Returning To School
The first week back at school can be different things for different kids. Some dread returning, some are scared, some are excited, some are nervous, and some don't really know what to feel. We need to be aware of all these different emotions and find ways to help each child feel comfortable and excited to learn. This won't be easy, and there may be some kids that take a while to adjust, but it is a goal that we should aim to achieve.
If kids are eager to learn, it makes life easier for the teacher as well. It can be challenging to motivate and encourage kids if they don't seem to be interested and they resist participating.
Tips To Make The First Week Back Positive
There are many different things that you can do to help make the first week back positive and help the kids to engage in their learning. Here are a few suggestions.
Use games and ice breakers to help kids to get to know each other and work together as a team. This may be uncomfortable for some of the kids, so be aware of this and try to relieve some of the anxiety or lack of comfort by pairing them with someone they know, or by being their partner or team mate. Make sure the activities are low pressure so that they can be fun, but not too stressful.
If you have kids that were with you last year, give them roles of leadership and allow them to help guide the new kids through the rules and routines and be "the teacher" sometimes. Have them buddy up with some of the others who may be feeling nervous or anxious about joining in.
I often had my students write about their summer holiday and all the adventures they had. But, as I learned that summer break is not always a happy time for some kids, and it is something that they may not feel comfortable sharing about in a written activity or an oral sharing time, I made some adjustments.
I started to share some of my summer adventures with my classes and then do a quick written summary example with them. I then gave kids an option. If they wanted to, they could share their own summer adventure. If they found this difficult, they could write an imaginary story of summer adventures or they could write about another topic. The goal was to get them back to writing so I wanted them to have options that would work with their experiences.
Team Building And Developing Positive Self Esteem
Getting the class to become a team and learn to work together, is really important if you want to have them develop trust and respect for each other. There are many ways to do this, but I feel that the most important piece is creating positive self esteem and a caring attitude towards others.
There are many activities that can be done to help make this happen. I often begin my year by teaching about Tigger and Eeyore and how they view the world. We look at the difference between optimism and pessimism and how that can affect our day. I created some optimist/ pessimist task cards that allow the kids to talk about different situations and how they can react positively or negatively in them.
Once we have learned about optimism and pessimism, I talk to the kids about attitudes and how important they are. I use the phrase, "Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?" I like to have this posted in the classroom as a reminder when lots of complaining happens.
Success Words, Bucket Filling, And More
Developing self confidence and a belief in oneself is necessary if one is to feel successful and valued. There are several different things that can be done to help with this. Name acrostics, all about me activities, and talent shields are some examples.
One of the activities I like to do is "success or power words". It is amazing how these words can become so powerful when they are a focus. Many of my students would find things that said "believe" and point them out to me when they learned that it was my power word. I even received a couple of gifts that had the word on them. You can find out more here.
Bucket filling activities are also a great way to help kids to see how they cause others to feel based on their words or actions. I remember sharing stories with my class about different situations that happened to me. One time my daughter had her young children talk to me on the phone because they needed reminders to fill buckets instead of emptying them. They immediately changed their behaviors. (Was it the bucket filling reminder or was it wanting to please Grandma? Does it matter, it worked.)
I like to tie in Acts of Kindness to bucket filling. They complement each other nicely. It is great to see the kids focusing on others instead of themselves, as well.
Brain Breaks And Movement
Make sure to include some brain breaks and movement activities during the day. Remember, if we get exhausted the first week back, kids do too. They have been away from school for a couple of months and they need to readjust to sitting and doing activities for several hours of the day.
Each Day Is A Fresh Start
Kids need a reason to want to be at school and learn. If they have a cloud of negative behavior following them around, it is hard to feel motivated to try again or to improve. It is important to allow them to have a fresh start every day and to recognize the improvements in both attitude and behavior. We would want a fresh start and maybe even a do over, so it makes sense to provide this for our kids.
This has been my policy for many years. I also find that if I don't look into the history of a child or get the low down from previous teachers immediately, unless it is related to a health or safety issue, or an IEP, I get to form my own opinion of the child and they have a chance to start with a clean slate.
I learned how valuable this was a few years ago when I had a child with behavior issues that I was unaware of and after 3 weeks in my classroom, his mother commented that it was the longest he had ever been in a regular classroom. At this point, I did check into his history and I learned of some of the issues, but because we had already built up a relationship and he had not exhibited huge behavior issues, we were able to have a successful year. I did have to make some adjustments to different assignments and allow him to have some flexibility in his learning style, but it worked.
Have Fun With Your Students
Have fun with your students and let them into your world. It is important for them to make a connection with you. I find it interesting to see how they react to some of my personal stories about my family, my pets, and my adventures outside of school. They often have wonderful connections and they love sharing them with me.
Years ago when I first started teaching, I was told not to relax and smile at first. It was thought that it would be easier to maintain control and manage the class this way. I learned that it was better to share a part of me and build the relationship immediately. Kids want to feel included, not managed. Enjoy being with your students and they will respond accordingly.
I hope these tips have helped and that you will have a wonderful year. Next time I will share some resources and activities with you. In the meantime, if you are interested in getting some free resources, sign up for my newsletter.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.