Special Education Series- First Week of School
This week is the last week of the Special Education Blog hop hosted by Kinder SPED Adventures and it’s all about that first week of school. I don’t know about everyone else but for me the first week of school school is this terrifying thing. Every year at the beginning I sit there and can’t, for the life of me, remember what I did at the start of the last year. Maybe I’m blocking it out…In reality I think there’s so much that goes in to those first couple of days that they go by in such a blur. Today I want to walk you through what those first couple days look like in my room.
First, let me say that kids come back on a Thursday so I typically count that first Thursday/Friday and the whole next week as my “first” week of school. Second, my focus during this time is super simple: PROCEDURES and EXPECTATIONS. Third, This year I am switching districts and will be with a whole new group so I will be completely starting over and I won’t have the benefit of having had the same group the year before so those procedures are a top priority. This is going to be a long one so get comfy!
So, my plan is to walk through each part of the day and give a break down of what it should look like during that first week. The schedule above shows what the day will look like once we’ve built up to that but the first week of two (or three) is all about leaning how to use each part of the room and what the procedures are for each part of the day.
From the first day, when they first walk in the room, we start our morning check in. I will be there to greet them when they come through the door and before they get to do anything else, I introduce them to our Morning Check In and start walking them through each step. I thought about this part and whether I should let them look around the room first or ease them into this routine but I decided that I want to establish this procedure from day one and make that expectation known that this is what you do when you come into Ms. Williams room. My para and I will take the whole class and show them each step, then we will let them complete each part. For the first week or so we will do these steps together and then slowly let the students start doing these on their own.
This is in my Check In for this year. When they first walk in the door they hang up their backpack. Since I’m working with just pre-k through 2 this year, my para and I will get there folders out of their bags for them, though when I had older students they were responsible for bringing me their folders in the morning. Next is there name; in my room under this poster is everyone’s picture with their name next to it. They either trace it, place their name card over it or, for my older ones, their name is covered and they have to write their name next to their picture. It’s good practice for them and it lets me easily know who’s here. Then they complete their morning binders at their seat. You can read more about my morning binders HERE. The first couple of day, they have a name page and a easy coloring page until I have a better idea of what skills they will be able to do independently. Once they’ve finished their binder they can go to the block area and play quietly. The first couple weeks I only leave one choice out and spend lots of time working on staying in that particular area and using the materials correctly. Since I will have a new group this year, I’m starting out with my foam blocks that way there pretty safe if any friends aren’t sure how to use them correctly. My para and myself will float around during this time reminding students of what we modeled and how they should be using the blocks. But the goal with the check is to build a predictable routine that once they can complete it independently, will give me a few minutes to check folders, reset journals, collect any money etc, without having to stop every few seconds.
I keep Calendar really short and sweet at the beginning of the year. The first day I introduce the Good Morning song, the days of the week song and our weather song. We talk and model staying in the right area and how to ask for a break or the Cool Down Spot and I use a lot of social stories about when you get sad. or what to do when you mad etc. I also start our Days in School count but that is about it at the beginning. Their attention spans aren’t very long and my main goal is just exposing them to this part of the routine and what the expectations are while we are in Calendar time.
The first week of school, I stick to introducing the manipulates and tools we will be using regularly and give my students plenty of opportunities to play with and practice using them correctly. I also use this time to teach my expectations while working together at the table. I introduce the “table schedule” we will use and practice how to ask for a break or the bathroom. We also review how to let an adult know they need to use the Cool Down Spot when they’re feeling overwhelmed. I don’t really start working on academics until the 2nd or so week of school, though I may try to do some assessments. The first tool we practice with is Play Dough since my para and I use that with tons of activities.
Click HERE or the picture to download the sheets my class will be using to start. I put them in the plastic sleeves and swap them out every other day or so. There no-frill and very basic but the goal with these is to simply work on filling in the shape with play dough. I’m not worried about identifying the shape or color or anything like that. The whole goal during this time is a simple, easy task that most of mine will be able to do with varying degrees of independence, that gives me time to work on procedures and how to use these tools correctly in the group and that they get to successfully complete these first tasks.
