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3 First Day Truths [episode 22]


Click below to listen to 3 first day truths:

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Morning Message: 

[00:59] What fruit or vegetable represents your mood today?

We’re all about the fun and interesting questions, which this morning message definitely is! One of our answers was tomato-esque because we’re red since it’s so dang hot outside! And we feel a little undecided, just like how a tomato is technically a fruit, but really feels more like a vegetable. 

One of our other answers was banana because it’s yellow which represents the sun for our weather outside. However, while a banana isn’t that exciting, it gets sweeter the longer it’s left alone, just like our personality of being an introvert!

We’d love to hear your responses to this question and future questions, so let us know over on Instagram!

Here’s an overview of episode 22:

Well friends, we have officially hit August! As teachers we know exactly what that means: summer is starting to come to a close while the beginning stages of school are starting to begin. The beginning of the school year always brought us a mix of emotions, especially the actual first day of school. We’re excited for a fresh start with new students, but also know all we have to do to get our classrooms running smoothly for the rest of the year. So in today’s episode, we’re sharing 3 truths for planning the first day of school.

Again, since the first day of school is full of magical possibilities, we sometimes forget about all the small details that go into our daily procedures and routines or how much we actually need to teach our students what to do. So the 3 first day truths we discuss are:

  1. You need to know minute by minute how the day is going to unfold
  2. Plan more activities than will be used
  3. Be strategic about breaking up the teacher talking

Throughout the episode, we do more than just talk you through a plan for your first day, but we actually help you write a first day script! While some might think that’s excessive, we believe it’s the best thing you can do. A script ensures you don’t miss anything the first day because as we’ve mentioned before, all the procedures and routines you establish to make your classroom run smoothly, your new students don’t know!

There’s a lot of minor details that go into a perfectly run procedure that you want to get right the first time. But don’t worry because we help break down all those details for you.

While the first day of school is fun and exciting, it can also be overwhelming with all that you need to get done, say, and explain. By being prepared for these 3 first day truths, you’ll have a smoother start to the year and be ready for all that day can bring.

In this episode on 3 first day truths, we discuss:

  • An explanation of the 3 first day truths
  • How you run your first day will help determine habits of your students for the rest of the year
  • Why you should write a first day script and the benefits for having one
  • A detailed example of how to set up your first day script

This week’s teacher approved tip:

[19:46] Start the first day of school with pattern blocks.

With this tip, we’re sticking with the theme of the first day of school! What do you do when students start arriving in your classroom on the first day? There’s so many things for you to do as the teacher, so it’s nice to have your brand new students come in and be engaged in an activity that doesn’t require your direction.

That’s why we think pattern blocks are the perfect first day activity! There are so many benefits such as they have the ability to be open-ended, they don’t require direction or instruction from you (which you’d have to give each time a new student arrives), so they don’t need help getting started and know exactly what to do. 

We’ve shared this tip in an earlier blog post, so check it out here. We really do think this is the most helpful tip yet!

What we’re giving extra credit to this week:

[22:04] Heidi is giving extra credit to Rutherford Falls on Peacock

[23:12] Emily is giving extra credit to The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt


If you enjoyed this episode, you’ll love these too:

Read the transcript for episode 22, 3 First Day Truths:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re sharing the three truths for planning the first day of school, and we’ll share a teacher approved tip for starting the first day in a calm, engaging way. This is a good tip, you’ll want to hear it.

We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning message is what fruit or vegetable represents your mood today? What do you think Heidi? I know I picked a funny question today. Yeah, you’re you’re on one. I think I’m feeling kind of like tomato-esque, partly because it’s 8 billion degrees and I’m bright red, and it’s so hot today. But also, I’m just feeling very undecided. Like how a tomato is technically a fruit and vegetable. I mean, well, it’s not really a vegetable, but it acts like a vegetable. And I have lots of things I should be doing. But I don’t really want to do any of them. So I just I mean that tomato space, I guess. Yeah, I can see that. What about you, Emily? Think I’d have to say I’m I’m in a banana mood today. I guess that explains why you pick this it seems like a banana question. The yellow exterior of the banana is sunny, which is definitely how I’m feeling on this super sunny morning while we record this. And the banana itself is maybe not that exciting, which also maybe describes I’m here today. But also a banana gets sweeter, the longer you leave it alone. And that’s also true for me as an introvert. So if everyone would just leave me alone for a while today, I think I’ll be much sweeter. Just don’t start turning brown and mushy. We’d love to hear your response over on Instagram, you can find us at @2ndstorywindow and that’s with a two.

