I recently read a Facebook post from another teacher. Her question was, "Should the first day of school include fun activities or would that set the wrong tone for the year?" I read though many of the comments. One teacher said, "No because you need to show your students that you mean business." My jaw dropped and my heart broke. I don't know about you, but I am in the business of loving kids so much that they want to learn from me.
Now let me start by saying that I am not writing this blog post to upset anyone. Being a teacher is a tough job and I don't have all the answers. No one does. Do what feels right in your heart. I wrote this blog post because the question kept repeating itself over and over in my head this week. I knew I wouldn't feel better unless I shared my thoughts.
I am a firm teacher and I spend a considerable amount of time teaching routines and expectations. But being firm and being fun are not mutually exclusive! You can be both!
Yes, we have to teach expecatations from the beginning. No, we do not want our students to get the impression from the first day of school that anything will go in our classroom. But we do want them to go home on the first day stoked for the opportunity to come back tomorrow!
So how do we balance this? How do we show kids that we are firm and still laugh and have fun with them. How do we get those super important procedures taught without boring the kids to death?
The answer is simple for me. I get my kids moving and laughing.
I play fun music as they walk in the room. I teach my class rules using super funny hand gestures. As I teach a procedure, I have select kids model what NOT to do. We all laugh and then they model the perfect way to complete the task. We do STEM projects that give kids an opporunity to practice group work expectations. We learn pair-share routines that will be used all year and practice by sharing about class policies and what we did over the summer. We practice using our class attention getter, but we use super funny voices.
At the end of the day, my kids know the rules and the consequences for breaking the rules. They know know my expectations and have practiced many of our procedures. But more importantly- we had fun together and they are looking forward to tomorrow. They know this is a classroom where we will have lots of fun.
I don't let the kids walk all over me. I don't throw the rules and consequences out the window just because it is the first week of school. I am setting the tone for the entire school year. This is going to be a fun place to learn. Starting on the first day.
I challenge you to have a blast with your students during the first week. You dont have to do the same things that I do, but find ways to balance business and fun. Show your students that they can expect a classroom that is fun.
If you already had a fun first week with your students, then I challenge you to keep that same mindset as you begin to integrate curriculum into your routine. You can have fun during reading, writing and math!
If you are looking for ideas for fun back to school activities, check out these blog posts: