Tania K. Cowling is a former teacher, a published book author, and award winning freelance writer.
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The first day of school can be exciting and stressful. It's a big adjustment for kindergartners, some of whom have never been in school before. Other little learners may have a rough start adjusting from their preschool teacher and classroom to a new instructor and environment. Since the beginning of school is so important for bonding, I've put together a list of a few of my favorite first day of school ideas. These icebreakers get everyone acquainted and start the new school year on a positive note.
Before the students arrived at school, I prepared a booklet about myself with pictures that captivated my class. I began with a photo of myself as a kindergartner, and then added other pictures from over the years, including images of my husband, children, and pets. I mounted the photos to individual sheets of paper and added simple captions. After sliding the pages into clear plastic protectors, I placed them into a three-ring binder. This book became Mrs. Cowling's Story, and I used it during our circle time discussion on the first day of school. The book was then placed in our class library for the kids to view on their own. Introducing yourself through pictures and stories allows students to bond with you.
Another variation of this activity involves a packed suitcase. Bring in a small piece of luggage filled with personal items you can share with your class. Consider including your favorite book, a favorite stuffed animal or toy, your favorite board game, your favorite color (represented by a shirt, for example), and your favorite cookie or candy. The list is endless, so get creative with this activity. Take one thing out at a time and discuss each item together.
Instead of making permanent seat assignments, try varying the seating each week. Code each desk with a number sticker, then make cards with the same number and place them inside a container. Every Monday, have each student pick a number from the stack as they arrive. Guide the child to his or her seat based on this number.
Once everyone is seated, do an introduction activity, like a song or chant from the desks, where everyone says their name. This weekly arrangement encourages kids to meet new friends, and work and play cooperatively.
On the first day of school, my students would complete a "Who Do You See?" work sheet. We started by reading the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle. After the story, I passed out a work sheet where the students would insert their first name into a passage from the book. For example: Matthew, Matthew, Who Do You See? Then I invited the kids to draw a self-portrait and, at the bottom of the page, finish the phrase by writing the name of their neighbor or friend in the class: "I see Kyla looking at me!"
Here's a creative way to familiarize your kiddos with their new school. Take the rhyming game "Going On a Bear Hunt" and convert it into a school tour. Start with a steady clapping of the hands and then echo the chant together. I took the kids in a line around the school while we chanted. If you can't take a literal tour, show pictures of the school rooms during this exercise. Here's an example of our Bear Hunt chant:
Here we're at The Learning Center
We're going to learn and have fun.
I see the music room.
What do we do there?
We sing songs, la, la, la, la, la
I see the lunch room.
What do we do there?
We eat our sandwich and chips,
Yum, yum, yum!
Continue with verses that are appropriate for your school.