I’ve created this blog post to share my plans for the first day of school for Grade 1 French Immersion. Each school board in Ontario has different French hours, so I am providing plans for a full day, with a prep period factored in. You may find you need less than this if your board isn’t 100% French. I’ve also created a Back to School Guide that can help you plan other aspects of your return (classroom setup, setting up routines, letters for parents, activities, etc.). If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s a great place to start!
FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL
Arrival/Entry: Approx. 30 minutes
This transition will depend heavily on how your school does things. If you’re at a new school, make sure you’re informed on the first day procedures. Our students don’t know their class placement until the first day of school. We go outside with a sign with our name and grade, and families come see us to ask if their child is in our class. If they are, they will stand in line in front of me. This goes on until everybody in the yard has found their class.
Parents who are still there have a last chance to say a quick goodbye, then off to our classroom we go. I always choose cubby spaces on behalf of the children. This helps to save a lot of headache and it makes it easy to move students around if you need some closer to you. I encourage them to find their cubbies, take out any class materials they need as well as their water bottle. Once they’ve done that, they are to go into the room, find their spot (also chosen ahead of time for them) and get settled.
Centres: 40 minutes
In Grade One, there are still students who feel emotional so I like to start simple. Transitioning from Kindergarten to Grade One can be a big adjustment for them. Myy first day is a mixture of centres (similar to Kindergarten) and independent activities. I incorporate a lot of play in their days for the first little while to help make the transition smoother. My goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible, so they’re not nervous to come every day. The first thing they will do when they come in are centres. I put out 4 or 5 centres, and they get choice in where they’d like to go. This is aimed to be a soft start to the day and give the students something they’re familiar with to do in order to ease their nerves. I don’t put out anything that needs instructions because I may be busy needing to help emotional students get settled.
I would either do Playdough or Kinetic Sand for this center. It really depends on what I have on hand! I bought this bag of Kinetic Sand off of Amazon. It comes in a 2 pound bag, and I recommend buying 2 bags of it to have enough to go around for a group of 4-5 students. My favourite thing about Kinetic Sand is that it doesn’t dry out, so it lasts a while! The toys shown in this photo came from some small packs of Kinetic Sand I bought at Dollarama. I do NOT recommend their sand – it is dry and doesn’t really work, but it was worth it only to get a few packs of these molds.
Lego: The tray is totally optional. It comes from Dollar Tree, it is officially a veggie dip tray, but they work perfectly for putting out small objects! I use the tray to remind students that the Lego MUST be sorted into the colours shown once we tidy up. I don’t love it when they want to “save” creations and I’ve found this to be the best method to avoid fights. I also bought my Lego at Dollar Tree. I’ve always heard that the non name brand stuff is garbage, but I’ve had no issues with this one.
This one is self explanatory. If you are a new teacher and don’t have any puzzles, I recommend going to your local Value Village and checking out what they have. I got A LOT of puzzles (and board games for indoor recess!) that way for a very low price. I store them in plastic bins, with the photo of the puzzle cut out and taped to the lid because the boxes get completely ruined with time.
For the art center, I put out some colouring pages as well as small (blank) notebooks. I give each child a notebook on the first day of school with their name on it. That becomes their drawing book until it’s completely used up. If I haven’t had the chance to prep the drawing books yet (or if the school order for notebooks hasn’t arrived yet), I will put out some white paper cut in half.
A few years ago, I bought my own set of magnetic tiles. I put these out as a construction center and students can use them to build whatever they’d like. The set I have is 100 pieces, which is good for a few children building independently. If you want to have 5 or more students at this center, you may need more blocks for them to be able to create effectively.
School Tour: 20 minutes
After we tidy up the centres, I bring the class to the carpet where we discuss carpet routines and rules. Then I take them on a tour of the school. We practice lining up and walking in the halls quietly. The students may know their way around the building already, but in Kindergarten, they have everything they need in their classroom. I start by showing them where the water fountains and bathrooms are, we go to the office, to the gym, to the library and we finish outside. I show them which painted line we line up on after recess and then I give them a chance to play outside.
Outdoor Time/Recess: 45 minutes
My school makes the transition ideal because they have recess before their nutrition break. When we go for our tour, I get them ready for recess before we go and then they stay outside until it’s time to eat. If your school is the opposite, then you could bring them back in or swap outdoor play for another point in the day.
Nutrition Break: 20 minutes
This is your time off. Make sure to eat your lunch!
Read Aloud and Classroom Rules: 30 minutes
To introduce our classroom rules, I read David va à l’école to the class. The book is short, making it perfect for Grade One. We use the book as a base to talk about the behaviours we saw in David and to talk about what behaviours we would like to see in the classroom. I have a list of “rules” already in mind when we do this, and I guide the students to create the rules. I write the rule as well as put a photo beside it to illustrate it – most students can’t read yet, so the photos are key! The rules are co-created and I will refer back to them with the class/individual students when needed. Make sure to post them in a good spot so that the students can refer to them.
Pendant l’été: 30 minutes
This is the only independent activity we do all day. We start on the carpet and talk about how we can tell stories with photos. I model this on the board, using one thing I did during the summer. By thinking out loud, I show them how to add lots of details. I also stress that they need to draw their picture in pencil first. That way if they make a mistake, they can erase it. Once the drawing is done, we practice sounding out a few words to label the photo and then they can colour it. I also encourage them to try to write a sentence if they can.
I give the students a piece of paper with a big space to draw. At this stage, they will be communicating most of their ideas through photos. Because their vocabulary is limited, we’d be working on learning new words and writing out the sounds we hear for the first little while.
PREP: 40-60 minutes
Finally a time to breathe! I use this time to catch up on anything I forgot to do. This could be photocopying, getting forms ready, labelling duo-tangs/notebooks, etc.
Recess/Nutrition Break: 50 minutes
I use this time decompress a bit, make sure I’ve eaten and gone to the I use this time decompress a bit, make sure I’ve eaten and gone to the bathroom (if I didn’t during the first break). This is often the first chance I’ve had to check my phone. The first day is always hectic!
Ending the day: 30 minutes
When we come back from the nutrition break, I bring the kids to the carpet and we have a small discussion about how their day went. Afterwards, I give them a small colouring activity that they can work on until it’s time for our end of the day routine.
End of the Day Routine: 30 minutes
Because it’s the first day, I give them lots of extra time to get organized. It will take some students a long time to get ready. I do coloured table groups and each group has a captain (the captain gets switched out every week, so they all get a chance to do it). Everybody now has to tidy up all the materials they were using for the previous activity. The captain goes to get the message bags for their group (I have a bin for each group) and hands them out. Everybody else needs to pack up anything that is going home into their message bag and they signal to me that they’re ready to go by being quiet with their heads on their desk.
I let each group go as they’re ready and they go to their cubbies to pack up their bags. Today, I ask them to return to their desks so I can ensure that they all know where they’re going when the bell rings. I would have asked the parents that morning how their child goes home. I double check with each one of them where they’re going (after school program, bus, parent pick up) and line them up in 3 different lines. Those lines will be the same for the rest of the year.
Because I like to tidy them up early, sometimes we have a bit of extra time before the bell rings. If we do, I get them to put their backpacks down in their lineup spot and we play a game until it’s time for the bell. I have a list of games in my Back to School Guide, and we will do something from there.
I hope this helps you get organized for your first day. Please drop a comment below if you have any questions.