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First Week Wins [episode 24]


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Morning Message: 

[00:56] We shared a quote by Fred Jones from Tools for Teaching. “The teachers with the best run classroom spend most of the first two weeks teaching procedures and routines. Do it right or do it all year long.”

We shared this quote with our community and loved the responses we got from it! Many of you expressed that the younger the kiddos, the more organization and routine you need to start the school year with, which we couldn’t agree more! Others mentioned that it takes a lot of time and effort before the kids arrive to set it all up, which then results in a more safe and secure environment for your students. 

Something we can all agree on is the importance of routines and procedures the first few weeks of school. It no doubt helps set you up for a successful school year. And this last statement sums it all up: a good start lasts all year long!

Here’s an overview of episode 24:

Each year, we anticipate the first day of school and spend all of our energy planning to make it run smoothly and perfect for our classroom of new students. But what about the next day or even the rest of the week? We often push those ideas to the side because we’re so focused on the first day. But not this year! In today’s episode, we’re sharing how to achieve your first week wins through goals and procedures.

One of the first things you probably do as you’re starting to head back to school is scroll through Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers for the perfect first day or week activity your students can do. However, what’s the purpose of this activity? Is it just a time-filler or does it have meaning?

In order to achieve your first week wins, it’s important that you’re finding and picking activities that align with your goals for the year. A way to help define those is by using our ATTA BOY framework. We went over this concept in more detail in Episode 19, but to refresh, it stands for affirming, training, teaching, assessing at the beginning of the year. By keeping this framework in mind, your first week activities will be more focused on your goals, create balance, and make planning easier on you.

    By putting all of our focus on the first day of school, we tend to neglect our plans for the rest of the week. Knowing your goals and having an idea of what you want to accomplish, helps you focus and narrow down which activities to do the first week of school. Incorporating your goals and ATTA BOY ensures you are successful in your first week wins! 

    We’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite first week activities with us over on Facebook or on Instagram!

    In this episode on first week wins, we discuss:

    • How to set up your first weeks of school to be meaningful and engaging for students
    • Review ATTA BOY and how that framework aligns to the goals and procedures of your classroom
    • The idea of the second day of second grade and how that can be a fun way to break up the first week
    • Why you want to plan for things to take a long time, but prepare like you’ll rush through everything

    This week’s teacher approved tip:

    [17:43] Teach your fire drill procedures right away.

    We tend to focus on teaching our students all of our classroom procedures, but forget about the unexpected or procedures not in our daily routine. Some of those include fire drills, or any type of drill, assemblies, rotating to different classrooms, and many more. 

    Although it’s not something your students do every day, there’s still importance knowing the procedure and expectations. That way your students can meet them in a chaotic moment and you’re prepared for when the time comes.

    What we’re giving extra credit to this week:

    [18:46] Heidi is giving extra credit to stores that offer curbside pickup, but a detention for those that offer the service, but have to call when you get there!

    [19:48] Emily is giving extra credit to Virgin River on Netflix.


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

    Read the transcript for episode 24, First Week Wins:

    Hey there, thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re talking about how you can win the first week of school, and we’ll share a teacher approved tip about fire drills. We start our episodes with a morning message, just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. For this week’s morning message, we recently shared a favorite quote by Fred Jones from his book tools for teaching. “The teachers with the best run classrooms spend most of the first two weeks teaching procedures and routines. Do it right or do it all year long.” We loved the comments that came in when we posted this quote. So let’s hear some of those. Camille said absolutely the younger the students the more need for organization and routine. It takes time well before the kids arrived for the teacher to visualize the classroom, purchase materials, label items, etc. All that effort gives the kids and their parents a sense of order and security when they arrive. Kristin said it’s the first six to eight weeks in first grade. That is very true. I think it’s more than two weeks in most grades, at least in the younger grades for sure. Julie said True, true true! I do a color unit in first grade for the first two weeks that incorporates our classroom procedures. By the end of the two weeks, the children can remind me of our procedures. That’s a smart way to do it. Michelle said the best gift I was given was Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. I was much more confident on the first day of school in my first year of teaching. And we do love that book. It’s kind of hard to track down these days, but very well worth it. Yeah, Connie said by choice, I usually begin getting my room ready during the last two weeks of July. It was important that when the students entered the room the first day, materials, procedures and plans we’re ready to go, we only get one chance to make a good impression. And Linda said a good start last all year long. Very true. We couldn’t agree more.

