Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to School Series- Part 2 {Planning the First Three+ Days}

     The classroom is setup, the room is clean, tidy, and organized. The first bell of the first day of school is only minutes away. Remember that feeling? (Those new teachers, just wait, it is an amazing feeling!). And then you realize that you haven't planned a good ice breaker activity. (Now to finish like a beginning writer in 6th grade) and then you woke up! The End!

Okay...okay... That was a bit dramatic, but I wanted to drive home the point that you need to have a great plan in place for the first three days! Why three? I can't tell you that exactly, other than that is what I have found gets me into my groove. Also, because those three days are not a typical schedule in my classroom. I am able to, over those three days, slowly and methodically channel my students into a schedule that they hit the ground running with on the 4th day. Magic? Nope. Experience? Yup! This will be my 14th year of teaching. I think, THINK, that I am starting to get a grip on it.

Let me kind of show you my first three days. Nothing set in stone, and each year I tweak it a little to match the incoming class. (This year will be different because it is the first time in 9 years that I won't know my students at all- I just moved schools).

DAY 1-
*Students come to class and have an activity that has them scour the room. It's like a scavenger hunt. They have to look at the rules, the lunch calendar, find where the pencil sharpener is, etc.
*Once the bell rings, I have the students take their seats. I introduce myself and talk about what they can expect, what I expect, and the awesome activities we are going to do (like make pyramids, cell models, dance festival, and more- I REALLY build this part up!).
*Next we have the "You are big kind now and you stink, so shower and wear deodorant." Yup, I say it just about like that. They giggle and get embarrassed, but it is an important part of our first day!

Then we go outside and do a team building activity. I do about 4 outdoor team building activities on the first day. The students are used to being outside and in unstructured time. I keep that in mind as I plan out these first few days.

Once we come in, I do a math game or a science game...some academic topic, but in game form. This gives me a chance to find out about what they can and can't do.

The day continues in this fashion. Learning and team building activities mixed with a review of the rules (which I choose, and the students DO NOT help make), and we practice our attention signal, we practice lining up, walking down the hall, AND, fire drill line-up. I time them to see how fast they can do it correctly. If they run, shove, push, or goof off, I add time to their score. I keep track for the whole year and challenge them to get better with each drill!

Phew.... Okay, so that is the basic day.
But, I always, let me repeat, ALWAYS have about 5 extra activities planned. Maybe it won't take the 30 minutes I scheduled to explain how to use my library on the first day, and now I have 15 minutes. ROOKIE MISTAKE ALERT! DO NOT JUST LET THEM HAVE FREE TIME THE FIRST MONTH OF SCHOOL! NO NO NO!

This is where you pull out your extra activities. I have a couple fun free ones in my Teachers Pay Teachers shop you can check out, like my Meet Your Classmates. A fun and interactive activity. Click HERE to check it out.

Day 2-
I do several of the same TYPES of activities. I only go outside 2-3 times. This is where I try to wean them. I stick in a regular lesson (say a writing lesson- but disguise it as a cooperative writing activity about what they WISH their summer had been like). We really hit the rules and procedures again on day 2. I want them to know and know that I know, they know them. I also send home a simple homework assignment, like tell your parent 3 things you learned today.

Day 3-
This day is 90% a regular schedule day. I usually do one outside team building game, and then we review rules between lesson and activities that are geared towards a regular routine.

SO... as you can see, I keep my students super busy and focused during those first few days. I mix in summer type outdoor games, with team building and academic activities, that get them excited to be back.

On Day 4, I do a quick rule review, and then we are off and running in a regular schedule with full length lessons and (more on this later) accompanying homework.

So, there you have it! Mr. Hughes' First Three Days of School Secrets Revealed!

Enjoy and let me know a couple of favorite activities that YOU do on the first few days back!


  1. And when you get into a regular routine, you bring in your guest author consultant - lol. That would be me. And then we get into a wicked awesome writing workshop or writing time. And I get to teach at one point in the school year which is always so much fun. And since school is only a couple of weeks to a month away, I must get my POV lesson organized better than previous years. Can't wait to meet your new students in your new school. Mrs. E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Finally Home, a Kelly Watson, YA paranormal mystery

    1. Ha ha- So true! It IS going to be a great year. :)

  2. I love the "You stink have a shower" comment. It is so true and they will only get the message if you are blunt about it. Another great post for BTS time :)
    Terri's Teaching Treasures

    1. Thanks Terri-
      It gets all awkward for them for about 30 seconds. But it good!

  3. I love it how after 14 years of teaching you are just now getting it. I feel the same way and I'm only starting my 11th year. Just when you think you have it all figured out a student will come in and knock you back into reality.
    I teach social studies. While in groups they have to list out what they have in common with each other. They are so scared... being in my huge middle school, with all these strangers, and then I make them talk to each other. It takes awhile, but it tells me so much.
    Good luck in your new school! It's sure to be an adventure.
    Jackson In The Middle

    1. Thank you Michele!
      I NEVER feel like I "know" what I am doing, because the students make each day a different adventure. But I LOVE it, and I feel I am good at it, and it is fun. :) Have a great school year! WAHOO!

  4. I love that you transition your students from the unstructured summer to a more structured classroom atmosphere. What do you do for the team building activities?
    :) Denise

    1. I will see if I can start a conversation on my Facebook page about this! Thanks for asking!

  5. OMGosh - Did you get a new blog design recently OR have I pathetically never been to your blog before?! (Trying not to hang my head in shame that I even have to ask that question...) I loved reading through your last few posts, and I know I've shared some of these on Pinterest before - so I'm REALLY hoping you got a new design recently!

  6. I just got a make over about a month ago...ha ha. I should have TOTALLY played that up! But no, you are amazing and thanks for sharing my posts. It was such a pleasure to meet you in Vegas. Next year I am going to be aggressive in meeting people. :)
    Hugs to you!


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