As I'm getting ready to start a wonderful school year, I am creating stuff for my classroom, especially for the very important FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL!! Before you read this, please let me wish you all teachers out there an EXCELLENT SCHOOL YEAR! I hope you enjoy all the learning that you will bring into the classroom this year!

Like all of you I have some excitement and jitters mixed together about starting this year, my classroom is ready for my second graders and I promise to post a picture later (yes I forgot to take a photo of my own classroom!!) but am I ready? I feel that us teachers are never fully ready, we are always preparing, creating and designing new ideas, new lessons, new techniques, etc. Oh well! Our mind clearly never rests until we are off to a good relaxing summer! But summer is over and we better be prepared to bring joy and wisdom to every life we touch. If you are preparing, like me, here is a list of suggestions to survive the first week of school.  

The first activity I like to do is an ALL ABOUT ME writing activity. First I start by helping the kids brainstorm fun facts about themselves using my own All About Me sheet that you can download from my blog if you click on this link ALL ABOUT ME, then we write a small draft and everyone writes their ideas down in a small paragraph. At this time we don't edit or revise our draft, we go directly to publishing our draft because at this point we don't want to intimidate anybody right? Also, I let everyone share their sheet and add to it if they want, that's great for oral communication I actually encourage students to find someone with things in common; something I want to try this year is making a graph and although I'm not a math teacher I think it will be great to make connections for skills such as Compare and Contrast or Graphic Elements later on the year. 

Instead of talking immediately about the rules, I'm going to reflect about what good behaviors and bad behaviors look like. I read David Goes to School by David Shannon. I know! You are thinking that this book is not grade level appropriate and I agree; but I love to use this book for my first mini lesson about behavior, besides it's a book that both my english speakers and my spanish speakers will understand. I give it a couple tweaks to make it more rigorous: 1) we reflect about the rules that he's breaking (all grade levels do), 2) we write about it using the prompt "What Would Happen If David Was a Good Student?", 3) we classify good behaviors and bad behaviors  and 4) we sign a student contract that promises good behavior. The next day we'll set our classroom rules (which of course I lead students to suggest my rules ha). You can get my REGLAS Y COMPORTAMIENTO packet on TPT, I include the contract and behaviors we are going to classify among other things. 

We talk about the rules on the second day of school after comparing good vs bad students. As I mentioned before, I lead my students to brainstorm the rules I already have for the classroom hehehe. As we create my suggested rules, we talk about CLASSDOJO which is the system I use for discipline. This year I will let them choose their own Avatar, then we'll talk about the behaviors that I have already set up. What I love about Classdojo is the positive reinforcement system, you can praise the students immediately. After we create a password for every student and choose Avatars, we talk and model my point system which is very simple: Each student has to collect 10 points or more to get a prize from my Treasure Box which is full of assorted prizes from Oriental Trading

In my district, our language department requires that the bilingual classrooms have a Student Generated Alphabet in english and in spanish. There are several ways of doing this activity; some teachers like to post an alphabet and add words with illustrations learned throughout the year, other teachers like to cutout magazines and find words with each beginning sound, teachers in upper grades should write sentences using the words. I like to take care of this at the beginning of the year then I add to it. So we fold a manila paper in small squares and kids write a word with the beginning sound of each letter of the alphabet then draw an illustration for each word.  Then I pick the best ones to display. This activity could take the whole week, so during this time I assess my students individually to start grouping them for Small Groups. 

Labeling your room helps English Language Learners acquire vocabulary, in my case it does the same for Spanish Language Learners. So labels in both languages are very important, in K-2 is important that labels have an illustration, it helps students process a new language. I let my students help me label everything. I give them a label with tape on it, then give them about 5 minutes to go around and stick the label in the right place in the classroom. 

In some classrooms jobs are a privilege, in my classroom jobs are responsibilities. I love to talk about how we are a Learning Community and make sure that students understand that my classroom becomes OUR CLASSROOM once the school year starts, so everybody is expected to help out.  I assign a job to every student  from each desk cluster (4 desks = 1 cluster). Our jobs are: Police Officer, Captain, Passer and Cleaner. Police officers are in charge of monitoring voice levels and keep everybody in their table focused on their work, Captains are the ones that go get materials from the teacher or any location in the room, Passers are the ones who pass papers and materials that the Captain brings to the table, the Cleaner is the one who takes papers to the trash and put away material when needed. Additionally we have 2 Line Leaders and 2 Messengers. My Line Leaders put sanitizer on everyone before lunch, then when transitioning in the hallway 1 goes in the front and one goes in the back, they also watch the line during bathroom and water breaks. My Messengers take stuff to the office or other classrooms. We PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE each job that first week of school.

Although some assume that by 2nd grade students are already Daily 5 Pros, I like to go over the I-PICK chart (reading interests) and the 5-Finger-Rule on the first week of school to re-teach them how to pick a right-fit-book. I still model all the components of Daily 5 and all Literacy Stations in the following weeks but on the first week I focus on choosing a good book. There is nothing better than seeing students actually reading during independent reading time right? so it's actually worth helping them choose great books. If you are not familiar with the 5-Finger-Rule it is simply a rule to count how many difficult words they find in a small text (1 or 2 pages for example). If they count 0-2 difficult words in a page they shouldn't pick that book at all, it's too easy; if they count 3-4 difficult words it's okay to pick that book because it's challenging but not too much; 5 or more difficult words mean that they are choosing a very difficult book, they shouldn't pick this book either, it's way too hard.

These are just a few activities that I enjoy to do at the beginning of the year and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. What do you do? 

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