    I think the biggest problem with the first day of school is that you’re then expected to show up again for the second day of school. It’s a vicious cycle. I don’t know about you, but I need like a week vacation to recover from just the first day. But unfortunately, I have yet to find a principal who is on board with that plan. But wouldn’t that be so nice? Yes. The first day of school requires an incredible amount of thought and attention. But then what on earth are you going to do for the rest of that first week? There is no shortage of cute and clever back to school ideas to try. But you can’t do them all. You need a filter to help you identify the activities that will have the greatest benefit for your class. And this is where your goals come in. Basically, any of your first week of school goals will fit into what we call the ATTA BOY framework. Emily, you want to remind us about ATTA BOY? I would love to. So ATTA BOY stands for affirming, training, teaching and assessing at the beginning of the year. The first a is for affirming, affirming is first on purpose because it’s the most important goal you should have at the start of a school year. If I’m planning to meet the goal of affirming, I’m going to be planning ways to make sure my classroom is safe and predictable. And I’ll be making sure to create opportunities to make sure each child feels welcomed and valued. After affirming we have training. This is where all those routines and procedures will come into play. We can’t really function as a community of learners until all those steps are in place. Once we have affirming and training established, we can focus on the actual teaching part of being a teacher. Teaching in the first days isn’t very in depth, but I want to start getting my class accustomed to the daily routine. And the last goal is to start assessing, I need to know everyone’s level of mastery in several areas. So in the first week, I need to carve out time for assessment. If you want more ideas of how to plan for these essential components in your first week of school, back in episode 19, we did a deep dive into the ATTA BOY framework. These four areas affirming, training, teaching, and assessing will help you filter the activities that you might choose for your class at the beginning of the year.

    It’s a lot to manage, but making sure that any activity you choose is addressing one of those four areas means that you are moving your class forward in positive and productive ways. And just like with the first day of school, I do a full script for the first week of school. It’s just too crazy to rely on my plan book. On a normal school day routine is my best friend, I can rely on it to help me flow through the day. But it takes a while to get that going. So until the routine starts to take shape, I need the support of a script to keep me on track. And if you want to know more about the first day of school scripts that we just mentioned, we break it all down in Episode 22 of our podcast and on our blog. And we’ll link to both of those in the show notes. That Episode Episode 22 walks you through how to write your first day script. And just like I do for the first day, I start each day for the first week with a timeline. The first step is to plug in any fixed events, when school starts recess, lunch, dismissal, all of that. And then depending on the day, I may need to add in planning time, grade level rotations, or an assembly or fire drill, right. Anything else that needs to happen at a set time goes on my list. And then I address what needs to happen before and after each event. So on the first day, I might need to include 30 minutes before lunch to run through lunch procedures. We taught second grade, they kind of needed a refresher on that. But on the second day, are we gonna need 30 minutes, hopefully not. But you never know. This is what makes planning for the first week tricky. If lunch on the first day went smoothly, you might only need 10 minutes on the second day to review your procedures. But if you had kids coming in on the wrong bell or putting their lunch boxes in the wrong place, you might need more like 20 minutes to review. There really is no way to predict until you see how it goes. But if you want to make your second and third day plans ahead of time, you have to plan for things to take a long time, but prepare like you’ll rush through everything. Yes, just like we talked about over planning on the first day of school, that idea really applies to the whole first week or two of school. So schedule enough time for everything you need to cover. And then plan in lots of additional activities you can do as you need them. Right. So with lunchtime on that second day, we will probably only need 10 minutes or maybe even five minutes to review procedures. But maybe I’m going to schedule a full 20 minutes of lunchtime procedure review. And then I’m confident that I can fill any extra time because I have over prepared my backup plans. And there’s nothing worse than having a lesson get done way faster than you expect it to. And you don’t have anything planned. Yeah, especially in those first few days. What do you do? Yeah, and so any activities you planned on the first day that you didn’t get to, you’re going to stick those into these plans for the rest of the first week. Or you could plan to read a book, watch a short science video, do a brain break, anything like that? Yeah, anything that breaks up all the talking would work. And if I’m looking at that time, right before lunch, we’ve probably really been focusing on the training aspect of ATTA BOY, so I might try and plan a time filler activity that is less intense. Oh for sure. You definitely don’t want something about routines. right on the heels of teaching a routine. That is a surefire way to wear everybody out really fast. If we’ve just had a heavy dose of training, I’d want to mix it up. Maybe we’d play a fun review game covering content from first grade that can meet both some of my teaching and assessing goals that since it’s right before lunch, honestly, I probably want something way more low key than that because I’m out of energy. I’d probably focus on affirming and have the kids do some kind of All About Me page, or just read a story together or we could learn a game that we’ll be playing in morning meeting. So smart to teach it ahead so you can use it later in morning meeting. If we keep returning to those four ATTA BOY goals, we can be sure that our first week of school plans cover everything that needs to be addressed in those early days of school. So the key is to start those daily plans with a timeline and then add in a cushion of time before each event to teach how to do it. And a little bit of time after to reflect on how it went. That way we know we’re covering all the bases for our training needs. Then we can look at what time is left in the school day and use our affirming, teaching, and assessing goals to plan activities.

