By Lama Chivi
Having an organised, child-friendly, and welcoming classroom should be your top priority if you are a preschool teacher. Whether you are a first-time nursery teacher or a veteran educator, it is important that you set up your classroom in a way that fully promotes learning. The best nursery teachers also have classrooms that help pupils feel comfortable regardless of the activity they are doing.
For many nursery teachers, however, preparing for the first day of school, can be significantly challenging. Since they typically work alone to set up and decorate the classroom, they tend to neglect certain things or rush through the whole process, and they end up having a poorly organised one. As a result, the first day of class for these teachers and their pre-schoolers may be less than fun and productive.
How to Organise for the First Day of School
If you are worried about having a lacklustre first day of nursery school that may carry over to the rest of the academic year, here are five tips to help you prepare for the big day:
1. Create a welcoming environment.
As a teacher, it is important that you make your students feel at home once they enter your classroom.
Start by decorating your classroom door. Place a welcoming message and decorate it with popular cartoon or fairy tale characters. By doing so, your students will immediately be attracted by the décor and will want to enter the room immediately.
Another way to help your students instantly feel like a part of the classroom is to let them see that you have already included them. Create a bulletin board dedicated to your students. Place their names, birthdates, and photos, if you have them.
You can also go online to get more ideas about how to create a friendly, beautiful classroom perfect for toddlers.
2. Assign seats beforehand.
Letting students pick where they get to sit will help many kids feel more comfortable inside the classroom. However, some students may have a hard time looking for a seat they like because someone may have already taken it, or there is no place for them beside or near the classmates they like.
To ensure fairness in seat selection, and that no student ends up feeling alienated, assign seats according to the last name of each pupil.
Another option would be to create a seating chart before school starts. On the first day of school, give students a number as they enter the room. This will help you monitor everyone and avoid a lot of headaches finding a place for each student.
Remember, though, that this seating arrangement doesn’t have to be the same throughout the year. Change it every few months so that the students can get to know their other classmates. And if you see two seatmates not getting along, make the necessary adjustments immediately.
3. Have an organisation plan for classroom supplies.
Make sure you have a list of all the supplies you need for your classroom. Use clear containers to store pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, and other materials, and label them. This way, you know immediately where to find the item you need.
Additionally, store all the extra supplies in clear plastic containers. Label them as well so that you can refill supplies easily when needed.
In case you will be using technology inside the classroom for certain activities, make sure you have a secure place where you can store your devices.
If the students need to bring their own supplies, organise these as well. Prepare boxes or containers (or have the students bring them) and label them with the student’s names. Place these containers in a shelf or separate table so that the students will have clear desks or tables to work on.
4. Establish and explain classroom rules and routines.
To ensure you have a smooth first day of classes and experience fewer headaches throughout the school year, make sure you have a list of dos and don’ts inside the classroom. These should include where to place their bags, how to use the bathroom, and when they can play outdoors.
Post this list inside the room and explain each item during the first day and why everyone should follow them.
Additionally, toddlers thrive on routine, and so would benefit greatly from an established schedule. Post a written schedule so that your students will have something they can easily read and follow inside the classroom. This will allow the students to know what to expect every day, which can help reduce their anxieties.
5. Be prepared to calm and soothe anxious students.
Finally, for most toddlers, the first day of school will also be the first time they would be separated from their parents for several hours. Therefore, teachers must be prepared to deal with several anxious, sad, and crying pupils.
One way of preparing for this is to have a few stuffed toys inside the classroom and give them to the sad students. They can hug the toy and carry it around for comfort.
You can also inform the parents beforehand that their kids can bring their favourite stuffed toy for the first few days of school. When the kids have their favourite toy at hand, they will have something familiar and comforting with them inside the classroom.
To have a successful and fun first day of school, follow the tips above. Taking note of them throughout the school year will help you stay organised and manage the classroom better as well.
Lama Chivi is the CEO of Blossom by Babilou Education in the UAE. Having lived in Dubai for over 30 years, she combines the best of international practice and local expertise into this leading British Curriculum Nursery, delivering a top-tier and high-quality offering to the MENA region.