Getting the First Day Right: 5 Tips for NQTs

Tips to help those first few days run smoothly

The big day is here.

The summer is over and so is your confidence.

You’ve had two INSET days; setting up your classroom, listening to training and trying incredibly hard to remember all the names of the eighty members of staff.

But today is different; today is the day you meet your class for the first time.

Today is the day that first impressions count.

So what can you do to ensure this day turns out well? How can you make sure it goes right for you and for the children? How can you trust that you won’t be running out of the building, vowing never to return to the classroom again?

Well, a little bit of planning and some good old fashioned courage goes a long way.

Here are 5 tips to help you ensure that this days turns out just the way you want it to.

By following these, you should get to the end of the day with a smile on your face and a spring in your step:

  1. Smile! This might sound ridiculous but, if you’re not careful, you can wear your emotions on your face. If you’re nervous, this could very well appear on your face as a grimace or a frown. The children will be nervous too – they want to be greeted warmly and with a smile; not with a wrinkled brow and icy tones. Look at your posture – stand confidently and speak clearly. Trouble makers can pick out the nervous teachers, so be confident even if you’re having to act your socks off.
  2. Start as you mean to go on – as much as you want to come across as warm and friendly (see above), you don’t want the children to think that you are so warm and friendly that you don’t care how they behave. Put the boundaries in place from the start and don’t budge…an inch! The hard work you put in on the first day should stand you in good stead for the rest of the term/year.
  3. Plan! This might seem an obvious one but don’t think that you’ll just spend the day ‘getting to know each other’ – the activities needs to be planned properly. Keep the pace up and have high expectations. If something takes longer than you planned, that’s okay. If they do everything 100x quicker than you anticipated, have some reserve activities up your sleeve. Remember children are more likely to misbehave in a slow-paced lesson, so don’t let things drag on.
  4. Hook them in – try to plan a really good ‘hook’ activity for the first day, preferably linked to your first topic. Doing something really exciting will ensure that they are enthused for the learning the following day/week, and that they have plenty to talk about when they get home. If you don’t feel quite ready to do this, that’s fine but whatever you plan to do with them, make sure that it is engaging and motivating for them.
  5. Establish your class rules – this is linked to point two, but it deserves its own bullet. Make sure the rules you set are done in conjunction with the class – don’t breeze in there on the first day with the class rules done and dusted. Children are more likely to respond to the rules if they feel that they have a sense of ownership. Get them to sign them too! With my Year 6 classes in the past, I have asked them to write expectations for me too – they LOVE doing that! Makes me accountable to them, as much as they are accountable to me.

DON’T! Get them to write about their holidays on the first day. Children really don’t enjoy doing this and it is a ‘time filler’ at its best and ‘shoddy planning’ at its worst. If you want to do a holiday sharing activity, do it verbally but always bare in mind that there will be children who haven’t had the greatest of holidays, and may feel uncomfortable sharing that ‘they didn’t really do anything.’

And finally…

Make sure that you are clear about what you want to do on the first day. It is better to over-plan rather than having to worry that they’ve finished everything you have planned, and it is only morning break time.

What things have you all got planned for your first day? Share them below and we can learn from each other!

Good luck with your planning.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Steph Caswell and published with kind permission.

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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