The first day of school is always something special. Even though it is already the fourth one for pupils. I always wish to make this day memorable for children and therefore, prepare different activities for them. This is also the day, when I prepare a surprise for their last day of school. At the end of the day, I will only be their class teacher for this year…
Key words: fourth grade, activities, feelings, friendship, memory.
Every year I am excited to meet my new pupils. After leaving their third-grade teacher, some of them very confidently, others a bit frightened, enter their fourth grade. The first day of school is a special day. Of course, we could spend it tediously, distributing books, noting their inventory codes, wagging about the rules and proper behaviour and threatening with the workload that awaits the pupils.
And then there is another way. I am certain that a lot of us teachers are very excited about that day, since we are well aware of what awaits our pupils in the classroom.
My pupils, together with me, step through the classroom door, where I welcome every single one of the with a big hug and wish him or her a very successful school year. The lead topic of that day are… butterflies. The class is just filled with them. They are ornamenting the panel, the glass wardrobe doors, the board, etc. On the board there are also large, colourful butterfly wings, but more about those a bit later on.
Children look for an inscription with their name and their eyes are rushing from desk to desk, until they have finally found their name and sat down, some of them clearly happy to see who their neighbour is, others maybe a bit less so. The sitting arrangement, however, is carefully planned after consulting their previous teacher.
The inscriptions made for the children are my own work. Their content may be a bit playful; some might even say a bit self-important. However, my goal is to make my pupils proud of their 4th a class.
Figure 1. The Classroom is Prepared Figure 2. How Lucky!!! You Flew into the 4th A
Activities of the First Day of School
I convey the instructions to my pupils and challenge them towards thinking. All the activities take place at the same time and children are allowed to choose the order in which they want to participate at them.
a) The Tree of Friendship:
On an already prepared tree, pupils leave their fingerprints. They are aware that every print is distinctive for each one of them, unique, just as they are themselves. The painting that is created, is called the Tree of Friendship and is decorating the class throughout the entire school year. It resembles that we are a team, more than that, we are friends and we know how to cooperate, stick together and to understand and help each other.
Figure 3. The Tree of Friendship – the Fingerprints Figure 4. The Tree of Friendship
b) It is important to go to school because…
Upon arrival, there is a self-adhesive paper awaiting each of them on their desk. I often like to challenge the children by claiming that the school is “just lame and boring” and they quickly start convincing me that that is for sure not true (thankfully, they are only in their fourth grade). I Invite them to write down their own thoughts about the importance of education on the provided paper. Each of them then sticks their idea on the large paper, hanging on the panel. In the upcoming days, we would read them through and discuss them.
Figure 5. Contributing my own Thoughts
c) The Rights and Obligations
But in the school, we do not only play a fool. All pupils receive their own poster called “The Rights and Obligations,” which is my own work. On the first day, I only tell them to read it at home with their parents and hang it on a well visible spot. On our next class lesson, we again point out that for every right that belongs to me, there is also an obligation to fulfil or to obey. We all agree to take this into account and confirm it with our signatures. I then hang the oath on a visible spot, next to the tree of friendship. And indeed, throughout the year, when lots of things would happen, I often tend to point at that little poster on the wall and our signatures on it.
Figure 6. The Rights and Obligations
d) I am a Butterfly – Photographing
I created large butterfly wings and children pose in front of them, one after another. The result are wonderful pictures of my pupils on the wings that will carry them through their new school year.
I save all of the photos and the children only see them again on their last day of school, when I gift it to them, together with a nice thought. We are then all surprised how much we have changed in that year and we notice how they are growing up. The feedback from parents yet again confirms that those memories are forever.
Figure 7. Photographing Figure 8. On the Wings I Fly into the Future
e) How am I Feeling Today?
Before children leave the classroom, we again hug each other. This time, the hug is already much more confident than upon arrival. Of course, it cannot go without a sweet surprise that awaits them on the desk, next to the door. On the door, there are also three emojis, expressing different feelings. The pupils stick their butterfly next to the feeling with which they are leaving the classroom today.
On the next day, we have a discussion about our feelings. This is aimed especially towards the children that are afraid. There are usually not many of them, yet I am always glad to see if even those butterflies fly up to the field stating “GREAT” during the first few days.
Figure 9. How am I Feeling?
A profession of a teacher is a dedication. The school year does by no means just begin on the first day of September. Preparations for a pleasant start of the year take time. Maybe this is the very reason why I am always so excited to meet my/our new class.
A class that I receive is always diverse. Just like a bouquet of flowers, where some of the blossoms always “stand out a bit”. My aim is to establish the boundaries already on the first day and do so, by discussing the rights and obligations. At the same time, I want to let my pupils know that as a class we have to stick together and be friends. I would also like them to know that as a teacher I care a lot about how my pupils feel in my class.
And what matters most – that they are the children who on their colourful wings will be able to fly straight into their life…
“When you will grow stronger on one field, you will soon realise that others have as well become manageable. The next thing you will notice will be that you are growing high as a wonderful tree of which the roots are anchored deep into the ground. In other words, you will be growing into a wonderful, mysterious, incomparable thing called… LIFE”
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