For me, one of the best parts of teaching is getting that fresh start every year. It’s like you know that New Year’s day feeling. New Year’s Eve can’t even compare though to the excitement and sense of magical possibility that the first day of school brings. But it is so hard, so hard. But let’s see if we can make it a little easier. To help guide your planning, we are going to share with you the three truths of planning the first day of school.

So Heidi, can you tell us a little more about this idea. So the first truth of the first day of school, that’s a mouthful, is that you need to know minute by minute how the day is going to unfold. That’s because you don’t have a safety net on the first day. That is a perfect description you do not. During the regular school year, you have some flexibility if a lesson ends early or if something falls flat. But on the first day, you can’t just say everyone take out a book and read for 10 minutes because you know, where are they getting these books? Do you even know if everyone can read and 10 minutes is a huge chunk of time for kids to focus after a summer of freedom, as we’ve all learned. So you really need to plan for every minute of the first day, which leads to the second truth of planning, you need to over plan. Just assume that things will run short. You don’t know how this group of learners functions. It’s impossible to have a handle on their needs yet. So plan like you’ll have a class of speedy workers. If you don’t use everything you plan on the first day bonus, because you now got a head start on how you feel the second day of school. Yeah, that’s the good thing about having 180 days to fill. There’s always some place you can use that. And the third truth of planning the first day is that there is a lot of teacher talking so much talking. So when you are planning the first day be strategic about breaking up the talking. And with those truth in mind, know what’s happening minute by minute, plan more activities than will be used and break up the talking. We’re not actually going to make a first day of school plan. We are going to make a first day of school script.

Yes. So we love Harry Wong and I know he’s a little bit old school, but he knows what’s up. Okay, just believe us on that. He has a quote that we love that says, “Effective teachers have a script ready for the first day of school. Football coaches go into a game with a script of their first 15 to 20 plays. Meeting and wedding coordinators have a script of what needs to be done. And effective teachers have a script that helps them organize the first days of school.” Having a script ensures you don’t forget any of the tiny details you need to share with your students. If you’re just trying to work from your plan book, and you get to take kids to the art room, it’s a challenge in that moment to remember everything you need to explain. Right? If all you have written is art class at 1:30, it’s so hard in the moment to remember everything. So you’re trying to teach, okay, here’s how we line up, here’s where we go. And then two kids get into a shoving match because neither of them wants to be at the back of the line. And then, you know, Tara stops to tie her new shoes, and she gets lost. And when you pass Miss Smith’s classroom, all the kids who had her last year are calling and waving to get her attention, you know how this goes, it’s just chaos. In a few days, your class will be able to move through the halls quickly and hopefully quietly. So it’s easy to forget all of the little details that go into making that possible.

But this is where a script comes in. It includes each specific step. So that ensures that everyone has the information they need to be successful. And if you’re listening and thinking, Okay, that sounds great. But how do I know if I thought through all those tiny details? Well, we have a free resource that can help you, we’ll put a link to it in the show notes. It covers 16 parts of the school day, and ask questions to get you thinking about what students need to be successful in those areas. So if we’re talking walking down the hall, here’s those questions you would need to consider. Where do students line up in the classroom? Are you going to use one line or two line? Is there an assigned order in your line? Who leads the line? What is the consequence for cutting in line? How will your students show you they’re ready to walk in the hallway? Does the teacher lead the line? Or walk at the end? Who shuts the door and turns off the lights? How will you keep the line straight? How should students walk to keep from bumping into each other? And no, we’re not done yet. There’s a few more questions. That’s how specific you need to be. What do students do with their hands while they’re walking in the hallway? What’s the consequence for touching walls or hallway displays? What if students are talking? How should students acknowledge friends or teachers they pass? Can they stop for drinks? What if a student needs to tie their shoes? So that was a lot of questions. But that’s how specific you’re going to want to get about all of the procedures you need to teach. There really is so much thought that has to go into each moment of a day, teachers do not get enough credit. And they know no one is thinking of their back to school plans and feeling giddy at the thought of getting to teach dry, boring procedures. But the dry, boring stuff has to be addressed. And the perk of having a script is that it can contain all the dry and boring for you. And you can focus on connecting with your new sweet students. Yeah, a script really frees you to be present with your kids instead of having to be constantly focusing on what comes next or worrying if you’ve gotten everything done on your checklist, the script will ensure you’ve already done all those things.

