Wednesday, 6 January 2016

First days of Prep

This time three years ago I was in complete freak out mode. I was stressed out over moving to Prep and had absolutely no idea where to begin. After spending a gazillion hours searching Pinterest and several conversations with my new mentor teacher, I had my first week all planned out. Did it all go to plan? ABSOLUTELY NOT! You know the phrase 'The best laid plans..."? well that pretty much sums up my first week experience.

BUT, I learned from it! And the first week of my second year teaching went a little smoother ^happy dance!^

And then this time last year I was in the same boat again, freaking out over my move to Prep. Anyone else in this kinda position? Anyway, again I spent another million hours on Pinterest and chatting with my new mentor teacher and was finally ready. Still things didn't go exactly to plan, but I was so much more confident!

I know that a lot of new teachers are in this same exact boat so I would like to share my own tried and tested ways of beginning your year in Prep :)

Firstly, I should explain that at my school, the first time I meet my kids, see their faces, get an idea of where their are academically is the first day of term. We don't have a 'Meet the Teacher' day until about Week 3 once the kiddies are settled in and teachers are officially finalised (the whole Day 8 thing can cause havoc). So my first day is hectic. Kids bringing in all their books and belongings, 2 or 3 adults for each child in the room - day 1 is very overwhelming! I swear I drank a whole water bottle in the first 10 minutes from sheer nerves!

I will break this post down into the key things I try to prepare for and if you have any questions about anything else, please feel free to comment below and I will try my best to answer :)

P.S. I do apologise for the ton of words as I do not have photos of my first day (things were way too hectic! I will do my best to take some this year and add them in for next year)

Classroom Environment

One core belief I have is that if you create a warm and welcoming classroom environment, your students will feel much happier to be there. I love to make my classroom bright and colourful (Last year I had a Disney theme and they loved it! This year I am going for a 'Jungle' theme and can't wait to share photos once it is complete :) I have searched and searched and searched online for different classroom images and you would be amazed at the creativity of some teachers! Really simple things like an inviting pinboard, colourful posters, bright buckets - and books on display! I have also seen some amazing uses of coloured paper pompoms and streamers.

These are some images I used as inspiration when I started prepping my first classroom :) All the images are hyperlinked. I know these are American sites and I swear their classroom are about 10 times as big as Aussie rooms, but there are so many cute little things you can get ideas for.

bright rainbow kindergarten classroom tour



Get organised! If you have hexagon tables then you will need a place to store your kiddies books. Same goes for supplies. If you are having shared supplies then you will need an organisation strategy.

Personally last year I used buckets, baskets and plastic drawers, which I will be using again this year, but there are so many different options out there! Bookshelves, drawers, pigeon holes for books, and buckets, caddies, trays, bins for supplies.

Again, I have put together some images for inspiration with links to their host site :)

Fun and colorful way to organize supplies for your class and add an extra bin for "trash". This keeps students from going to the recycle bin.:

No matter what grade I teach next year I am thinking of doing this! Classroom Organization:

Organizing the kindergarten classroom.  I really like the idea of each table color having their own color supply containers.:

Ok. So it is 7am, day 1, and your classroom is all set-up ready for your new little cherubs to come in...with all their books and pencils and library bags and hats and folders... What next?

Last year I set up a little table and as the kiddies brought in their things we just piled them up on top. Throughout the afternoon I checked off the materials they had brought in and put everything away where it belonged. Honestly, it took me forever, and some parents DID NOT LABEL! I was left to sort it all out.

This year I am making a change. I will instead be buying 30 large paper bags - 1 per child and sheets of white labels and textas for parents to stick to all their child's books, folders, pencils etc. This way I can keep everything together, know exactly who's is who's and it will look much neater!

Wen my kids come in I like to have a colouring page and baskets of pencils set out ready for them. Keeps them happy and busy while you run around answering the million and one questions parents will throw at you, plus it is something easy they can keep as a memento of their first day.

Once all your kids have arrived, and their materials have been sorted take a moment and STOP, BREATHE, and have a DRINK. Your first day will fly - trust me. You will forget all about drinking water because you will be so run off your feet and worrying but it is so important to keep yourself hydrated - especially if you are a Queensland teacher like me and your first day is 30+ degrees outside! Remember, your kiddies will feel it too so remind them to drink from their water bottles, and add in little toilet breaks and brain breaks for them.

After you stop and take a breath, start your morning routine. I highly recommend spending the very first 20 minutes or so of your day reading a book about school and creating or introducing your classroom rules. Below are a few of my favourites - I am still waiting to receive my new copy of 'The Kissing Hand' which I will use this year but it is also a beautiful story to begin the day with.

This year we started every day with Circle Time. We sang songs, did the calendar, counted, played games and recited nursery rhymes and I thrived on it! Crazy right? If I was sick for a day I really missed my morning dose of 'The Wiggles.'

Oh yeah, and the kids enjoyed it too! Haha!

Honestly, over the first week I try to add in heaps of hands of activities for English and Maths groups and supervise. Remember, you will need to very clearly explain and model every activity, every movement, every action you wish your students to do - including how to move from the carpet to their tables! If in doubt, model! They catch on pretty quick if you are consistent :)

I do like to get straight into work after the rules are set. We read our English text, do literacy rotations, learn a letter, and by that time it is lunch! Told you - the days fly!

Same goes for maths. We play a number sense warm-up which my kids still at the end of the year did not consider maths!! We have a number lesson. We do our Maths rotations...and it is lunch again!

After lunch we go out to play..ahem...sorry...complete gross motor and social skill development activities. When we come back in we do a teeny bit of Science. When I say Science, we are learning about Australian animals in Term 1 so it is super fun! Animal crafts, looking at pictures, hypothesising (Ha! Snuck in a big word!!) and just exploring in any way we can.

On day 1 I do not expect my kiddies to do book work - mainly because their books are still in bags on the floor where they were left that morning! - but also because this is their first day in a classroom. I want it to be fun! I want them to be excited to come back!

Now, over the first few days my job is to OBSERVE. Yep! OBSERVE. Obviously I teach as well, but when the kiddies are doing their thing working together, playing together, it is my job to observe them and make mental notes about their social skills. What are they lacking? What are they great at?

Also - CHECKLISTS! Over the first few weeks I try to do a letter-sound checklist for all my kiddies, and a maths checklist (recognising numerals, 1:1 correspondence, building numbers etc). This will help to guide my teaching. The earlier you do it, the earlier you can start targeting exactly what your kiddies need.

Woah this is a long post! Still with me? Good on ya!

Basically the best piece of advice I could share with a beginning teacher is have fun. Honestly, if you are having fun, your kids will too. If you get to the first day and realise you forgot something, don't stress over it. There is nothing you can do. Just make a note and sort it out after school or another day. You have 40 weeks of teaching these little minds ahead of you. If something is missing for a day it will not hurt them. Trust me, I have done it every year! It is not the end of the world.

And use the resources available to you! You will most likely have a kick-ass aid to work with who will be there for you when you are lost and have no idea what to do. Ask questions of other teachers. If you are unsure of something don't be afraid to ask. Someone will help you.

Finally, even if you have a terrible day every now and then, remember, tomorrow is always a new day with new opportunities.

Teaching is such a special profession. Enjoy it. Smile. Have fun. And treasure every minute of it :)

Until next time my friends...


  1. Thanks this was great to read!

    1. You're very welcome :) I hope it helped you out a little!