Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Secret Messages in Your First Day Packet

The first day of school is an important one.  Make sure your first day packet is sending the right messages to your students.

Most of us do it.  We place a packet of papers on our new student's desk for the first day of school.  These packets have a dual purpose.  They give students something to do as we, the teachers, are greeting and guiding students to their new seats, instructing about supplies, meeting parents, etc. and they also give us some really good information about students.  

But what messages are these packets giving to our students about us?   They are usually our students' first insight into their school year and their teacher,  so the subtle communication they send is important and helps set the stage for the year.  

I just put together my first day packet last night.  I have been using, basically, the same packet for years, but this year I recreated the whole thing.  I wanted to share my packet with you and explain how I use it.  Also, in the caption sections, I added what I hope my packet says to my students.  

The characters on the front are the same as the ones on the window by our front door.  I'm planning on incorporating them into our daily conversations this year.  You know when you need that stand-in name...  like "Johnny" or "Sally"?  Well, we have Jasmine, Bobby, and Adam.   

"We're going to have fun this year!"

This page is full of frequently asked questions for the first day of school.  I put little checkmark boxes for students to check off when we have discussed them.   This page is not only for the students, but it also helps me to remember what things I need to cover.  Throughout the first couple of days of school, I try to get through all of the questions.  

"We have a lot of business to take care of!  Knowing the routines and expectations for the year is important and I want you to have all the information you need to have a great year!"
During the chaos of the first morning, students work on this sheet while they are waiting for class to begin.  When the craziness has died down and the parents have left, I introduce myself to the class using this sheet.  We go through the questions and I answer each of them adding stories and sharing a bit of my life with my students.
"I'm a person, too!  I have a life outside of this classroom and I want you to get to know me."
The goal of this page is to get students talking to each other that first day.  I use to put each student's name on the list, but this year I decided to leave them off and get the students up out of their chairs to talk to each other and fill in the name list themselves.  I realize I have some new students, students with special needs, and some very shy students.  I encourage students to help each other and hope to "buddy up" some of the students I already know with students who are new to the school to help them out.   

I created the word search using PuzzleMaker from Discovery Education.  It is really simple to use.  This puzzle has a secret message that students can figure out after they have found all of their classmates' names.  Our secret message is "Be Awesome".  
You and your classmates are important!  It is okay to work together to solve problems."  
This page give me a little insight into who my creative thinkers and problem solvers are!  Students use this page to draw a picture that shares a little something about them.  They try to incorporate the squiggles (Thank you HelloFonts!) into their drawing.  At some point during the first couple of days, we meet as a whole class in our community circle and students share their pictures with the class.  I collect them and display them on a class wall for students to enjoy and for parents to see at Back-to-School night.  You can grab a free download of this page HERE!  
"I want to learn about you and your life.  I also want you to feel free to be creative!"
This is the last page of the packet.  This page gives me some insight into my students' attitudes and feelings about school.  I am always curious about which subjects students feel they are good at and which ones they think are difficult for them.  This page is a way for my students to communicate to me how they feel about school and also tell me anything they think is important for me to know as their teacher.  I collect this page and read through each one.

"You and your success this year are important to me.  I am here to help you and want you to know that you can share with me what you need to have a great year!" 

As you can see, your first day packet isn't just about keeping your students busy on that first morning.  It is also a valuable communication tool for both you, the teacher, and your students!  Each page you include sends a message to your new charges about who you are and what you believe is important as their teacher, so make each page count!  

Of course you could create your own first day packet, but why go through all the trouble when I've just added an editable version of it to my TpT store? 

The first day of school is an important one.  Make sure your first day packet is sending the right messages to your students.

This packet includes additional pages not shown in this blog post.  Click HERE to take a look!   

The first day of school is an important one.  Make sure your first day packet is sending the right messages to your students.
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1 comment:

  1. Love it. I like how it integrates you and your students.