We know the first day of school is coming soon and you want to make sure you are ready to rock and roll on day number one. A smart teacher once told me that the goals of a full day of Kindergarten are simple: feed them and get them home. So let’s break down the must-dos for the first day! Let’s dive into the must-dos for the first day of kindergarten.
Must do 1- Give them something right off the bat
The first must-do for the first day of kindergarten begins when your students walk in the door. They will have their book bag, supplies, and a million questions. Scratch that… their parents might let the kid have their own book bag but those parents have supplies and a million questions. This is a tough moment. Please make sure you look into the faces of each student to greet them and address them by their name. Have something on the table to grab their attention and keep it for a few minutes.
My favorite table attention span capturing activity is math manipulative. I like to place a different types at each table like farm animals, mini motors, fruit counters, backyard bugs, and more! Since we use these regularly in the classroom, now is a great time to get students interested in them and get their minds off their tearful parents who are hopefully about to leave.
Must do 2- Make sure they have their name labeled… and how they are going home.
Second, premake a name tag for each child. Include their name and how they are getting home THAT day. If they are a bus rider, I like to add the address they are going to ON their name tag since most Kinders can not recite their address on demand. I put each name tag down at their seat for when that student joins the classroom. When I greet my new little loves, by name, of course, I add their name tag to them and double-check the information with their parent.
I do place the name tags on their front shirt and ask them not to remove them. If they do remove it, I attach it to their backs. This is a great double-check for transportation at the end of the day and it really helps me to learn their names quickly.
(Sidenote… color coding students with transportation is a huge MUST do as well! These Avery Labels are great for color coding. Give all the car riders one color name tag, then bus riders a different color.)
Must do 3- Double check how they are going home
Next, since I have each family fill out a Google Form for their initial information, I usually know how all the students are going home, but there is usually ONE student who shows up the day of without an address and without a way to get home. When in doubt, let the office know the situation and ask them to help find the correct way home for that child.
This is equally true if the students’ emergency consent cards contradict what a parent has written down. Ask the office for help.
I also make a chart for transportation needs that remains by the classroom door BEFORE the students arrive on day one. There is one list for the first day of school and another for every other day. I also ask each family to write in their child’s agenda how their student is supposed to go home. In my school, a parent can not verbally tell you a transportation change, therefore it MUST be written down.
Must do 4- Dry the tears… from the parents too
I usually have a least one crier… and I don’t mean just the students. (I mean, it is their first day of Kindergarten!) This is a hugely emotional moment for the parents as well. They take tons of pictures and videos! This is hard. (I know because I am sending my littlest to PreK this year and I am about to cry myself.) Reassure each student that you are there for them. Reassure each parent you are there for their child.
Our PTSO has a Tissues and Tea to introduce Kindergarten families to our school AND to get them out of our rooms. Additionally, our administration comes around to get parents gently out so we can begin our day.
Must do 5- Go to the potty often
Next, most of the students in your classroom are used to going to the bathroom whenever they want to and this usually means they are not used to waiting even for one moment to get there. At my school, we do not have bathrooms inside the classrooms and we only have one LARGE 14-stall bathroom on each floor! This means we do NOT go to the bathroom whenever we want to; rather, we have a schedule.
To avoid potty accidents and get your students trained on trying to go before they have to go, take your class to the restroom often. I always take my class before AND after we go anywhere like computers, PE, lunch, and recess. It is just needed. Soon they will all get scheduled and adjusted to the routine, but until then… go often.
Must do 6- Keep all activities short and sweet
Moreso, a huge must-do for the first day of school is lots and lots of short and sweet activities. You will spend so much time teaching the class procedures and locations of things that actual teaching and learning time needs to be short and sweet. I like to check out who can write their name, which hand they write with, and if they can track me in the classroom as I move around. And I also like to see their attention span. Can they listen while being read to for a small chunk of time? Check out this freebie First Day of School Art Activity as well as these Back to School Math Activities.
Must do 7- Lots of songs
Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle, Wiggle. That is how you will get through the day. I highly suggest loading some fun learning songs onto Go Noddle to use for the first day of school. (You can read how to do that here.) These songs can be educational and get that extra energy out at the same time.
Must do 8- everyone gets a first-day praise
Every single student needs an affirmation from you on the first day of school. As they leave, look them in the eye and tell them something great they did that day and how you can’t wait to see them the next day. I also place a praise sticker on each child’s agenda for their parents. Because I can’t say that I have a moment to hand write a note in each agenda, I most likely don’t get to slip to the restroom for myself! Instead, I make sure I have an Avery Label placed on each agenda ahead of time. If you LOVE the look of these learning labels, you can grab them here. I use the Fall set for the First Day of School label.
Must do 9- Count
Count the kids. Count the kids all the time. Count whenever you leave a location as well as when you get to a new location. The same is true for you leave the lunch room or playground. Count, Count, Count, Count, Count.
Must do 10- Don’t expect the day to be perfect
Finally, the biggest must-do for the first day of kindergarten is to remember the goal: feed them and get them home. If you do those two things, you are having a good first day. And if you get to everything else on this list, that is GREAT. The first day isn’t going to be perfect. And that is fine!
Don’t forget to check out my webinar for New to Kindergarten teachers on my Sharing Kindergarten Facebook page by clicking here.
There is a FREE “cheat sheet” you can grab here.