The first day of school is a daunting prospect for most, full of nerves, trepidation and a touch of hopeful anticipation – and that’s just the teachers.
Students arrive with a flurry of mixed emotions too.
The U.A.E is an industry nerve centre that attracts people from all around the world. This makes it a country with a transient nature, so facing new teachers and saying goodbye to old friends is a common occurrence, meaning that the first day of school (even for returning students) always has the potential to bring with it nervous apprehension.
The emotional impact of walking into a strange new classroom, with strange new faces can leave lasting associations towards school for the entire educational journey. A student’s first impression can cause worried self-talk. (Will I make friends? Will anybody like me? Am I clever enough?) Or it can be an uninspiring non-event made up of beige walls, uniform desks and repetition that inspire nothing but yawns. However, with a touch of planning and a sprinkling of creativity, first impressions can trigger a sense of belonging and encourage anticipation. (My cubby already has my name on it! The teachers look friendly! The school is so colourful! This could be fun!).
The good news is that these all-powerful first impressions can be easily shaped by the faculty’s first day philosophy. The more creative the day is, the more creative the year will be, directly impacting the levels of student engagement, staff motivation and even the amount of truancy that a school experiences. (Insert link to blog 1)
So, how can teachers and schools transform the back to school dread looming at the end of a long summer into a day full of adventure, wonder and creativity?
Here are a few simple ideas for shaping a day that inspires a lifetime of happy and creative learning.
- At The Gates
Create A Warm Welcome
What should be the first thing that students and their families see when they enter the school gates? (Aside from excellent playground equipment and impressive sports facilities.) A heartfelt greeting is the simplest and most effective way of nurturing a relationship and making a student feel like an important member of the school community. This feeling becomes embedded in their learning psychology and has lasting impact long after the first day has ended.
Research has shown that students belonging to schools with a strong sense of community achieve higher grades through middle school and exhibit fewer behavioural issues.
- Ask the choir and orchestra to come to school 20 minutes early so that they can serenade the students with the school song and a few chart hits that will get people singing along.
- Create a simple and easy to follow treasure map for the FS children and their parents to follow to their new classroom.
- Set up a ‘selfie’ station for the kids to take a picture of their first day of school and include educational accessories and soft play equipment as props for students to pose with. (insert image of Moon Kids soft play items/games/challenges/ picture frames etc.) Kids today love a ‘selfie’ and the images can then be used to create a collage of the school community.
- Have a stall with free coffee with a big ‘help yourself’ sign. New parents are nervous about making friends too and this is a great way for them to meet other parents.
- In The Classroom
Establishing a safe environment where students are free to express themselves, to make mistakes and to learn from failures and successes. There are endless ways to achieve group cohesion that is vital for a classroom that honours the creative learning journey.
Establish Great Expectations
- On a large board write down simple, positive key behaviours and expectations for yourself and your students for the year. Leave a big space for the students to add their own ideas too, using images, words, or symbols. Allowing them to set their own expectations encourages ownership over their behaviour and gives you a glimpse into each child’s hopes and perspectives. At the end of the day talk about the elements on the board and ask the students for their creative ideas on how, together, you can align the expectations for the year and achieve the common goals. The board can stay up for the whole year, with elements ticked off as they are achieved and rewarded.
Get To Know Each Student In Innovative Ways
With an adjustable space there are boundless ways to break the ice and to learn a little bit about each child.
- Have flexible school furniture to symbolically align the physical properties of the space with the learning attitude within it. Flexible seating is conducive to individual learning, group discussions and can also be moved aside to make open space.
- Break the ice by playing catch with a beach ball and each child calls out their name when they catch the ball.
- Have a snowball fight. Ask each student to write 3 things about themselves on a piece of paper. Let them crumble up the paper into balls and throw them around the room. Each student then unravels one ball, reads out the information and tries to guess who they have.
- Make a puzzle. Cut up a giant puzzle piece and ask each child to draw an image or write a sentence that represent themselves along with their name. As a team, put the pieces back together on the wall and you have a colourful and descriptive poster that reflects all of the class members.
- Finish The Day On A High Note
The end of the day can always be a tricky time, the students are tired and so are the teachers but it is important to end on a high note so that the students know that the creative first day of school is just the beginning.
- Throughout the day ask the students to draw pictures, make handprints, write letters to their future selves, compose newspaper articles or make any creative item that they choose, depicting what they would like to achieve in the year. Place the items into a time capsule at the end of the day and make a ceremony out of locking up the box and placing it in a safe place to be opened on the last day of school.
- Strike a pose. Lead the class in striking a few relaxing yoga poses and ask the students to be mindful of what they most enjoyed throughout the day. This calms the body, relaxes the mind and cements the day’s positive learning experiences.
The options throughout the day are endless and the impact is enduring.
Although the excitement and nervous jitters of the first day of school diminish and the realities of passing tests and reaching standards sets in, the ethos of learning through creativity stands strong. The wonderful thing about creativity is that it is unique, just like your school and the children within it.
Moon Kids take great pride in providing physical landscapes that feed the senses and in offering ideas and possibilities that your individual facility can build on to create your own unique style. Subscribe here (insert link) to become a member of our community committed to bringing creativity to life.
Cunningly simple ideas to banish the back to school blues and set tone for your school and classroom on the first day in a way that will have the kids clambering at the door, eager to learn for the whole year.
“You can’t use up creativity, the more you use the more you have”