First Day of School Plans Made Easy

Photo of a child holding a First Day of Kindergarten Sign. Text says "First Day o School Plans Made Easy."

Making first day of school plans can be overwhelming. You are excited to meet your new students, but your realize they don’t know any of your classroom routines! So you need to figure out a way to learn about your new students, teach them a few routines, and keep the first day fun for everyone. How do you do that? Here are some suggestions:

Over-plan

There is nothing worse than finishing your first day of school plans, and realizing you still have 35 minutes left in the day! Always plan more than you think you can accomplish in one day. Then plan a few easy time-fillers: a favorite name game, a few books, or a few more minutes on the playground. (Just to be safe, you might prepare for all of these – if you don’t use them on day 1, you might later in the week.)

Pay careful attention to the first few minutes

The first 20 minutes of the day can be crazy – you may have crying students, anxious parents with last-minute questions, and students who don’t know what to do. Keep the expectations simple for the first day. Show them where to put their backpacks (and any supplies), then plan an independent activity that most kids already know how to do: coloring sheet, puzzles, play dough, etc. This will free you to help those who need more attention.

Teach some basic routines in the day

Think about the 2nd day of school. What routines would you like your students to be familiar with to help Day 2 go more smoothly? (No, you can’t say all of them – that’s just not possible!) Pick out 5-7 key routines, and model and rehearse them throughout the day. Incorporate them into your schedule for the day. Here is a sample “schedule” that introduces a few key routines:

Attendance

For today, you might keep it as simple as crossing their name off a list, or putting on a name tag.

Lunch Count

You might introduce your regular routine (which might be tied to attendance), or you might just have them tell you verbally for today. You can model the regular routine later in the day so they are familiar with it for Day 2.

Greeting/Name Practice

Use your favorite name song or game to help you and students learn each other’s names. My favorite name song is to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:”

Abby came to school today. We’re so glad we should “Hooray!”

Bathroom Break

(Great time to model how to form a line.) Even if you don’t normally use a whole class bathroom break, putting it early in your first day of school plan is helpful. Kids may be too shy to tell you they need the bathroom. A scheduled bathroom break gives you the chance to show the whole class the nearest bathroom – and review some appropriate bathroom behavior.

School Tour

Since you are leaving the room, this could be a good time to take a brief school tour, highlighting the most important parts of the building. End the tour on the playground for a much needed break – and the chance to take first day photos of your students. Check out these cute free signs.

Self-Portrait

Depending on your class, you may want to model and practice how to use crayons or markers as part of this task. Use a blank piece of paper or this FREE first day self-portrait page. As students work, you can quickly peek at notes or sort out supplies – for about 3 minutes The self-portraits make an easy classroom display, or even the start of a yearlong memory book. It also gives you a chance to see how independent students are with name writing.

Photo of a student's hand-drawn portrait on a page that says: "This is me on the first day of school." Below the page has room for the child to write his/her name.

Introduce Word Work with Names

Names are an exciting way to focus on letters, sounds, and letter combinations. Choose a favorite name activity to introduce a brief routine. You can make name puzzles, cheer the spellings of names, start a class alphabet chart with names, add a few names to the word wall, or any other fun activity to link names with spelling. You can repeat this activity (with different names) for several days.

Sample student name puzzle. The child's name was written on a strip o paper, then cut about letter by letter for the child to put together.

Make a name puzzle for each student using sentence strips pieces. The envelope with the student’s name helps them check the puzzle and is used for storage.

Snack and Story

Introduce a reading routine: You might model and practice how to turn and talk, or ways to read a book independently (look at pictures, look at words, retell story). You can have students eat snack during one “reading” of the story, or right after the story.

Writing

You can hand students a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw a picture of something fun they have done (in their whole life) or something they like to do. Depending on their age, encourage them to write a bit to match their picture. This helps you learn more about them, and gives you a quick peek at what they know about writing. This could also become a quick and easy bulletin board display.

Math

Introduce your calendar routine and a few counting songs. You could also model and practice how to use a basic math tool, like individual whiteboards.

Project

It’s always nice to send home a little “souvenier” from the first day of school. Choose something easy to make – for your own sanity! I love making a magnet to go with The Kissing Hand. (Use a craft foam handprints and hearts. Add a magnet to the back.) But even a cute school-themed coloring page will do the trick.

Photo of a blue hand-shape cut from craft foam with a red foam heart on top.

Pack Up Early

Have students pack up backpacks and use the bathroom one last time before  you move on to your last activity. This ensure plenty of time, and makes it clear how much time you have left in your day.

Introduce Choice Time Activity

Either do an extra recess or introduce an activity that will be available for choice time in your classroom (drawing materials, blocks, puzzles.) If you introduce choice time activities, choose 1-2 things that at least half the class can use at once.

Line Up

If you line kids up in bus order (or any particular order), allow 10-15 minutes to get them lined up. This gives you time to pass out bus tags and triple check your end of the day transportation list.

Whew! You survived the first day of school! Time to go home, put your feet up, and celebrate – after you put away supplies, clean up the mess, and get ready for Day 2!

Not quite ready to make your first day of school plans? Pin this post so you can find it later.

Text says "First Day of School Plans Made Easy" with a photo of a child holding a sign that says "First Day of Kindergarten."
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