This is my morning small group or 1-1 time. During the first week of school I build in LOTS of breaks throughout the day and spend TONS of time working lining up and transitioning to the next activity. Since centers are probably the most transition heavy part of the day and the time my students are the most independent I spend A TON of time laying the foundation. At the beginning I bring the whole class to the carpet and my para and I model our expectations for centers. Then we send students to their centers 1 at a time. That first week, students are only at each center for about 5 minutes. Then I ring the bell and we practice coming back to the carpet and getting ready to switch to our next center. Some students have a hard time with leaving a center and other have a hard time staying in their center. Starting out in really short chunks seems to work the best and helps them to understand that they’ll get another chance to be there (if they like it) or (if they don’t want to stay) they don’t have to stay in one spot for too long. After each rotation we come back to the carpet and review procedures and how to use the materials. I don’t put very many materials out during this time and I keep my center really easy so that I can float and check on the others as needed. During this time it’s just about getting the routine and exploring the materials they will be using. It also gives me a chance to see things like: who can use the computer independently and who might need to use the Ipad at first during the computer center, who can use things like lego’s or common school supplies by themselves and who needs more instruction on those skills.
This is my classes break and snack time. The way it works in my room is they are offered a snack and if they want it they eat at their desk, if they don’t want it or once their finished they can then go to the sensory room for a break. One of my teacher pet peeves is when my students tell me they don’t want a snack so they can take a longer break but then when me move on, all of a sudden they are STARVING, and can’t survive without a snack. So, since I know it drives me bonkers, I start on this procedure from day one. At the beginning, EVERYONE, stays in the classroom until snack is over and then we take out break. Since centers are short at the beginning, I normally have plenty of time to practice this. I try to make sure that everyone understands that we eat before going to break and not after. Then once everyone has this routine down, I introduce this “Do you want a snack?” choice card. They can start picking if they want a snack and then follow the visual instructions. I like that the card shows that you need to eat before the break and I make sure to remind them that snack is before our break.
The first week or so I stick to really short and funny little read aloud books. Some are about the beginning of the year and other are just cute and entertaining. Since their attention spans are normally really short at the start of the year, I try to pick books that I can read in under 5 minutes and that they can participate in. I also like to find books that have a cute video of the book to go with it.
My books for the first couple days of school are
You’re Finally Here! by Melanie Watt
You're Finally Here! Intro
I’ll also be reading:
Monsters Love School by Mike Austin
This one is relatively new and there aren’t any good videos that I could find but its cute and good for the beginning of school.
This is my lunch and plan time so I’m not actually with them at this time but we work on walking in a line and practicing walking through the lunch line and sitting at out lunch table before we actually go to lunch that first day. My paras go with the class and help as needed.
This is new for me this year and is my biggest unknown going into this new school year. My plan is to have set spots for them and soft music playing during this time. I’m also working on some quiet boxes for any students that don’t/won’t lay down during this time.
This was where I originally saw the idea of quiet boxes. But if you search Quiet Boxes on pinterest there are thousands of ideas.
I’ve only set aside 30 minutes for nap time but my plan is to let any friends who are still sleeping keep sleeping while the rest of the class starts reading. I’ll tweak as needed if this doesn’t work. This is also when my para will take her lunch.
This time is set up very similar to my morning math block. At the beginning its all about procedures. I don’t use as many manipulatives during this time as we do in math so I like to work on using scissors, glue, glue sticks, bingo daubers, crayons, markers ETC during this time. I don’t use any of these on the very first day though. I like to stick with play dough and see what they remember from the morning. I also do some writing samples to save and use to show their progress over the year. Normally, by this point in the afternoon, their pretty tired and not ready to anything to heavy so I stick to very simple, fail proof activities.
This is run just like the morning centers. 5 minutes at each center then back to the carpet and we model how to use the tools at each spot. The only difference here is they go to the three centers they didn’t rotate to in the morning. This way I get to work with everyone 1 on 1 during either the morning or afternoon center time.
The first week I put VERY simple sensory bins and its just about exploring and using the tools correctly. I LOVE sensory bins and use them all year for different science topics so I like to introduce them early. I like to use stuff that is very easy to clean up if I have friends that get carried away and something that is quiet and kind of bland for of my kiddos with sensory issues. We work on sharing tools, keeping materials in the bin, working nicely with our peers and just generally how to use a sensory table.
Ideas for your sensory bin the first week of school:(click the picture to check out my pinterest board)
- pom poms
- shredded paper
- large dried pasta
- popcorn kernals
* IF you use a food item make sure no one in your class is allergic to that item and choose food/materials that are safe if accidentally ingested.
After science we work on cleaning up and getting ready to go home. During the first week of school we introduce our daily journals and start working on filling them out each day.I’m currently updating them for this year so I’ll come back to them later and show you what they look like.
WOOO… That was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me and I hope you found some things that might be useful in your classroom. If there’s anything I wasn’t clear or you’d like more information on just leave me a comment and I’ll try to answer it! If you missed any of the freebies sprinkled throughout this
book post, I’ve added the link down here too.
Up next on the hop is Special Little Learners!