Many new teachers (or teachers new to Pre-K) ask how to begin the year. The best advice I got as a new teacher was to forget about apples and themes and any “cutesy stuff” for the first few weeks of school, and focus on teaching them how to use the centers and the materials in the classroom. Lessons should be: how to use glue, how to use scissors, how to use markers, how touse paint, how to line up, etc. Don’t assume that they know these things.
Before the First Day
As soon as I get my class list, I send out a small packet to the parents. The packet includes a letter to the parents introducing myself and my assistant with some brief information about our program and curriculum. I include a “getting to know you” sheet for the children to do with theirparents. The one I use is from “Best of the Mailbox: Dinosaurs”. Children color different parts of the dinosaur (spikes, legs, spots) to tell their age, their birthday, and other facts about themselves. I ask the parents to bring these to school on orientation day and remind them of the date and time. I read these to the class the first day of school and let the children guess “who” as agetting-to-know-you activity. The packet also has a “First Day Fears” letter, explaining separation anxieties and some tips for a smooth transition to school. Here’s a link to a First Day Fears Letter from Ms. Bonthuis’ site.
At orientation, we have the children go in another room to watch a movie, while the teachers give a presentation to the parents. I try to keep it brief, so the childrenhave time to come in and explore the classroom. I draw a map on the board for parents who don’t know our school’s arrival and dismissal procedures. I explain a little about the curriculum and briefly go over our handbook, then allow them time to ask questions. I have sign-up sheets on the tables for volunteer time and for parents to write how their child will get home (car, walk, daycare van, orextended day). I also pass out our daily folders and explain their purpose.
The daily folders are used all year, and are brought to school every day. They are used as a communication tool between home and school. Parents are asked to send any notes to me or the school or any money in the folder, and I send any notes from me or the school to them. The child’s work is also sent home inthe folder. The folders we use are plastic with clear covers on the front and back and clear pockets on the inside. I slip a decorated paper in the front pocket with the child’s name, school name, and grade. It also says “Please return daily” as a reminder to the parents. The back pocket has a monthly class calendar. The inside pockets have “return to school” written on the left side, and “keep athome” written on the right side. I put a copy of our handbook and our curriculum in the folder for orientation day, and have the parents take them home and return them the first day of school.
First Day of School Arrival
The first day of school is always very busy at arrival time because parents remember something they need to tell me or ask me, and the children want to wander around the roompulling things out. On the tables, I set out crayons and paper with the words “I drew this on the first day of school” printed on the bottom. I save these for their portfolios. I also put Legos on the table to keep the kids busy. My assistant helps steer the wanderers back to the table to help keep the first day chaos down to a minimum.
It’s nice to have a wide variety of materialsin the centers for the children to use, but this can be overwhelming at the first of the year. It’s better to have less to begin with, let them get used to the room and how things are set up, then bring more materials out a few at a time. I introduce most materials at small group time before I put them in the center. I don’t have closet space to put things away, so I actually do have lots of...