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.

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?

Etc.

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

.

Back to School Workbook

- assesses key skills and learning styles

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.