First Day Lesson Plan and Activities Back to School

Hello darlings!  It's the most wonderful time of the year!!  It's BACK TO SCHOOL!!!  I love meeting my new third graders each year!  Yes, I won't lie, I still love the carefree days of summer, but I also am incredibly passionate about teaching!  One thing I am not passionate about however it WRITING out my lesson plans.  Ugh!  I know what I want to do, so why can't I just do it?  Well, luckily for you and "future me,"  I am writing out my first day plans! You can grab my FREE lesson plan template and first two days of plans here.

My Goal

My goal on the first day is to leave my students wanting more!  I want them to be so excited and eager to run home and tell their parents all about the amazing and fun things we did!  I want them to tell their parents new things they learned.  And I want them to be EXCITED to get up and come to school the next day! 

I don't want my kids to be bored out of their minds learning rules and expectations and sitting in their seats all day.  Just think back to that PD where instead of listening, you planned your grocery list and counted down the minutes until you could leave.  Ugh!!

Keep them Active

These kids have just come off of summer break.  Hopefully they have been playing, swimming, and have been keeping active.  I guarantee you, they have NOT been sitting at a desk all summer.  Please don't think because you use your teacher voice that they are going to stay in their seats and be good little angels on the first day.  They will if you make them, but please don't make them.  Don't make them dread school when you have the power to make learning incredible!

My first day plans (and really the first week) incorporate a lot of movement.  If you keep them active, they won't have time to get into trouble and be off task.  If you do a paper pencil activity, balance it out with an up out of your seat activity.  Just keep some balance.

Always Over plan the First Week

I like to plan more than I need.  That way I am never having to kill time or scramble for something to do.  We often find our buses come late and leave late, so we are always scrambling with things to do.  That means I am OVER PLANNING here.  You will NOT get all of this done.  With all of my plans, remember to take care of any particulars that your school expects such as...

1. Transportation Issues-How do your kids get home?
2. Lunch Count or Lunch Codes- Do your students need a special code for lunch?
    Do you need to take a lunch count?
3. PBIS or School-wide rules- what rules does your school expect you to cover on the first day?
   Ex. Lunch, Recess, and Hallway expectations

Practice Makes Perfect

Or I should say, Practice makes your life easier!  I have not explicitly written out all of the expectations I will be teaching on the first day because you will do it naturally as you go.  As you call kids to come sit on the carpet, you will tell them HOW you want them to come over. And they will practice.  As they line up to take a bathroom break or go to Specials, you will be teaching them HOW to line up, etc.  And they will practice.

All experienced teachers will tell you that consistency is key.  Model and practice your expectations until they do it exactly as you want.  A few kids are still talking when you line up?  Everyone has to go sit back down and try again.  Tommy didn't put his materials away before coming to the carpet?  Don't call him out, just have everyone go back and check their desks.  This will seem so tedious and you will want to move on and ignore the behaviors, but you are telling kids what you will ALLOW in your classroom.  They are testing you right now to see "Does she mean what she says?"  Follow through with your expectations and your class will run like a well oiled machine and you won't have behavior issues.

The first week of school is what we call the "Honeymoon Period".  Your kids are on their best behavior right now.  So if you are already having issues, it is only going to get much, much worse.  Nip that in the bud right now.  I like to think of myself as firm but fun.  Because I am firm and
mean what I say, we are able to have a TON of FUN in my room!
It's also good to note that these plans are really in no particular order and can be switched around.

Morning Work:Bell Ringer

I greet my students at the door each day, Day 1 is no different.  I greet them by asking their name and shaking their hand.  I introduce myself and tell them to read the board and find their seat. (my kids come 2 days before school starts for Meet the Teacher Night. I let them pick a seat that night)  On the board I have a message projected that welcomes them and tells them what to do.  I tell them to hang their backpack on the backpack hooks and to complete the word search on their desk. the word search contains the names of all the kids in the class. You can make one free here. 

ELA Block

I don't stick to my schedule the first day.  But I still have to write out my plans for the different subjects. 

Getting to Know You Activities-Class Meeting Intro
This is our introduction to Class Meetings. Everyone sits in a circle on the carpet. I tell them that our goal is to leave this carpet knowing everyone's names. I tell them that I am going to try really hard to memorize each of their names and I need their help. We go around the circle a few times with each kid saying their name and then something about them. We are all looking at the speaker, trying to memorize names.

Round 1: name and favorite food
Round 2: name and favorite color
Round 3: name and favorite subject

Now ask for students who think they can name all of their classmates. Give students turns to try. I am trying to memorize too. I take a turn. Then I close my eyes and have students move spots and see if I can still remember their names.

Class Attention Getter-Signal

Decide how you want to get your students' attention and practice it until it is perfect. Perfect meaning every kid freezes and looks directly at you and STAYS frozen until you are finished with the directions. TRUST ME! You need to practice procedures over and over and over until they get it right or else your year will be H. E. double hockey sticks! I do this like a game with my kids. I compare last year's class and I tell them, "Last year's kids did awesome with our Signal but it took them a couple of tries to get it right. I can tell with this class that you guys are going to get it faster!" There is nothing wrong with a little competition!

