another through play. Demonstrate and model absolutely EVERYTHING. How do you wash your hands, what is personal space?, how do you sit on the mat, how do you pack away, how do you clean the easel when you are finished, how do you clean brushes? All these things are learning but they need to be taught, especially if you want things to be ordered and classroom cared for. Take the time to teach what you would like.
First Week Timetable
Once I have welcomed the students we have our first mat session getting to know each other. After this I take the kids for a walk around my class, playground and school. We will then have a demonstration of how to wash hands and toileting etc… Children are invited to do their first painting. I just sit, play and chat with the children during this time. We read as story and then demonstrate how to find recess, open boxes, sit and eat etc. After this it is outdoor play. After outdoor play, our second session begins. I love to read to the children so we have another story that will tie into table top activities. I will demonstrate a dramatic play area and then allow children to be in different areas in the class. We wash hands (takes longer than you think) find our lunch boxes, open our boxes then play. After play it is rest time. Children are often very tired and may still have afternoon rests. I let the children rest as long as they need and communicate with parents so I know what they would like their child to do. During the first week I will have some sensory play in the afternoon and introduce some new play boxes to the children. We finish with singing, movement and stories. We pack our belongings (takes a long time) and then it is home time.
First term can often be overwhelming especially when you have enjoyed Term 4 the previous year and the children being so independent. It takes lots of time in the beginning so relax, get to know the children and allow the children time to get to know their surroundings, teachers and new friends!
Portfolio Cover : First Day Photo
On the first day. I take a photo of children holding a blank frame. This will become the cover for their portfolio. It is a wonderful memory to see what the children look like first day compared to the end of the year.
Portfolio : First Day Painting
I always introduce painting the first day children start. This painting is added to their portfolio and always great to see such a precious painting!
First Week Back Art & Craft
My Art and Craft is very simple. Children will bring in 2 display folders. Our oral news program follows “Our Letter of the Week” . Art and craft activities will follow our letter of the week and each letter is collected in the display folders. I love that the parents can keep this as a keepsake for Kindy. This year my Alphabet A-Z Art and Craft can be found in the Starskills Beginning Sounds program. * Note : The picture art and craft can be found in the “Letter of the Week Program”
First Week Back Play
My advice here is keep it simple! Take out a few things and organise who will play where. Teach the children where each item they play with belongs. Play takes time to develop. In the beginning it is important to teach children where things live, how you pack away and how to play with each item. I love boxes so i will take out one box and model where it lives, packing away and some of the things you can do with each item. Little reminders about sharing, not throwing and using kind words are also thrown in at this point!
Take Home Photo Album
I feel it is so important to develop vocabulary and phonemic awareness skills. Each week children take home a Letter of the Week word card. Children can learn new words, clap their words and listen to beginning sounds.(Letter of the Week Program)