Heading back to school can be tough for any kids, but it’s especially tough for students heading into school for the first time. Even for kids who went to pre-school, kindergarten is a big deal. It’s the first time they’ll be away from home and in school for an entire school day, and it can be overwhelming.
The first couple of weeks are extremely important. This is the time where you set expectations and give your students an idea of what school life will be like. It’s important to be prepared to meet this challenge head on.
You want to give your students a positive first impression when they enter your classroom for the first time. The best way to do that is by creating a classroom space that feels both comfortable and welcoming. Make sure each student feels included as soon as they step inside. A great way to do this is by featuring student names on a bulletin board or door.
Classroom décor will go a long way in making students feel welcome. You want your classroom to feel inviting, so make sure your space is spruced up for the occasion.
Prepare For Homesick Students
There will probably be a fair amount of tears from students (and parents) for the first couple of days. This is to be expected. The best thing you can do is make sure homesick students get involved in the tasks of the day. Distract them with activities and games. The more fun and interested your students are in your class, the faster they will get over their homesickness.
Having some comfort items such as stuffed animals can make a big difference for the first couple of days. If the initial homesickness doesn’t seem to be passing, get in touch with the student’s family to determine what might be making the transition so hard for the student.
Use Students’ Names Immediately
Using a students’ name is an important step in forming a connection. The sooner you start using names, the better. Make sure each student has a nametag visible on their desk. Depending on the school size, you may even want to give students wearable nametags to help keep track of students during transition periods. No matter what you do, make it a point to use student names every time you call on them to breed familiarity.
You may also choose to play a “name game” as an icebreaker. This will not only help you get to know your students better, but help your students get to know each other.
A smooth first day begins and ends with a solid classroom routine. Giving your students a routine helps them understand what to expect every day in school. This can lessen anxiety and help to dictate student behavior. Posting a daily schedule somewhere all the students can see it is recommended. A lot of your students probably won’t be reading yet, so using visuals in addition to text is important.
The start of the school year is when you have to establish classroom behaviors. Make sure students understand how you want them to line up, enter class, turn in work, and how to ask to use the bathroom. Once you’ve explained these expectations, be sure to practice the routines daily for at least a week until students understand the routines fully.
Take Students On Tour
One of the easiest ways to get students comfortable in their new environment is to help them get to know it better. By giving students a tour of the school you’ll ease anxiety and make each student feel like part of the school community.
Take students around the whole school on your tour. Show them the cafeteria, gym, library, and any other room they are likely to spend time in. By the end of the tour they’ll already be more confident about their new school!
Be Open About Yourself
Your students should feel comfortable around you, but that will be hard if they know nothing about you. Make sure you share details about yourself with your students. Why did you decide to become a teacher? What are the things you enjoy doing? Remember that your students don’t know you and you may be their first teacher. Building a relationship in the classroom goes both ways.