My signal changes throughout the year. You may be familiar with Whole Brain Teaching's "Class?" "Yes!" or with Hope and Wade King's "Shark bait!" "Hoo, Ha, Ha!" Do what you think is fun and you don't mind shouting out at recess or in the lunch room. LOL! For the first week I usually do something about being Back to School. I'll say "Back to School!" and they reply "We're so cool" and then they dab. Yep. We dab, peeps.

Find Someone Who
Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and have students walk around with the Find Someone Who Sheet. They must try to find classmates who match the description in each box. They must write their classmate's name CORRECTLY in the box so they are going to have to ask. When time is up, have students count how many boxes they filled in. Find the kid who filled in the most boxes. Have the class give him/her a standing ovation. In that moment you are establishing how you reward hard work. Do you give them treats and prizes or the feeling of a job well done? [Get Freebie here]

How We Want Our Class to Be

Call students to the carpet and talk to them about their dream classroom and dream classmates. Chart how they want the class to look, feel, sound. Next assign students a partner and have them create 2 rules on 2 different sticky notes. Call everyone back over and have each pair come up to share their rules and place the sticky note under the column they think it belongs in. After that I bring out the Class Promise and I tell them how happy I am that they want to have the same kind of classroom that I want. Read and chant the class promise. Discuss what students think should happen if they break the class promise. [Get the Promise here]

This is where you will talk about your consequences and management system. I use a clip chart. [Get Editable Clip Chart here] To be perfectly honest, I hardly EVER use it. I do so much positive reinforcement by calling out the good behaviors I see, that most students get the hint and turn their behavior around. I even let them in on the TEACHER SECRET. I tell them never to tell anyone that I told them, but usually when teachers point out a good behavior like, "I am so impressed how Sally got her paper and went right to work," that is actually code for the rest of the class. It is telling the rest of the class, "Hey class, I hope you are doing that too or else we are going to have to have consequences." They think it is SO AMAZING that I let them in on a teacher secret and they get it.
(This is the best pic I have of the behavior chart. The sticky note poster is how we keep track of unfinished work)

**Behavior Chart disclaimer** But what about those defiant, aggressive kids that could care less about positive reinforcement? Aren't they clipping down a lot? No. A behavior chart or calling those kids out in front of their peers is not going to be effective. For those students, I have individual behavior contracts. This is between me and that child so I discuss that behavior privately with the student. The clip chart works for keeping the average behaving kids on track.

Taco ‘bout the Teach
You want to establish trust and community with your students. In order for them to trust you and (I'll just say it) like you, they need to get to know you. I created a Taco Scavenger Hunt called Taco 'bout the Teach. I created a sheet with questions about me. I then wrote the answers on cards and hid them around the room by tapping them on the walls and such. First I give students 5-8 minutes to try to guess the answers. Then I give them 15-20 minutes to walk around the room finding the correct Taco card that has the answers. It is funny to hear their reactions to some of the questions!

When time is up, I call them back over to the carpet and I ask them what most surprised them. We talk about things we have in common and things that they thought were "cool."

Math Block

We have to start our math unit on Place Value to 10,000 from Day 1 or else we will never finish our math curriculum. Our district uses Math In Focus.  To start off, I have students get into groups of four and talk about everything they know about Place Value.  What is it?  What vocabulary words will I hear?  How do you write numbers in different ways? etc

Next, we come back as a group and talk about it.  I review the different forms of writing numbers and I have the students practice with me using dry erase boards.  Finally, I have them pair up, get a die, and then roll the die 4 times.  They each have to write that number in expanded form, word form, place value discs (you could do base ten blocks) on their dry erase board. Switch half way though with a different partner.

Addition Brainbreak
If there is time or if I see they need to get up and move around, I will turn on my math facts flashing whiteboard game. It flashes addition facts from the projector and students try to shout out the answer before the answer pops up. Scattered throughout are movements and exercises students have to do. [Memorization In Motion-Fitness Facts]

Writing Block

Organize Supplies
I do not have students organize all of their supplies and notebooks on the first day. You need to determine where you want students to store supplies.  We do a little the first day and then finish on day 2.  This way we are able to get some learning in as well.  To organize supplies on Day 1, I have students put all of their notebooks and folders in their desk.  I collect their take home binder and their binder that we will use for our Data Binder.  We will set those up later this week.

I have supply caddies that I got at Michaels out at desk groups.  I have students store the supplies that we will use the most in the caddies.  They place two sharpened pencils, scissors, a glue stick, and a dry erase marker into the caddie.  The rest of their materials like crayons and markers, go into their supply boxes that they keep in their desk.

Giraffes Can’t Dance
I gather all students back to the carpet and I read the book, Giraffes Can’t Dance. We talk about how we are all unique and have different talents. Together we brainstorm ways in which people can be unique or special. We talk about our talents, likes, and dislikes, etc.

