Beginning ... and Ending.....
the School Year


Beginning the Year
 Setting Up the Classroom ~ Instead of going through all the work of arranging the classroom and distributing all materials before the first day of school, get the students involved in the actual set-up of the room. Leave all the desks or tables and chairs pushed to one side of the room, and when the students arrive the first day, their first order of business would be to meet in groups to draw maps of the classroom. Then the class can vote on how to arrange the room. Besides being a great community-builder for the first day of school, this activity requires the use of a variety of skills in math (drawing to scale, spatial sense) and social studies (drawing and reading maps). It also gives the teacher a great first day observation opportunity to assess students' academic, social, and collaborative skills.

 Creating Class Rules ~ On the first day of school, have students help write the classroom rules. Try starting out with the question, "Why Are We In School?" and use that list to generate another list of needs, called "What We Need To Do" - this second list can become the classroom rules. Keep both lists posted in the classroom, side-by-side, for reference.

~~ Read more about this idea in "Social Reality in the Classroom." ~~

Another option is to use the teacher's rules, but to have students discuss what the rules actually mean and to list examples of behaviors that support the rules.

Welcome to School Lunch ~ I have a K-3 and at the beginning of each year the students plan and prepare a Welcome to School lunch for the first Friday. They work hard to come up with the menu, who will bring what and what their jobs will be on the cooking day. At one lunch we had bar-b-qued hamburgers, chips, cookies, deviled eggs and fruit salad with lemonade to drink. It was cute watching the k's try to figure out how many glasses of lemonade would be needed. Each group got a math question like that-for example If you get 6 hamburger patties out of a pound of hamburger, how many pounds of hamburger will we need? Or How many servings of chips out of a 24 ounce bag? and so on. One year they voted on Pokemon Mac and Cheese! When the lunch is over, we write thank you notes for the donations - good writing practice. ~~ Susan Adams

 Establishing a Good Place to Be
Martha Hitzel

I teach 4/5. During the first few days of school we read and discuss stories like Chrysanthemum, Crow Boy, and Thank You Mr. Falker. Then, on the 4th or 5th day the kids worked in small groups to brainstorm lists of things that made school a good place to be for them, and things that made it a not so good place. Then, we came back together and shared all of our ideas. The next thing we did was look at individual ideas, e.g. I had no one to play with on the playground, and brainstormed something we could promise to do to avoid this happening, e.g. If we see someone who is alone on the playground we will ask them if they'd like to join what we're doing. I've done this for four years now and really like it. I write up the promise on chart paper, we all read it together and sign it, and then it is posted in our room. We do talk about what it means to promise something, but also acknowledge that there will be times that we won't be perfect and will need to be reminded and it is all of our jobs to remind someone when we notice.

Getting To Know Each Other ~  I was very nervous during my first week in my 4/5 multiage classroom after taking over for a very popular and talented teacher who remains on our campus in a different capacity. Things I did during the week were:
1. I read Chyrsanthemum (I was worried that this was a little immature for this age group but they seemed to enjoy it) and then we talked about how we got our names, whether we were named after someone or if our names had special meanings. I then gave each student a blank bingo board with the name Chrysanthemum as the free space. The kids went around and had other students sign their names in the blank spots. We then played Name Bingo using Skittles as the markers. When I called out a name, that child stood up so
everyone could see who s/he was.
2. We brainstormed things we would like to find out about each other. I then made up a questionaire and then randomly paired students. They interviewed each other and are working on writing a biography on their partner. I will put these, along with a picture of the student in a class book, called Our Classroom Community. 3. I formed random teams of 5-6 students and gave each team a pack of index cards and a box of paper clips. The goal was to build the tallest tower. The teams were able to talk for the first five minutes and then had to work silently for the next 30 minutes. After, we had a great discussion about what helped teams work well together and what made things difficult.

One of the other teachers at my grade level played a game called Knots with her students and it went really well. The kids stand in a circle (I think the number of students must be even). They reach into the circle with
their right hand and grab the hand of another student. It cannot be the one next to them. Then, they reach in with their left hand and grab another students hand. The goal is to then untangle the knot without letting go of
hands. They did it on teams of 4th graders vs. 5th graders and boys vs girls. She says she was really able to tell which of her students were leaders. I may try this one this week.

None of the ideas is my own original but ideas I've borrowed from others. ~ from Martha Hitzel

 Ending the Year

Bookmarks for Incoming Students ~ Last year I had my sixth grade class make bookmarks of their favorite book
that they read during their 6th grade year. I asked them to "sell" the book by pumping up the incoming 6th graders with a few lines about the book and why they should read it. We decorate one bulletin board with those colorful bookmark suggestions.

We then wrote letters of advice to the new incoming 6th graders of what they should and should not do to make it a good year. The kids decorated those advice letters and attached a small picture of themselves. That was another bulletin board.

These ideas kept them reading and writing and proofing while they still had a good time interacting and reminiscing. It was fun listening to the big future 7th graders talk about what these 6trh grade newbies need to look out for in order to survive my class and the 6th grade year as a whole.

A big plus was I had two small bulletin boards already decorated for fall. I just stapled newspaper over the top to keep them from dust and fading. ~ Sue Flaherty

Next Grade Interviews ~ Something I've done is invite some of my old students back to be interviewed by my current students about the next grade level. I teach 3rd, so I ask to borrow some of my former students to be interviewed about what 4th grade is like. The older students get a kick out of being the "experts" and the youngers get a true view of what the next grade is like. ~ Heather Wall



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