Thursday, 27 August 2015

First Day Jitters: Senior Classes

For the next post in my Back to School Series, I am focusing on tips for the first day back in a middle-senior class classroom. I have divided the post up into four sections: 'Housekeeping' which contains various tips on how to organise your day, 'Lesson Ideas' which will give you some ideas for what to teach on the first day, 'Teaching Routines' which will help you to set behavioural expectations for the year and 'Bonding Activities' which will provide you with a list of games suitable for breaking up the first day and helping the class bond with each other and you.

  • Have labels for the children to write their names on, decorate and wear on their first day.
  • Decide on your table arrangements and where the children will sit before you start the day. In my room, I like to change the children around myself every month, but I let them choose their own seat in September, December and June. 
  • If you do not have your roll book ready for the first day, have a class list to use as the rolla. Keep this in your assessment folder or attach it to the wall, as these lists often have a habit of disappearing in the manic first few days of school! You can also use this list to record money children will give you in the first few weeks.  
  • Allow for a section of the day (about an hour) to collect books. When collecting textbooks and workbooks, ensure they all have names on them (on the front). Make sure you have decided where each is going and have the shelf labelled. Have some spare labels in case some students have nowhere to write their name.
  • Get the children to take out their copies and label these one at a time on the front cover. Write the subject name on the board to avoid misspellings! Emphasise neatness and inform them of whether you want them to write in cursive or print. Remind them of capital letter usage and give an example on the board of your expectations. The copies I start the year with are: one English, one Maths, one Maths journal, two homework (to alternate between each week), one Gaeilge, one Religion, one Dictionary copy (for new words they are learning each week in Gaeilge and English) and one SPHE copy. They also have a manuscript copy for tests, one for SESE and one for creative writing as well as one Science hardback.
  • I get my class to buy A4 display books for worksheets rather than folders as they are much lighter and less bulky. On the first day, they cut up an A4 sheet of paper into small 'labels' for each subject and insert them into the first pocket of each section.
  • Distribute labels, get them to write their names on them and stick them to their Pritt Sticks. This year I am getting them to cut a section off the label to stick to the lid with their initals on it as lids are constantly going missing!  
Lesson ideas:

  • English: Get the children to discuss their holidays in pairs first and then share their stories with the class. Once they have done this, they can brainstorm some things that they did in their creative writing copy. Get them to write a story using this brainstorm about 'My Summer Holidays'. You can extend the lesson the following day by getting them to edit the story themselves and with their partners (self-assessment). This is a good lesson idea as it doesn't require everyone to have a book (books may take a good fortnight to appear in some cases!).
  • Maths: We follow the Brainsnack Problem Solving Scheme in our school. This is a great oral Maths lesson to get children working in pairs and get those brains working again after the holidays! I find Mental Maths or revision exercises in their textbooks a good way to gauge ability levels on the first day too. Have some extra pages photocopied if you intend on using textbooks/workbooks in the first few days.
  • Gaeilge: Start the year with revising/teaching some basic 'Mé Féin' phrases in a comhrá beirte type activity. Teach (or reteach) and model the questions and answers, write them on the board and have a pair demonstrate before letting the class practice in their pairs. You could get the children to interview each other as a drama activity (using props/silly voices) and even record some of them for the school website/blog when they have had some practice. This Chatty Cat Ball could also be used on the first day for oral language games (especially with a very bright class). As an alternative, you could keep your first Irish lesson more basic by focusing on playing some vocabulary games (Cluiche Kim, Deir Ó Grádaigh, Cluiche Mím, Biongó, etc) using vocabulary from the unit/story they will be starting in the coming days. 
  • SPHE: Get the children to brainstorm ideas for their class rules on slips of paper, on a large sheet of paper on the floor or get them up in groups to write their ideas on the board. Once they have all contributed their 'most important school rules', circle rules that are mentioned repeatedly. Create the class rules from these, discuss why each is important and the characteristics of each 'behaviour'. Have them act out each rule to show how the behaviour looks. Ask them to write out and decorate these rules so that they can look back on them during the year, assess themselves on their performance, tell you which rule they were not keeping at a certain time, 'star' it to show they will work on it in the future, etc.    
  • Music: Learn the chant Lickety Split and perform, varying the tempo, volume and pitch. Get some of the children to lead once they have practiced the chant a few times. 
  • PE/SPHE: Play some cooperative games and/or using a box of P.E. equipment, some cones and balls, get them to choose 5 items and create their own game in groups. Rotate the groups around each game until they have played them all. Have one member stay at each station to explain the rules and act as referee. Discuss the games after the lesson.  

