Back to School – January Edition

Teaching Firsties > Classroom Management > Back to School – January Edition

As I sit here in my pajama pants, my hair in a pony-tail, I’m counting the hours before I return to school. I can honestly say that I’m having a little bit of anxiety about returning to the real world and re-entering society after a pretty relaxing break. 

My first grade kiddos have also been home and away from our usual classroom routines for two weeks. So come Monday, we’re all going to band together to relearn how to function together as a group. So here is my plan for getting used to school again.

Morning Check-in

First thing, hugs and smiles. Some of your kiddos may be more excited to return back to school than others. Their first view of you might brighten their faces. I’m going to feed off that. When my kiddos come around the corner to my room, I’m going to absorb their happiness. 

We have a school-wide Monday morning meeting, which will help get the whole school together and focused. After that, luckily I have about an hour before I need to go anywhere. 


I’m going to do THIS activity. On one side, they’ll draw what and write what they did over Christmas break, and on the other side, they’re going to draw and write what they think I did over break. 

When they’re done with that, I’ll review my expectations for talking with partners, and they’ll share their activity with a partner.

Sometimes, students need more than one reminder of how to interact with their classmates. I’m most likely going to pull out some of these ice breaker games to help them re-connect.

Rules and Routine Review

I’m going to review our rules and routines. Imagine the most epic anchor charts ever! Have your students tell you what they remember about what rules you have, and what routines run your classroom. Here’s your chance to re-do some routines that aren’t the greatest. For example, transitions are tough this year. Getting mail, lining up, turning in papers, and so on aren’t the best this year. I’m usually good at teaching routines step-by-step, but for whatever reason, this has been hard this year. So this is a fresh start for me too. I’ve spent the last week or so really re-thinking the things that don’t quite work well in my classroom and making a plan to fix it when we return. 

Social-Emotional Lessons

I’ve noticed a gap over the past ten years or so in my student’s ability to cope with difficult situations. Whether it is a disagreement over a crayon or a difficult day, these little kiddos have a hard time identifying their feelings and figuring out how to manage their emotions. I have really big plans to really make this a big deal in my classroom. I’m going to focus on the feeling of the day. It might be something that I notice that the students are feeling, or it may be something that I know they need. Monday’s feeling lesson is “frustration”. I noticed before break that we ALL had a lot of frustrations with each other. I was frustrated with the class if they didn’t listen, they grew frustrated with each other for your regular first grade things.

Slow the HECK down!

Last year, I had a very peaceful year. I know there has been a big difference with how calm I was. I’m not sure why, but this year I think I had an unnecessary sense of urgency. I’m going to SLOW DOWN. Part of that is both deep breathing and teaching the students how to breathe. I’m going to wear my apple watch and when it tells me to breathe, I’m going to STOP AND DO IT. And I’m going to teach my students the importance of stopping and breathing too.

The Clip Chart

This is a tough one. I have read so much information about not using a clip-chart for behavior. Here’s a blog post about my clip-chart journey. I tried going without a clip-chart from August to December. And I’m bringing it back. I’m disappointed about this, but I’m not giving up the idea of not using one. I just don’t think I was ready yet. 

However, I’m not using poor behavior as a decoration on my wall. My new clip-chart only has “Think about it” below “Ready to Learn”. And the rest is positive. My plan is to stand by that clip-chart and really look for the positive behavior. It’s also going to force me to focus on those students who need to have their good choices noticed. 

There may come a day when I ditch the clip-chart altogether, and when that day comes, I’m going to be ready to implement a new system. But for this year, I’m going to use the clip-chart, but for good, not for evil.

Good Luck in 2020!

Well, teacher friends, good luck! It’s a new year and a new decade! 

5 thoughts on “Back to School – January Edition

  1. I’m starting back tomorrow. Yes it’s tough getting them ( and myself) back into the swing of things and on a routine again. I completely agree with you about slowing down. The first few we’ll if the school year are always the best for me and I’ve decided it’s due to the slow pace. When I get in a hurry and have that sense of urgency so do the kids. But when I slow down and relax they too slow down and relax. Thanks for this article it was just what I needed before emanating back on the teaching journey tomorrow!

    1. Wow. A few typos there! Sorry about that. Should have said the first few weeks of the school year. And embarking back on the teaching journey.

  2. I love that while you are focusing on the social emotional well-being of your “Firsties” you are also reminding yourself to absorb happiness and to slow down. 🙂 I also appreciate how genuine you are in reflecting on your methods and the grace you grant yourself. Thank you for this thoughtful post!

  3. Definitely reviewing expectations this week. I have 2 new students so it’s the perfect time for some refreshers.

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Teaching Firsties with Mrs Hull 2019
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