    I don’t know how it was for you Emily, but when it comes to my goal for teaching, my biggest focus was to get my kids accustomed to the day’s routine. Oh, for sure. And for my mental health, I really needed it to happen as soon as possible. So I tried to make the schedule for the first few days resemble the schedule we’ll be following in a few weeks. That means we started day two with our morning work, I would introduce when you work in the afternoon of the first day, just so that they would have some idea of what to expect in the morning. And then day two, I started helping them reference the morning task list that was displayed on the board, so they knew what they were expected to do. And then we would just work through the morning work pages a class for the first few days, trying to just get them in the routine, more than focused on the academic side of it. And it takes a couple of weeks, till they’re really in the groove of things. But if there is any hope of me remembering to submit my attendance, I need those kids to get the hang of things as soon as possible. And not to mention, having a predictable, efficient morning routine is vital to the tone and success of everything else that happens in the day. Maybe I sound crazy, which probably be on brand. But my ability to function as a teacher really hinged on our predictable morning routine. Oh, I completely agree. An efficient morning routine really does make the whole day run better. So we want to start adding in all the components as soon as possible. Besides morning work in the first week of school, you can start introducing morning meeting too. Morning meeting is a great way to meet our goals for affirming. And our class would just start with an abbreviated version of morning meeting on the second day. It’s basically just how to come to the rug, how to pass the handshake around the circle, and how to ask someone’s name if you don’t know it. And then I would ask a just a general question like, what’s your favorite breakfast food and we would go around the circle and the everyone share. And then we would just end with some deep breaths. After a few days, whence I felt like my class was solid with that basic structure, I started in adding more of the morning meeting components, maybe we would learn a new greeting, maybe we would learn a silly action song we could all do together. I’m not really in a hurry to jump into a full morning meeting. Morning meeting is a zero pressure experience. So we take your time, it might be three or four weeks until we’ve integrated all the components of a morning meeting. And then because writing time would follow morning meeting on a normal school day, in the first week of school, I make sure we are transitioning to some kind of writing activity after morning meeting. And in that first week, I am not ready to introduce our formal writing time yet. But I want my class to get used to the flow of the day. So I use my goals to help me determine what kind of writing activity to do. There’s really no right or wrong here. It just depends on my goals. Do I want to focus on affirming and do some kind of why I’m special writing activity? Do I want to focus on training and start teaching our writing procedures? Probably not. Maybe I want to assess so I’ll give them a writing prompt I can keep and then use to show growth at the end of the year. This is why focusing on goals is so important. Because there are really endless options for a beginning of the year writing activity, you could just drown in the sea of possibilities if you don’t use your goals to narrow what kind of activity you’re looking for. This really just makes the planning a lot easier when you narrow your focus.

    When I started teaching back when the internet was still a baby, we did not have that problem. No, no Pinterest is cool. But now you could fall down that TPT rabbit hole for hours and still not find what you were looking for. So choosing a goal for each activity is really necessary if you’re going to save your time and sanity. It’s nice to have the four ATTA BOY areas, because it helps make sure you’re achieving some kind of balance in your choices. So if I want to plan a writing activity, but I already know I’m going to spend 40% of my day covering routines and procedures, I probably don’t want to dive into training for writing time, there’s a limit to how much training anyone can handle in one day. So I’m going to pick a goal and one of the other three areas for that writing time, right. And then in a day or two, when it’s lunchtime and recess are running smoothly. And you’ve taught everyone how to use all the school supplies. Maybe that’s the time to switch gears with writing or reading time and start learning more of the formal procedures there. We can start practicing the academic routines we’ll do every week word sorting, vocabulary, cards, etc. Plus, we spend a couple of days introducing math manipulatives before diving into any math content.