Teaching Routines:

Rather than telling them all of the routines/behaviours you expect during the school day, teach them throughout the day/week. Discuss, model and then role play these routines. They may include:
  • How to begin the day: Using the cloakroom, what to take out when they reach their desks, procedures for calling the rolla, checking homework, etc.
  • Toilet procedures: Discuss with the children when they are allowed to take toilet breaks and how and whether they should ask permission to go. I insist that toilet breaks can be taken when I am not beginning a lesson or giving instructions. They may go during written work/independent work or groupwork activities. They put up their thumb to show they need to go and when they go, they sign themselves out.
  • Rewards: Explain whatever reward system you are using and make sure to use it frequently in the first week. Model and practice with them, situations where they might be rewarded. I use raffle tickets to award children caught being good. At the end of the week, their ticket goes into a raffle for a homework pass. You can read more about some other classroom management strategies for senior classes in this post.   
  • Breaktime: Discuss, model and practice behaviours expected of them while they eat, use the bin, leave their desks and line up. 
  • PE: If you are undertaking a PE lesson on the first day, introduce what you expect from them when you blow the whistle, how they should line up, wait in the hall, make groups, etc.

Bonding Games:

Building a relationship with your class is something that is very important in the first week of school. In order to do this, you might find it useful to try playing some of these 'bonding games' during the day in order to lighten the mood. They might also be useful to any of you subbing during the year.
  1. Wink Detective: Find out the rules of this game here.
  2. Chuaigh mé go dtí an siopa agus cheannaigh mé...: Play this memory game in which each member of the class adds a new item to the shopping list after repeating things already mentioned. You can find a variation of the game here.
  3. Hangman
  4. I went to the shop and I bought... (guessing game): Gather the children together into a circle. Explain how you will go around the circle asking them to tell you what they bought. Take three children out of the class and explain to them that when it comes to their turn to say what they bought in the shop, they must say 'emmm' before naming something e.g. 'I went to the shop and I bought... emmm...icecream' or ' I went to the shop and I bought... emmm... a house'. The teacher can then tell them that they did buy that thing. If the children in the circle don't say 'emm' then they can't buy the item they mention. Go through the class once or twice to see if anyone sees the trick, if not, then take out two more children to explain the trick to. Continue as long as you like, telling more and more children or until someone figures out the trick.
  5. Oscailte/dúnta: This game is similar to the game above. The teacher has a pen with a lid which gets passed around the circle. Each child says either 'oscailte' or 'dúnta' while holding the pen. The trick in this game involves not the pen however, but their legs. If their feet/legs are crossed it is 'dúnta' and if their legs are open, then it is 'oscailte'. As with the game above, the teacher can keep telling more children as the game progresses until one of the others guesses the trick.
  6. Deir Ó Grádaigh (Simon Says)
  7. Keeper of the Keys: Learn how to play this game here.
  8. 20 questions: Find out how to play this game here.
  9. Tell the Story: Two children sit either side of one child. They both say a sentence into the middle child's ears and the middle child is asked to tell one of the other child's sentences without confusing the two stories.
  10. Back to Back: They children sit back to back. One partner draws a simple picture on their page. They then give instructions for how draw the picture. They cannot name what they have drawn e.g. I have drawn a sun vs. I have drawn a circle and put lines around it. The other child tries to see if they can replicate the picture as best they can. 
  11. Charades: Learn how to play this game here.
  12. 7up: Find the rules for this game here.
  13. There are lots more games to be found in this document from the PDST
Best of luck to any of you starting back to school soon. If you are teaching an infant class, be sure to check out my First Day Jitters in Infants post for tips on how to prepare for the first day in a senior infant room. 

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