September is coming around fast and, as an NQT, one of the biggest worries is always what you should do in the first few days. Somehow those first days feel so much more worrying than the other days, mainly because most other teachers say ‘Just do “getting to know you” activities.’ But what does that mean? What does it look like? And more importantly, what is everyone else doing? Well, here are my 5 must do’s for your first day back!
Set Behaviour Expectations
Right from the word go, you need to know what your behaviour expectations are, and stick to them! The biggest mistake a new teacher can make is to not communicate them to the children. Each teacher has different expectations and you can’t expect the children to know what yours are going to be without both telling and showing them. Some things to think about are :
1. What will the noise level expectation be when the children are working?
2. What will your morning routine be? Will there be early work on the board? Where should the children put book bags and notes from home? Where should homework be put?
3. What’s the routine after break and lunchtimes? Do the children line up in silence outside your door or come straight in and sit on the carpet?
4. How do you expect the children to line up for Assembly? Is there a line lead and how do you expect them to walk around the school?
Think carefully about every aspect of the school day and what your expectations are, and then make those clear from the first day!
Set Class Rules
A lovely activity for the first day is to set the class rules. Not only does this give the children great ownership of the classroom, it also gives you an opportunity to get to know them a bit better, to set your expectations again, and to get learning into the classroom from day one! It also gives you a great chance to observe the class dynamics and quickly identify those children who will take control and those who will sit back. Use this as an assessment opportunity for PSHE and make notes on your planning as to who struggles with group activities and who needs more support in working as a team. This will nicely inform your next PSHE session.
This is a very easy lesson to run. Give each group a large piece of flip chart paper and ask them to write out 5 rules. Then ask them to present to the rest of the class. You can almost guarantee that they will all be negative rules – so it’s a great chance to work as a class to turn them positive and end up with your final rules. Once these are typed up, the children, and you, can sign the rules and they can be proudly displayed on your wall as a reminder for the rest of the year.
Set Book Expectations
Throughout the year, over regular intervals, SLT or subject leaders will request a number of your class exercise books to be taken in for a book scrutiny. Part of this is to ensure consistency across year groups and classes. Part is to ensure that marking and feedback is moving learning on. But another part will be to do with book presentation. SLT will look at:
1. Handwriting. Handwriting is a larger part of the curriculum than ever, and SLT will be looking to see that the children are using or beginning to use a cursive hand throughout the books.
2. Neatness. Books should demonstrate that children are proud of their books and work and that teachers have high expectations of this. This may include how the children cross out a mistake, whether the learning objectives are written and underlined for each lesson, and how any worksheets or pieces of paper are stuck into the books.
The easiest way to ensure high expectations is to make it clear from the first day back. Don’t worry about taking time at the beginning of each of your first few lessons to ensure that all the children understand the expectations and are following them.
Get One Piece Of Written Work
Although assessment is not something you should necessarily be worrying about on the first day back, it is always very useful to have a baseline for the class. More often than not, after a long 6 week holiday, the children will have forgotten some of the things they learnt in the previous year. So an initial piece of writing can help you see where the children are right now, and give you a good idea of where you need to pitch your first proper lessons.
I’ve sometimes found it useful to find a piece of work from the end of the previous year to show to the children if their work has significantly deteriorated. A quick reminder to them as to what you know they are capable of, is often more than enough to get them back on track!
An easy piece of writing for nearly every year group is to get the children to write a letter to you all about themselves. Model this for them on a flip chart and include things such as : what they are good at, what they are looking forward to this year, and something they want you to know! A win win situation as you have a piece of writing and you now know more about each child!
Excite The Children About The Learning
Some of the children in your class may have had a difficult holiday, or may be very nervous about coming back into school, so a good way to help them relax is to tell them about the year ahead. Children love to know what’s coming up so let them know the topics, any visitors or trips you have planned, and anything exciting such as a Christmas Play or a class assembly.
One word of warning though – don’t promise anything that you haven’t got fixed in the diary. If you are doing Harry Potter and would love to take them to the Harry Potter Experience, keep that to yourself until it’s actually booked. Otherwise you may not only have upset children, but also upset parents on your hands!
And One Warning
It can be very very tempting on the first day back to talk to the children about their holidays. Some of them may have been on the most exciting trip to DisneyLand or had 2 weeks in the sun, and they are probably desperate to tell you all about it. However, please be very aware that you are likely to have some children in your class who did not have a great summer for a variety of reasons, and who are very happy to be back in school. Making a big deal of other children’s wonderful time can be very demoralising and set a negative tone for them in the one place they may feel safe.
However, there is a way around this so that all children can tell you about their summer. A lovely activity is to ask the children to tell you something magical that happened that summer – and it can be made up! Model this by telling them the most extreme made up story you can think of that absolutely can’t have happened and then encourage them to do the same. This is an activity all the children can join in with, and none of the children will feel left out!
Have you got any other tips for the first day back? Let me know in the comments below.
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