    If we’re making sure to plan activities for each of the ATTA BOY areas, we can be sure that we’re setting up ourselves and our new little students for a successful year. But we can’t end a discussion about the first week of school without talking about one of our favorite days of the whole year, the second day of second grade. Heidi, will you tell us how you first started doing the second day of second grade? In my district, the first week of school was typically three or four days. Over the years I had worked, my first week plans into a four day work of art. And then they threw a wrench into the machine. And the first week was a full five days. And what am I going to do with that? I didn’t feel like I had the time to start a full math unit or to get centers up and running. But five days was too long to spend practicing routines and procedures. In an effort to fill up those first days with meaningful activities, I came across the idea of celebrating the second day of second grade. And I loved it so much, I continue to do it every year. I usually do it in the afternoon of the second day. It’s just really a nice little break from teaching dry procedures. Plus it gives the students a chance to unwind a bit too. The second day of second grade is one of my favorites too. I love that while it feels like a party for the kids, the activities we’re doing are actually meeting our ATTA BOY goals; we’re sneaky like that. Our second day of second grade celebration includes a themed work packet, which helps us with assessing, we play games and read books to help build community which helps with our affirming goals. We rotate through some themed academic centers that meet our teaching goals. And we learn how to work in groups and partners, and learn how to rotate and take care of materials, all of which are meeting our goals for training. We will put a link to our second day of second grade blog post and resources in the show notes. We’re going to have a lot in the show notes today. So make sure you check them out. Now if you’re not a second grade teacher, you may be thinking, Well, that’s nice for you. But what the heck am I supposed to do? You can take the same idea and design your own celebration day for any grade by choosing a theme and planning activities that meet your ATTA BOY goals. There are so many fun ways to start the school year. But if you’re clear on your goals, you can make sure that it is as impactful as it is fun. We hope you’ll share some of your favorite first week activities with us. You can join us in the Teacher Approved Facebook group, or an Instagram at @2ndstorywindow and that is 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 approved tip is teach your fire drill procedures right away. Yes, the best time to teach a fire drill is before there’s a fire drill. A lot of times we forget about things like fire drills because they’re not part of our daily routine. But the kids need to know those expectations and be able to meet them in a chaotic moment. So we do need to teach fire drill procedures before the kids need to use them. Especially because once that alarm goes off, it’s really hard to shout instructions. So true. Fire drills are maybe the most dramatic example of this. But the same idea applies not just to fire drills, but assemblies, how to rotate to different classrooms, what to do when there’s a sub, and in any other infrequent but routine activities. When you’re making your first week of school plans, try to identify any events that require some advanced explanation, then make sure to teach them before your students need to use them.

    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 any stores that offer curbside pickup, I’ve got a grocery order to go pick up in a couple hours. And it is so nice to be able to put together my list in the app and then I don’t have to worry about it ever again. But I am giving detention to any stores that say they offer curbside pickup and then you have to call them when you get there like I do not want to make a phone call No way. Plus, I found that those kinds of stores where you have to make the phone call means that the store does not have a great system for order pickup. And you end up waiting forever before anyone can get away to bring your order. So basically, all I need in life to be happy is for every store to develop a flawless app that covers both ordering and pickup without me having to do any work. That’s all I need. All the stores should take a lesson from Target because they have it down. It’s a perfectly well oiled machine and everyone should follow in their footsteps. Target really is a joy to not shop at.

    Emily, what’s your extra credit this week? I’m giving extra credit to Virgin River on Netflix. This is one of those hashtag basic things but I’m just I’m just owning it. We are just liking what we like. Okay, so Virgin River is complete fluff. And it has the craziest timeline of all time where we’ve had four seasons of the show and apparently only like five months have passed in storyline. It’s a little wild, but I can’t help it. It’s just a fun watch. And I’ve really enjoyed watching this new season that just came out. If you would also like some fluff, check out Virgin River on Netflix. I love Virgin River. I’ve been doing a rewatch of the previous seasons to catch up to the next season. So I don’t watch the new episode yet. And I’m very excited to have something one to look forward to. Oh, hurry up so we can discuss it.

    That’s it for today’s episode. Remember your goals as you make your first week plans. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip for teaching a fire drill before there’s a fire drill.

    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.