Instead of giving in to the stress, we try to find ways to make the beginning of school special for our students and fun for ourselves. Here are ten of our favorite beginning of the year traditions.
1. Journey Through the Year: Each month, have your students draw a self-portrait and write their name on a piece of paper. You can use these pages to keep a consistent format. Let students write the name they like to be called. For instance, Ella changed to Eleanor, then to Ellie, and back to Ella throughout the year so it was a fun way to keep track of that. Keep all the pages and at the end of the year compile them into a book that students get to take home. Your students will love to look at their drawing and handwriting skills from September and how they’ve grown.
2. Healthy Snack of the Month: Encourage your students to pack healthier snacks. Feature 1 snack a month, hang a mini-poster and discuss the benefits of the featured food. You can even read books about each snack and do various follow-up activities.
3. Top 10 Monthly Lists: Use our monthly lists, or create your own, to motivate your students and their families to keep learning and exploring at home.
4. Recruit Volunteers: Send home our volunteer request letter and then confirmation form to solicit much-needed help in your classroom. So many parents want to get involved. You may even discover parents who want to help from home if they can’t come in.
5. Get to Know Your Students: Send home our Student Information Sheet on the first day of school. This valuable information gives you immediate and important feedback.
6. Free Snack: During the first week of school, students sometimes struggle to remember routine. Part of our daily schedule includes an optional snack from home. So for the first week of school we bring in snack for our students. This gets them in the habit of remembering for the weeks to come. Some options are cheese crackers, pretzels, granola bars or fruit snacks. Make sure you are aware of any student allergies before buying!
7. First Day Goodie Bag: To settle first day jitters and to make our students feel welcome, we set up goodie bags on every desk. Possible fillers could be: a “Welcome” postcard, a new pencil, a name tag, an eraser, a small notepad, a snack or a sticker to wear. The students love opening the bags as soon as they find their seats. This also keeps everyone busy and buys us time to greet each student or parents as they walk through the door.
8. A Few of Our Favorite Things: Sometime during the first week of school, read, My Favorite Thing (According to Alberta) by Emily Jenkins. Then make a class book with a similar title such as: Our Favorite Things (According to Mrs. ____’s Class).
9. Take a Tour: After going over all the important information, rules, introductions and drills, make some time to take a tour of the school and playground. This helps new students to become familiar with their surroundings and also gives a nice review to our young students who tend to forget their way. Make sure to point out rooms to which you will be frequently sending students (for example, other classrooms on your grade level).
10. One Time Show-and-Tell: Usually after kindergarten, we do away with weekly show-and-tell. But have you ever noticed how many students still ask to bring things in? Sometime during the first week of school, read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. Discuss the objects Wilfrid has and why they are special to him. Then invite your students to participate in a “One Time Show-and-Tell”. No matter what grade you teach, encourage students to bring one item that will fit in a brown lunch bag. (Send home a lunch bag the day before.) If someone forgets their item, have them draw a picture or write about their special item on an index card to share.
What are your favorite beginning of the year traditions? Let us know!