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Keeping the First Day Joy!

I LOVE how excited kids are for the first day of school when they are in kindergarten. Where do those joyful, hopeful smiles go as students get into middle school and high school? Why do they disappear?

My answer: School was more fun in kindergarten. Most children enjoy kindergarten because there is more "doing."

Years ago when I saw the huge smile on my eldest son's face on his first day of kindergarten, I made a promise to myself that I would do my best to keep that "kindergarten" smile on my student's faces and try and sustain it throughout the school year. This is no easy feat, especially if students come to our classroom doors on the first day expecting to have a boring day of rules and procedures.

Here was my way to address this:

1) I put a lot of time and thought into my first day. I wanted my students to be excited to

come to class so I always started the first day with a hands-on activity. This activity

integrated an ice breaker with my course content.

Here are a few examples:

a) Brain Training puzzle on each table. Enough for each student to have one. I integrated

the scientific method with this activity and getting to know other student's names.

b) The Goldfish experiment. Yes, students had a goldfish in a beaker on each table. This

was an introduction to the scientific method. Students counted respirations/minute

in varying conditions. (All goldfish were treated gently and returned to my water trough

at home).

c) A tower building contest. Students worked in teams to build the tallest, free-standing

tower possible in the time allotted. The science concept was using the scientific

process with engineering design while also serving as an icebreaker.

(I made a new "first day" activity 3-4 years in a row and then I'd cycle back in originals. I

wanted to have a variety of options without always creating a new 1st day plan)

2) My first day did not involve rules and procedures. Why not? There are several


a) Rules don't change much from kindergarten on so students already know what they

should do.

-Be nice to others

-Keep your hands to yourself

-Listen when others are speaking

-Sign out when you leave the classroom

b) Student schedules change a LOT in the first week of school. Once class changes slow

down, usually by the 2nd week of school, then it is a good time to review the grading

policy, the syllabus and basic rules.

c) I want to turn my students ON to my course, not OFF.

Final Thought: If possible, keep that kindergarten smile for your students and for you too!

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