Monday, August 25, 2014

First Day Lesson Plan: The Critical First Five Minutes

I use almost the same lesson plan every year for the first day of school. I focus on routines and procedures, and positive expectations, thus setting the stage for a successful beginning of the year.  My first day lesson plan has always been inspired by my favorite teaching book, The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher, by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong.  I believe that the first five minutes of the first class of the year are the most critical. 

The class name, period, and teacher is listed on the chalk board.  I greet the students from outside the classroom door as they walk in, telling my name and class.  An easy-to-follow seating chart is on the board, and a relevant assignment is waiting for the students on their desks.  My script is something like, "Hi! Are you here for French 1 with Madame Robustelli-Price?"  Head nod.  "I am happy you are here.  Welcome. Please find your seat using the seating chart on the board.  There is an assignment waiting for you. Please get to work quietly, and remain quiet until I address the class.  Thank you."  If students do not follow directions, I calmly call them back to the door and ask them to repeat the process.  When all students have finished, I smile and address the class, thanking them for their cooperation, and then officially "begin" my lesson plan.   The next few classes, I continue to teach students my routine for opening class, and we practice it the first months of school until it runs effortlessly.  As the year goes on, bell work is not always quiet, but the routine remains the same. 

This opening from day 1 sends a variety of messages:

1.  Their comfort and security are important to me.  Their first two fears are immediately addressed, "Am I in the right place?" "Where do I sit?" They know, within thirty seconds, that they are in the correct classroom and are given a seating assignment.
2.  I am an organized teacher.  The seating chart is already completed and they have an assignment.
3.  Learning is important to me.  Class begins immediately on the first day of school.
4.  I am happy they are here.  I am sure to express this upon first meeting, and when I address the entire class the first time.  I have never been a teacher who doesn't smile until December.  I smile from day 1 as I am teaching students the structures of my classroom. 
5.  Routines are important.  If my first directions are not followed, I will ask students to complete it the appropriate way.

I have used that same opening for ten years, and will continue to use it, as it has laid a great foundation for success for every class and every student.  I truly believe that those first five minutes are the most important for the entire school year. 

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