5 Ways to Make Kids Feel Welcome
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2
1. Get them right to work.
It may sound counterintuitive, but sometimes the easiest way to make young children feel comfortable is to get right to work. Gunzel suggests preparing a few centers, and as students arrive the first few days of school, directing them to an activity of their choice. Invite parents to stay for a few minutes and work with their children, too. Try puzzles, math manipulatives, or coloring nametags.
2. “Bee” fun with the rules.
Gunzel also uses a friendly (and punny) bee theme to introduce first and second graders to the rules at Julia Randall Elementary: Be Safe, Be Respectful, and Be Responsible. The children write the rules on bee-shaped cutouts and then come up with additional “be” rules, such as “be friendly” and “be prepared.” Working together, they create a learning compact that supports Gunzel’s classroom expectations, and she sends home a copy to families, in English and Spanish, that all the children have signed.
3. Go on a treasure hunt.
Kindergarten teacher Linda Ansick has a sweet (and tricky) approach for welcoming students. She brings in a batch of gingerbread cookies on the first day. As the children settle on the carpet to hear the story of “The Gingerbread Man,” Ansick tells them they’ll eat the cookies as soon as they come in from recess. However, when they return, their treats are missing! Mrs. Ansick uses this opportunity to take the students on a tour of the school, introducing them to other teachers, and visiting places they’ll be going throughout the year. Once they have questioned the P.E. teacher, nurse, and music teacher, and checked the garden, bathrooms, playground, and a few classrooms, children are happy to learn that the cookies are in the principal’s office—where they snack and say hello.
4. Make a time capsule.
Roxanne Savage sends her second graders an engaging “All About Me” form over the summer. Working with their families, the children fill out their favorite hobbies, colors, numbers, TV shows, books, and hopes for the school year. On the first day, the students share the information on their forms with one another, and then Savage seals everyone’s papers in a shoebox marked “Don’t open until the last day of school!” When the class opens the time capsule, they see how much they’ve changed. The kids look forward to it all year—and it takes less than five minutes to prepare.
5. Play the name game.
In Nancy Wright’s kindergarten class, each student’s name is an integral part of building classroom community and sense of self, as well as helping to learn the letters of the alphabet. She prepares each student’s name on tablemats for use throughout the year. In addition, Wright adds each child’s name to her classroom word wall and frequently uses name chants, such as having the class chant the letters in the name of the “student of the week.” She also gives kids tactile experiences with each other’s names by having students write their names in shaving cream.