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First Week of School
Written by Josh Satterfield on June 8th 2019
Your class is set up and you’re feeling as ready as possible for your new group of students. Name tags are made, bulletin boards are adjusted, and the first-day schedule is displayed. All of which are important and have to be established prior to day one, and quite frankly it feels good to accomplish these managerial tasks.
More importantly, however, are you ready to begin to intentionally establish a culture of collaboration? Have you decided where to embed inclusion activities or icebreakers within your first week of school to set the tone for the rest of the year? Or do you expect students to come back to school knowing how to work with others and be successful in school?

I have adjusted and adapted my first week of school plans year after year to create a week that aims to build positive relationships, a culture of learning and collaboration.

Build Positive Relationships
I believe that relationships are the foundation of any group of people or organization. It is not a standard or part of the common core, however, it is a foundational layer to be able to engage each individual student. I’ve always believed that students and adults will do more for people they like.

Greet them at the door! Smile and welcome each student by introducing yourself and asking them their name on the first day of school. This simple, but effective approach starts the day off with a positive tone. I give my student's fist bumps and high fives each morning while they enter. Do not miss this opportunity to welcome your students each day to your class.

Once they enter the room on the first day of school, students quickly notice a small tub of Play-Doh on their desk. Little do they know this is their first test. On the whiteboard, I write “Do Not Open the PlayDoh!” After our morning routines of lunch count and attendance are through, I then give them directions for the Play-Doh. Students are to sculpt something out of the Play-Doh that represents them. Once students finish, we go around the room and have each student share what they created. You’d be amazed at what you learn about your students during this activity that a CA60 would never tell you. Of course, I make a sculpture, too!
Here is a quick reference to some more examples of inclusion icebreakers that build relationships on week one:

Establish a Culture of Learning
In order to build a culture of learning, students need to feel safe to take educational and social risks within their classroom. It is important for our students to understand that their mindset determines their ability to overcome challenges in life and school, so to initiate building a culture of learning I begin teaching the differences between fixed and growth mindsets.

We discuss the importance of the word “Yet” and establish a classroom norm of being growth-minded at all times. It sets the tone for mistakes being okay and that it’s actually a good thing because it means we are close to learning something new.
Each week, I share a “Growth Mindset Quote of the Week” with my students to continually share examples of being growth-minded. Below, you’ll find a link to the Google Slides where I place quotes and images for this activity. Also, ClassDojo provides a great video series on Growth Mindset and perseverance. I highly suggest not only using their video resources, but also their classroom management program.

​Growth Mindset Quote of the week

Within my classroom, students work together to accomplish tasks daily! It is so important that we establish a tone early on in the year on how to work with others. To start this journey, I have students seated in groups. Not rows, but in horseshoe teams that support a collaborative environment. We must start with the furniture in the room. It’s your choice as a classroom teacher, and it’s critical that the set up of furniture supports a collaborative environment.

Now for the first week of school with students! One of my favorite activities at the start of the year is the marshmallow tower challenge. Here is a video on how to set up this challenging activity:

To wrap up this activity, we reflect on what the word collaboration means in our notebooks and begin to establish norms for work in teams for the school year. For example, students may notice that they need specific roles because one person took over the entire activity themselves. These major themes and takeaways will be what is placed on a Collaboration poster within the classroom as a constant reminder of how to work together. 

Establish a culture of learning in your classroom by using our FREE Growth Mindset Posters! Download here!

About Author: Josh Satterfield

Josh Satterfield is the founder of the Teacher's Playbook. In addition to being your Math Workshop coach, Josh is currently a 5th-grade teacher and high school boys’ basketball coach in Southeastern Michigan. Josh was born into an entrepreneurial family, and quickly gained a love for continual growth and success. His family always pushed me to dream big and work towards my goals, so that’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my life.
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