Planning for the First Day of Third Grade

The first day of school is exciting and nerve-wracking for students and teachers. I can remember anxiously preparing for my first First Day as a brand new teacher.  I had run through so many different scenarios in my mind of what I thought could happen. The reality was a lot more chaotic and I was so glad to have planned so much in advance.

Tips and tricks for the first day of third grade by Poet Prints Teaching

In our school, the first day is a half-day to meet teachers, find classrooms, and get orientated.  That doesn't mean I don't have to be prepared.  It's surprising how much needs to be done in four short hours, so making a plan is key.

Here are my most important tips for the First Day of Third Grade:

First Day of Third Grade Tip One:  Have a plan for school supplies.

Every school and district manages school supplies differently. Sometimes teachers purchase and organize all supplies, other times students purchase supplies from a set list.  Our school does a combination of the two.  While I purchase some supplies and am able to organize them ahead of time, students arrive on Day One with backpacks full of pencils, paper, scissors, and all sorts of other personal supplies.

So what do we do with them? Here is how I organize school supplies in my third grade classroom.

On the first day of school, I have empty dollar store washing buckets set out on my bookshelves. During the year, these will be labeled for each subject.  However, on the first day of the year, I label each bucket with the name of a school supply.

  • pencils
  • erasers
  • lined paper
  • blank notebooks
  • glue sticks
  • liquid glue

These supplies will become communal.  I put them in my back cupboard and ration them to be used for the whole year.  Students have access to my back cupboard (I try not to make most of my classroom 'off limits') but it helps to make our school supplies last all ear. 

On the whiteboard, beside a greeting to my new class,  I write a clear list of the supplies that can go inside of their cubby and/or desk (depending on the year).  These are supplies that are not communal.  When students come in on the first day, they take a look on the board, and begin to sort their supplies before meeting me on the carpet for our very first morning meeting!

First Day of Third Grade Tip Two:  Plan a fun get to know you game!

Every year, a good portion of my new students will inevitably walk in awkward and shy.  Even if I have invested time into getting to know the second graders before they left for the summer they will be nervous on the first day of school.  This is where a fun, non-threatening get-to-know-you game is key.  In my classroom, I love to use a beach ball to ask students fun facts about themselves.   Using a beach ball is a great way to get students moving, and to break away any first day jitters.  Make sure that your questions don't provoke any awkward answers.  The point is to allow your students to open up, not to embarrass them!

On her blog, Teaching in Paradise has great suggestions for how to set this activity up, and sample questions to use on your beach ball.  Check it out here!

Beach Ball Questions from Teaching in Paradise

First Day of Third Grade Tip Three:  Have something for your students do to.  

No matter how hard I plan, and over-plan, there is always something on the first day of school that does not go to plan.  (Mild chaos is inevitable!)  I make sure that my students each have a Back to School Workbook at their desks that gives them something to do during the first day (and week) back.  This way, should the unexpected happen (like a nervous parent who needs to talk, or a student in tears who needs a moment of one-on-one time) the rest of the class has something to work on.  

Back to School workbooks  also allow me to gather vital information about each of my students.  They are not just busywork.  With the workbooks I am assessing basic skills:

Can you begin working independently?

How long can you work independently?

Can you write legibly?

Can you form sentences?

Are you able to follow written instructions?

Can you infer?  

Can you make a logical connection between these two pages? 

This year, I made my students a Back to School book to specifically assess their skills and learning styles.  I want to know how they view themselves as learners, and what basic skills they may have difficulty with.  So while this book helps to occupy some students during moments of chaos in the first few days it is actually so much more.

I have two versions available:  one Bible-based version, and one non-religious Back-to-School workbook

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Back to School essential skills workbook by Poet Prints Teaching

 

First Day of Third Grade Tip Four:  Do a project together. 

Two years ago I started doing an Art project on the first day of school.  

Really.

I taught a full Art lesson.  And it was glorious.  

I don't particularly like teaching Art, but I love the way my students come out of their shells when they are working intently on something and being a little creative.  It also gives my quieter students a chance to showcase their personalities without having to be the center of attention.  

My favourite project to do on the first day back is a Lego Self Portrait.  I get the Lego template from Art Projects for Kids and follow the basic lesson from Art with Mrs. Nguyen. 

I begin by handing out Lego people around the classroom.  We talk about what students can see. What shapes make it a lego person. (Curved hands, rounded head, rectangular legs).  Then together, we sketch me!  What am I wearing?  What could I be wearing?

Then students are set free to draw themselves as Lego people.  I love seeing what they come up with.