So what does a first day script look like, Heidi? There is no right or wrong answer. Like with all of teaching, it comes down to whatever works for you. For me, it worked best to start with a timeline I listed like half hours from 8:30 to 3:30, down one side of a page. And then I plugged in the set events. So you know the bell rings at 8:55, announcements at nine, recesses at 10:30, lunch at 11:50, all of that. And then I didn’t have planning time in the first few weeks of school. Oh, that’s so brutal. Districts wants to save money. So I didn’t have to add that to my schedule. But if you are luckier than Emily and I were, and your students go to a specialty class the first day add that to the list too. You also need to be aware of any events that might happen like a first day assembly or some other activity that needs to happen at a set time. Yes, you definitely need to plug those into your timeline. After you have all the set events listed, then ask yourself what needs to happen before and what needs to happen after each event. So if I want my class to be successful at lunchtime, what needs to happen before lunch? Well, that’s when I’m going to dive into all of those tiny steps from earlier. So we’ll take the questions about walking in the hall and apply those to lunchtime. Maybe we need to visit the cafeteria beforehand and practice picking up a tray and walking through the line. Something about carrying a tray with two hands to see. Maybe we need to review lunch numbers. Maybe we need to learn the procedures for washing our hands, and likely all of those things. Even if they’ve been at that school before. Oh, it seems like a new information. After lunch, the kids need to know which bell to listen for, where to line up, where we go after lunch, how we come into the room, all that. So block out the time before and after each event to address is what’s going to happen and then what just happened. And that’s going to vary depending on the age you teach. If you teach older grades, you might only need to block out 15 minutes for a refresher on lunchtime expectations. If you teach first grade, bless you, you might need a full hour to walk through a practice lunchtime, and that would be time well spent. Right, minimize all the problems before they happen. The needs of your kids really determines how quickly you can teach all of these routines. Think about starting the day recess packing up before leaving, and any other times that need your special attention, then start working backwards. So if school gets out at 3:15, and I need to walk the bus riders to their lines on the first day, I need to have everyone ready to go by 3:10. So I add that note to my timetable, write 3:10 ready to go. But what happens before that? We need to learn the packet procedures, I need to pass out bus info and make sure everyone knows how they’re getting home. If I want them ready to go by 3:10, we probably need to start that tell try tally process of learning our end of day procedures at 2:45. So I add that to my timeline. If we’re ready to go early, I can always gather them at the rug and read a book. You know, I can fill the time but I can’t make more of it.

Once you’ve blocked out the set events of the day, you can start plugging in the rest of what needs to be covered. We’re going to make sure to plan for our first day truths right now what happens minute by minute, plan more activities than will be used, and break up the talking. A lot of classroom management books will tell you the first thing you need to teach is your quiet signal. But to that I say that ah that is not true. The first thing you teach is your bathroom procedure. Oh yes, yes, there is nothing more terrifying than having a nervous tummy and not knowing where when how to get to the bathroom. Also, no one wants to spend time cleaning up the floor. So let’s avoid that problem by equipping kids to handle their bathroom situation from the start. Yes, definitely teach them how to handle those issues right from the get go. And then you can teach a quiet signal. I block out 20 minutes to teach my second graders bathroom procedures, the quiet signal, and then how to come to the rug. Moving locations helps meet that first day truth number three, because it’s helping to break up the talking. So we started at our desks for the first couple things, bathroom, quiet signal, and then we break up the talking by moving to the rug. At my school normally the second graders had recess at 10:30, but I cheated a little the first few days and would take my class out for a private recess at 10. Because I wanted to make sure that everyone was clear about expectations. But again, I need to ask what do they need to know before we can go to recess, they need to know how to get to the playground. And that requires walking in the hall. So I have to teach the hallway procedures before recess. And maybe this feels tricky. And that’s because it is it’s really hard to know how much time you need to cover these procedures. But err on the side of allotting too much time and then just plan for those backup time fillers more than you’ll need. Right. Yeah, and that’s the type of situation when Brain Breaks are going to be your friend. You could do something on go noodle or read a picture book. Always loved to fill time by reading a picture book aloud. And if you teach younger grades Scholastic has a lot of book videos that easily fill 10 to 15 minutes, and gives you a chance to catch your breath for a minute. I frequently would use the chrysanthemums scholastic video in the first couple days of school. And that one’s narrated by Meryl Streep. So good, I love that one. You really do need to account for first day truth number two and plan in for some low key low prep backup activities.

