I'm a little late posting about this, but technically I have three "first" days so I'm not that far behind, right?? My school does Kindergarten Phase In days so that teachers can have time with small groups to test and to teach routines, procedures and foundational skills in preparation for the first day altogether. It's a nice way to ease into the school year, because it forces us to put academics on hold and to focus on social skills and routines. I'm always grateful for my small group time with the kiddos in order to get to know them better, but I'm always antsy to have them altogether for the first time!
Every year, one of the first activities I do is read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. There are SO many activities that can be done with this book and it can really help with that separation anxiety your kinders are probably feeling on the first day of school. This year, we decided to do a fun handprint activity with an accompanying poem - this way families have a physical reminder of just how little their child was on the first day of school.
I can't remember where or when I found the poem, but it's very sweet and I wish I could credit the person who wrote it! I like that it's a reminder to parents that they are always in their child's mind, even if it may not seem like it. The book, The Kissing Hand came with stickers in the back and luckily I still have some left so I put it in the middle of the painted hands! I've used plain red hearts as well. Kids love making this and it's a good way for me to observe their gluing skills!
I like to find new and fun ways to track my students' growth academically throughout the year and I've tried several different types of data folders. I'm excited to try my Kindergarten Portfolio that I created for this year. You can find it on Teachers Pay Teachers! This portfolio really allows students to hold themselves accountable for their own growth - it can be done independently and tracks the same foundational skills throughout the year so that they can do comparisons. It also leaves room for pictures so that they can see how they physically change throughout the year. I'm excited to see it unfold and it has gone very smoothly the last two days.
Since I have such small groups each day, I try not to overload on the academics, but I do try to get an idea of where the starting point for each child is. That's why I use these data folders right away.
Additionally, we focus a lot on teamwork and social skills. I like to set the tone of a classroom family early and firmly. See more about this in my post about Classroom Expectations. On these first days, I do different activities to allow students to feel comfortable around each other and to practice using kind words and positive language. I set up fine motor and free play activities to cultivate an environment that encourages cooperative play. This way I can sit back and observe how students react and engage with one another. This is just as important as academics! Especially in kindergarten! I recently read a fascinating article about kindergarten behavior, how important it is and how it carries with children throughout their lives. Some activities I set up for my kids are play-doh stations, math manipulative stations (pattern blocks, geoblocks etc.) and puzzles. I don't want to give too much structure too early because I want to see their little imaginations run wild! This way I can see what interests to incorporate into later lessons.
One of the other important things I'm always sure to include on the first days (And every day for that matter) are BRAIN BREAKS! Love them! I use a lot of different resources, but my favorite is by far GoNoodle. It's a free website that features Kid's Zumba, Koo Koo Kangaroos, yoga, physical and thought provoking exercises and SO much more! The kids love it because they get a little monster that represents the class and it grows as they continue to do the activities. I tried it out on my tiny little group today and they really loved it!
I love that these breaks get the kids moving, gets their wiggles out and in turn allows them to be prepared to focus on a new task. I use brain breaks throughout the day, but generally after an especially long chunk of academics and at the end of the day while we're waiting on buses to be called. Look for a post later in the year on keeping your dismissal time organized. It can be a crazy part of the day and it's taken a lot of tweaking for me to get it right!
I'm excited to get all my kinders in one room on Friday (22 and counting!) and really get started with the year!