Next, I have students take out a notebook that will serve as our Writer's Notebook. I have them brainstorm why they are unique. I hand out the I'm Unique Poem activity to students. They write their poem, color, cut out, and glue onto a large piece of construction paper. Once students are finished, they come up to me to get their M&M's to glue onto the project. They must use liquid glue. They leave these on their desks to dry and walk around to read each other's poems. When they dry, I hang them in the hall outside. [Get the I'm Unique Poem here]

Reading Block

All About Me Booklet
I have students work on pages from our All About Me Booklet. I usually do a paper version, but this year, I am going to try to beg, borrow, and steal some Chrome Books so I can do it on Google Slides. Students will NOT finish this book today. In fact, they will be working on bits and pieces throughout the week. It is a great filler activity or activity for students to work on for morning work or free time. I might assign certain pages on certain days, or I might let the kids pick. When we finish, we will share a few of the pages with each other.

That’s Me Game
My kids LOVE this game and it gets them really tired and worn out! BONUS!! Students squat down to the ground and stay there. I call out different identifying facts such as, "I am the oldest." "I am the youngest." "I love pizza." "I have a dog." etc. If that describes them, they will jump up quickly and yell, "That's Me!" and then they immediately squat back down. This is really cool for me to learn some things very quickly about the class. And you can imagine how it gets them tired! LOL!

Science/Social Studies Block

You may have seen Save Fred or Save Sam before. I simply took that STEM idea and added a Social Studies twist that includes Fred the Worm traveling across the United States.
Misadventure 1: Save Fred
Fred decided to try whitewater rafting on the Eagle River in Colorado and his raft tipped over!  His life vest slipped off and now Fred is stuck on top of the capsized raft!  He needs to gets his life vest because he can’t swim!  He’s a worm for goodness sake, not a fish!
Fred the Worm is on top of the cup and the life vest is under the cup.  Students can only use two paperclips to put the life vest onto Fred.  They cannot use their hands to touch anything but the paper clips! My kids love this activity and continue talking about it throughout the week as we complete three more STEM activities with Fred. [Get the Misadventures of Fred STEM activities here]

Class Picture

One of the things I want to make sure to do is to take class pic to compare to the end of the year. At the end of the year, I have students stand in the exact same spots so we can compare. It is still cool to see even if you have a very transient class.

I hope that was helpful for you! My biggest tip for you is to ENJOY your kids! Take time to get to know them and show you care, and your year will be amazing! You are going to make mistakes this year and it is WONDERFUL for your kids to see that and to see how you deal with it! Give yourself some grace and have a fantastic year!

Grab all the activity resources mentioned here!


Organizing Your Classroom Library

Hello darlings!  If you're a new teacher or just new to third grade, you might be wondering how to organize your classroom library.  Everyone is different but I will tell you what I do in my room.

Do You Have Picture Books in 3rd Grade?

Yep!  There are soooo many picture books are at levels P-Q but students always think that picture books are babyish in third grade.  I have a plethora of picture books in my room with all different reading levels.  I make a big deal about this at the beginning of the year and I tell kiddos NOT to decide if a book is too easy based on it's thickness.

With that being said, I think your library should be about half and half.  I have many chapter books all the way from level J-U in my library.  I label many of them in bins with the author or theme and I place the reading level on it.  Many of my chapter books that are not part of a series or author study are simply placed in the shelf like most library books.

Do You Level The Books?

Yes and no.  I level about half of my chapter books and leave the rest for students to decide what books are interesting and a good fit for them.  My picture books are not leveled.  They are sorted by topic such as Mammals, Solar System, Plants, Government, Famous American, etc.

How Do You Store Your Books?

I store most of my picture books in large white Sterilite containers that I purchased mostly from Wal-mart.  There are a few Target ones mixed in as well.  For my chapter books, I use plastic shoe boxes from Wal-mart.  The large white bins have lasted me 14 years so far and they are packed with books!

Where Did You Get Your Labels?

I made my labels in PowerPoint but you can get them for free here.

Where Do Kids Keep Their Books?

I have book boxes for my students labeled with their student number.  These are simply ice cube trays that I purchased from Target when I first started teaching.  They are very sturdy and hold heavy books and are durable when kiddos inevitably drop them.   I have never taken a really great pic of them.  But you can see that all I did was take an ugly metal shelf that my school gave me and I wrote students' numbers on the shelving.  They store the book boxes there until we need them.  I DO NOT let my kiddos keep books INSIDE their desks.  In Desks= Book Death  Trust me.  

Where Did You Get Your Shelves?

My dad and I created the books shelves about eight years ago.  It was THE BEST thing I have ever done!   I LOVE them because they are on wheels and close together.  I can lock them and then the custodians can simply wheel them out the door at the end of the year so they can wax the floors.  It was soooooo nice to come in this year and just open the book cases.  I didn't have to reorganize my library or unpack books.  That has ALWAYS been the longest job for me when setting up the classroom and packing up each year.

I hope this was helpful for you!  I plan on writing another post on all the read alouds I do throughout the year.

Happy Organizing!

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