And now that we’ve talked about how to schedule your first day, I’m going to share my finished timeline. In the hopes it will help spark some ideas for your own timeline. We weren’t allowed to request school supplies from our students. So we didn’t have to do any sorting or labeling of supplies on the first day. Yeah, our district that we both taught and was very strict about not requesting things from parents, the district my kids are in now does not feel that way and they request lots of things from us. So if your kids will be bringing their own supplies, make sure to account for that in your timeline. So my morning 8:30 kids start showing up, 8:50 we have announcements and attendance, 9:05 I teach the procedures for the bathroom quiet signal and how we moved to the rug, 9:25 I introduce myself and then we read a story, 9:45 I teach the hallway procedures. So that’s the first hour and a half of the day and you’ll notice it basically follows the procedure activity procedure activity pattern. 10 o’clock we have our own little class recess and of course a bathroom break, 10:15 I have the students share. So before school starts I sent home a letter asking each student to bring three show and tell items to share with the class on the first day, and I learned after doing this the first year to not have everybody go at once. Oh, also, if you’re going to do this, provide the receptacle like a bag or something so that you don’t have kids bringing in something huge. Oh, yeah. So give a bag it has to all three things out fit the bag. Yes or fit in your backpack or something? Yes. Put some limits on there. Yes. So I have half of the students share in the morning, we start at 1015, then at 10:45 I start the next procedure, which is Guided Discovery of crayons. And I always copy an extra coloring picture on the back of the page as a fast finisher, yes over plan. At 11:20 we start learning the lunch procedures so that we have plenty of time to learn them. And the half hour before we go to lunch at 11:50 12:30. I pick them up from recess have another bathroom break, they can match the class we do story. I always read Moriss Goes to School. It’s one of those like old vintage, I can read books, but it’s a cute little story. It’s so cute. I love that one. And I always put my name in as the teachers names and the kids is like what? At 12:50 the second half of students get to share their show and tell items, at 1:15 we start our next procedure of Guided Discovery. And this time we do pencils. As a fast finisher, I use like a word search generator and put the students names in to make a class name word search. So keeps everybody busy. At 1:45 we take an afternoon recess and another bathroom break. We won’t normally have afternoon recess, but as the first day of first few weeks of school, we need it. I don’t know how you got by without it because I always had an afternoon recess at my school and they need it. It’s so funny that we taught at neighboring schools and had such different routines in our day. 2 o’clock, I would start to explain the morning routine so that they have an idea what to do when they come in the next morning. Yeah, so the key here is whatever the most important routine of your day is going to be, it’s probably going to be your morning procedures. But if perchance it’s something else, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve taught it during the first day so that they can do it more independently on day two. Yeah it’s really hard to explain it as they’re coming in in the morning. Oh, for sure. 2:20, I start to teach about classroom jobs, 2:35, we gather for read aloud at the rug, 2:45 if you remember, that’s what I’m going to start teaching my end of day procedures so that we we can leave at 3:15. And now I’m exhausted. There really is so much that goes into the first day. And it’s just one day. If you want to read about any of this in more detail, we have a very long blog post that breaks it down. And we’ll link to that in our show notes.

