The first day of school is something I think about all year long. I think about it on the second day of school, on the last day of school, at the beach over the summer, in the shower, while I'm chopping garlic...you get the picture. Making my students feel welcome while still learning the lay of the land is an art form; my ears and eyes always perk up when another teacher shares his/her first day routine because I feel like I'm never happy with mine.
Since I pull-out, many of my students do community-building activities in their main classroom (I hope) so I try not to overwhelm them with "get to know you" activities during the first week. I tend to put more of an emphasis on rules and procedures, since I only have them for about 45 minutes.
While I do plan to focus on rules and procedures, I am also going to bring in some team-building activities from the very beginning- hopefully some they won't have done in their classes. With my 7th graders, I'm going to do this:
I have a brand-new newcomer in my 7th grade class, so I will modify his directions sheet to say something like "Red"- What is your name? "Blue" - How old are you? and so on and so forth so that he can participate too.
In my 3rd and 4th grade classes, I will probably do this puzzle piece activity.
The benefit of this is that if we do it on a smaller scale, it will take the place of our heart maps in our writer's notebooks. I may have them do it without writing their names, and then see if they can guess whose puzzle piece it is. I'll hang it up in our room all year with a header that says "We Fit Together," or something like that.
After about a month or so, once we're settled into our routines, I plan to use a book called Ready Set Respect from GLSEN to teach some community building lessons. We had some trouble last year with name calling and culture clashes, and this document has some lessons to address those. It's a free resource- just click the link to download it.
Last year our school did a presentation with the tagline, "Be a Buddy not a Bully." Following that, one of my students needed to be put on a behavior plan, so I put this little document together in a folder for her.
This year I'm planning to address those issues from the very start of the year in all my classes with Halle's Classroom Compliments pack. It's such a great idea, and I have the perfect little mailbox to store them in.
My students oftentimes have difficulty expressing their emotions, so we will be using iMessages from the start of school to practice being good teammates and communicators.
For students who need an extra boost with feelings words, I made this little freebie pack for grades 1-5. I'm planning to use it with all my groups grades 1-4, save it in their files, and then hand it back at the end of the year and have them complete the page again.
It includes sentence starters each with a visual for students who need that extra vocabulary help. Click the picture to grab it from TPT!
How do you build your classroom community? Leave a link in the comments to a blog post, picture, or idea!