Hi friends!! How are you?!?!? I feel like I’m finally recovered from Vegas after several days of resting! It was seriously amazing being with my closest friends, but there’s nothing quite like being home with Keith, Tucker, and my bed! The week was amazing, exhausting, incredible, hard, scary, wonderful, and so many other things. I, for SURE, would not have made it through without Latoya, Jess, and Christina. They are my life-line through so many of life’s ups and downs and I am so very, very thankful they were with me through the week!
Today, I wanted to talk about the most important things we can teach our littles during the first week of school. Now, I KNOW the importance of routines. I know how critical it is to teach them how we expect them to line up, come in the morning, where to turn things in, etc. BUT, I feel like there are things even more important that can set the tone for the rest of the year.
Now, I am certainly no expert. These are the things that are most important to me, but I can’t wait to hear what you think is important!
This is one we can probably all agree on! 🙂
Of course, we want our kiddos to do their best! But I think it’s SO important to establish this on the very first day of school. Things as simple as the coloring page you have waiting for them that first morning can be a teachable moment. We have to teach them that not being good at something is okay, but being lazy is NOT. They will always be expected to do their best. I LOVE Maria at Kinder-Craze’s saying for this. Do it right or do it twice! I can’t find her original post, but I KNOW I saw it there, haha!
I want my firsties to know that learning is hard work! Thinking is hard work! And that’s okay! I try to make sure I am giving them challenges super early on, so that they quickly catch on that we will be challenged A LOT. We come to school to do so many things, but most importantly, we come to school to LEARN. I try to constantly model this through my own thinking. “Oh my gosh…this is a really hard word! What could I do to solve it?!” is something I try to throw in my read-alouds. Don’t give them “easy” tasks those first few days just to keep them busy…give them CHALLENGING tasks!
I am a huge believer in teaching your kiddos about mindset, and being intentional about the way I say and do things to promote a growth mindset. I want them to know that we will practice things a LOT and each time, we will get a little better. This one goes right in line with all of our classroom routines! They need to practice those enough until they only rely on muscle memory to do them! 🙂
From the very beginning, it is absolutely important to be that they know I care about what they think, feel, want, need, etc. I WANT their input. There are so many great conversations to have in the first few days to build this type of community. But I think the most important thing to do is to listen. Try to spend a few times with each of your sweeties individually. My very best friend, Brittany, spends the first few weeks eating lunch with each one of her kids. What an incredible way to build relationships and show them that you care about them, and just LISTEN to their little hearts and minds.
I talked about this one a little bit already, but I love teaching my kiddos about their brains! The book Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain is an incredible tool for this. It’s pretty lengthy, so not the best read-aloud for reading it straight through, but it’s perfect for Morning Meeting or to start discussions. Christina has an amazing video about her kids talking about dendrites. She is seriously my teaching hero.
Truly, this is the ONE rule that is most important to me. If we can teach them to be kind, everything else will fall into place. The first week can be SO full of emotion for little ones (and us!) and we HAVE to expect them to act with kindness, even when they’re sad, or angry, or tired! There are so many amazing read-alouds and lessons about kindness in the classroom. But I make sure that if I teach them anything about my expectations that week, it’s that I expect them to be kind. We will spend a lot of time modeling and role-playing so they know exactly HOW to be kind, too. But , to me, this is the foundation of a caring classroom.
I know there is so much packed into First Grade…math, science, social studies, writing, etc. And they are ALL important. But I believe that the most important thing kinder and 1st grader teachers do is teach a love of reading, and teach our kiddos how to read to find information. If our kiddos know how to USE books to find information, they can learn so much science on their own! So, the first week, we spend a LOT of time reading. They don’t have much stamina (if any) so it may only be for a few minutes at a time. But I will read to them a lot, and I will also expect them to read. For some, this might be their first exposure to independent reading. And that’s okay! They don’t have to be strong readers yet…they may not have any strategies at all. But they will learn that our reading time is precious, and we will do it every, single day!
I believe that a loud classroom is a happy classroom, haha! 90% of our day is spent working together, sharing our thinking, reading together, and encouraging each other. So, those first few days, I make sure we talk about how to work together. I make sure they know that they WILL work together, and I expect them to be problem solvers! I will share more about this in later posts, but they have to know that we expect them to work together to solve problems and learn!
I truly believe that accountable talk is the difference in surface and deep understanding for so many little ones. They may understand how to solve a story problem, but if they can TALK about how they solved it, their understanding will be so much deeper. AND…everyone that gets to hear them explain their thinking will grow too! Very early in our week, I try to get them sharing with each other about what they learned, what they wonder, what they need help with, etc.
And finally, they NEED to know that we are excited. I want my sweeties to feel like I chose them…I chose to be their teacher, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That bond can go such a long way.