Once my timeline is nailed down, I can start typing my script. For each activity, I want to break it down in precise detail. So for announcements and attendance, and make sure to note, remind students to pay attention to announcements, explain who leads the pledge each day, help the student lead the pledge. Tell the students they have five more minutes to finish their activity. And then in capital letters, I have send attendance and lunch count, because I don’t want to start the year by having the office mad at me. Yeah, maybe even set an alarm on your phone for that. And that’s just to get through morning announcements. My first day script was usually around eight pages, I put in every detail I thought I could ever need to remember. So in our afternoon recess, I would teach them some kind of game they could play at recess. So I wrote down every step in this game, all of the rules, even if it was a game I already knew. If we were doing a craft, I make sure to list all the materials I would need to get just, I don’t want to have to think about things on the first day. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you’ve done this before, you’ll remember all this. You think you will remember, but you won’t, so you need to write it all down. That’s probably the biggest lie tell myself, I’ll remember. Yeah, I never will. It’s kind of like writing your own sub lines. Really, it really is. I suggest making sure you add page numbers, because there will be a lot of them and then use a clipboard so you can pack it around easily. And guess this does take work. But it will save your life on that first day. And just think how awesome it will be to be able to use this again next year. Even if you have to tweak it, you already have a good idea of how things need to run, what you want to accomplish and all of those details it will save you so much work in the upcoming years. We can’t wait to hear what you include in your first day of school script you can share with us over on Instagram. Again that’s at @2ndstorywindow with a two.

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher proof tip is start the first day of school with pattern blocks. We love this one. Heidi, tell us about this. So as kids arrive on the first day, you know I help them make their lunch choice, I point out the coat hooks and I direct them to the desks. But then what do they do when they’re at their desks? My first year of teaching, I put out a cute all about me paper I’ve copied from a mailbox, teacher magazine, maybe you’re too young to know what that was. But that was our version of TPT at the time. And I had students in tears because they were so nervous that being expected to come into this brand new classroom and write was just way too overwhelming. So lesson learned, nothing academic to start with. And after that, I just kept it simple with crayons and coloring. But when they learned about Guided Discovery, I decided I didn’t want to give them access to crayons before discussing our classroom procedures. And that is when I switch to pattern blocks. And true, I haven’t established procedures for pattern blocks yet. But those are less important than crayon rules, because we will use crayons every day. And also, there’s not too much they can do wrong with a pattern block. Plus pattern blocks have the added bonus of being open ended. Students tend to show up really early on the first day, you know, the moms want to get pictures and kids that ride the bus are getting dropped off before someone has to go to work. It’s it’s a lot of time to fill. But I am busy greeting parents and showing kids where to put their stuff and calming nerves. There’s no time to explain an activity. And you have to explain it over and over and over as the children arrive. Right? Because I haven’t taught any of them any of this yet. So pattern blocks don’t require any direction. Kids just do and they don’t need any help getting started. There’s no need for a fast finisher, because the kids stay engaged until the bell rings. And since we’ve shared this idea on our blog, we’ve had other teachers let us know that they start with pattern blocks too, and how it helped them make a calm start to the school year. It is like one of the most popular tips we’ve maybe ever shared. So hopefully it will help you too.

To wrap up the show, we’re sharing what we’re giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to this week, I am giving extra credit to the show on peacock called Rutherford Falls, which I just discovered recently. So it stars Ed Helms as Nathan Rutherford who lives in this east coast, New England town. And his family settled the town in the 1600s. And he’s really into his heritage. And then his best friend is Reegan who is part of the local Native American tribe. And she’s trying to get a cultural center started. So it’s just kind of this fun little quirky town, but it’s, it’s a Mike Sure TV show if you’re familiar with Mike’s other work, like Parks and Rec, and the Good Place. It’s funny, but it also really makes you think this definitely tips more Good Place than Parks and Rec, but still, you know, a quirky little town full of fun characters. And the second season just dropped on Peacock and you can watch it for free if you can bear commercials. That sounds so fun. I love the Good Place, so I will definitely give that show a watch. And there just aren’t enough half hour comedies. It’s true. Emily, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I’m giving extra credit to the book The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt. It’s a middle grade fiction book about the three green children who suddenly find themselves with a sassy and well dressed pig as their nanny. They go on lots of ridiculous adventures often involving eating lots of chocolate, and they even find themselves with a new housemate. Boris, the dancing bear from Russia. I’ve read it aloud to my kids and all three of them got such a kick out of it. There’s a whole series and after taking a break after the first book to read another book, they’re begging me to get back to the next Nanny Piggins book. So I highly recommend your littlest was asking if I’d ever read it and was shocked that they hadn’t. So maybe I need to make up for that. It’s pretty clever.

That’s it for today’s episode. Remember the three truths of the first day of school as you start writing your first day of school script. Remember, those three truths are when planned minute by minute to plan more than you think you’ll need. And three, break up the talking. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip to use pattern blocks as a soft start to your first day. Thank you for listening.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.