Create a List

List Name

Rename this List
Save to
Back to the Top Teaching Blog
August 14, 2017

Preschool First Days: First Impressions

By Sandra Carrillo
Grades PreK–K

    Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” When I reflect on what this quote means, I can’t help but think about my very own first day of school, and my very own first impression at the tender age of five. I remember the excitement that I felt that day, the anticipation, and the butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to go to school and that day had finally arrived.

    What I remember most about that day was how I felt. The environment was inviting, the personal connection I made with my teacher, Mrs. Birk (Miss Standiford back then), was invaluable, and overall, I felt very safe. Young children, as well as their parents, look forward to this huge milestone. It is extremely important, as teachers of our youngest learners, to ensure that the first impression we make is a positive one. Essentially, this sets the stage for school success. 

    It becomes second nature for teachers to create a list of things to prepare for the first day of school such as creating name tags, supply lists, etc. Sometimes, though, we must take a reflective step back and look a little deeper.

    Here are five things that I feel are important when creating that positive first impression:

    1.  Send notecards home prior to the first day of school.

    There is nothing more exciting to a child than getting something in the mail specifically addressed to them! I have had students run up to me on the first day of school or at Open House with their postcard in hand. The smiles on their faces are priceless. An instant connection is made when they receive that postcard in the mail. Parents and caregivers appreciate this small gesture as well. What a positive way to start the year! The Teacher Store has a variety of postcards to commemorate special occasions and holidays.  

    2.  Be purposeful in the activity you lay out for children to engage in as they settle into their new environment.                                              

    I will never forget the coloring sheet that was placed on the table for me when I walked into my kindergarten classroom. It was an elephant and I colored it purple! I glanced up at the window and could see my mother peering in. I was engaged in my first school activity and I somehow knew that put her at ease. However, what worked for me and some children will not necessarily work for others. Crayons and paper will not always do the trick. For another child, it might be LEGO blocks, Play-Doh, or puzzles that will draw them in.

    Also, while we want children to interact early on, we’re mindful that it takes time to get to know one another. While it’s important to have a variety of age-appropriate materials available, we must make sure to include options where children can work together, or work alone if they choose. When planning any kind of activity, the Children's Learning Institute emphasizes the importance of the three P's: activities should be "planned, purposeful, and playful."

    3. Make time to walk into your classroom acting as if you are a new student.  

    Take a moment and think about your favorite store. What kind of impression is made upon you when you first walk in?  What is it about the environment that encourages you to continue shopping there? Just as the physical environment affects us as adults, it also affects children in a variety of ways. 

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your classroom. In a preschool or pre-kindergarten classroom, everything should be at eye level. Here’s a trick that might sound strange, but is really effective: walk around on your knees to help you gain a clearer perspective of what a small child sees upon entering the classroom. And always keep in mind with young learners that less is more. It is best to not overwhelm them with too much stuff. Ask yourself these questions: 

    ·      Is the environment safe?

    ·      Is there a good traffic flow throughout the classroom?

    ·      What visual cues immediately grab my attention — what is their purpose?

           What is my first impression? 

    4.  Make sure that you are ready to document the first day of school.

    ·      Take a picture of each individual student — a snapshot of them engaged in an activity. This picture does not have to go home on the first day, but it should go home by the end of the week with some sort of caption: “My Very First Day of School” along with the date.  

    ·      Every child should go home with something that they created on the first day of school such as a drawing about their favorite part of the day, a special activity, etc. (Have the child tell you about their picture, write down what they say, make sure to date it.) You can create a personalized frame for it to make it even more special. An authentic piece of writing is always more meaningful! This will also give parents and children an opportunity to share this special moment, through conversation.

    5.   Reflect on the unique rituals you intend to implement in your classroom.

    For example, consider setting up an "Author's Chair." Plan a designated spot for the chair and introduce it to the children on the very first day. The chair can be used to share journal entries created in class or at home with parents. Include a stuffed animal in the area along with the journal. Many preschool classrooms have a stuffed animal to serve as a buddy or mascot. Each child should have an opportunity to take the journal and the buddy home.

    This activity should include a backpack to hold and protect the classroom buddy, a variety of writing materials, and a journal or notebook. In the evening, with adult assistance, the child will draw a picture of all the adventures shared between the two throughout the day and will dictate his/her story to the parent. The parent, in turn, will write down what the child says and read the finished product together with their child. When the student and the classroom buddy return to school the following day, the child will have the opportunity to sit in the Author's Chair and share the journal entry with the rest of the class. This activity helps children (and parents) adapt to their new environment and in turn gives them something to look forward to.

    To create the Author's Chair you need:  

    ·      Pillowcase

    ·      Stickers and iron-on letters

    ·      Backpack 

    ·      Fun writing materials: pencils, colored pencils, crayons

    ·      Class buddy or mascot

    ·      Journal

    Be creative! Iron-on letters work best on the pillowcase and will last longer, but in a pinch you could use letter stickers. The chair below was created using stickers. As far as the backpack, all of the take-home items should be able to fit. Keep that in mind when choosing the stuffed animal. It is best if it is not too large. This is a simple way to create a very special place in the classroom focused on promoting classroom community through sharing and writing.  

     

    There is so much to think about as a new school year begins, but I hope these few tips help to shine a light on the importance of creating a positive first impression for our little ones. An early childhood teacher plays a very important role in building the foundation for school readiness and success. We want it to be a positive experience!                           

    First impressions remain with us for a very long time. I may not remember every single detail of my first day of school back in 1977, but I do remember how I felt and that speaks volumes! That feeling set the stage for my confidence in school and later a successful career. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had a wonderful beginning! Thank you Mrs. Birk!

    I look forward to connecting with all of you, and I wish you all a very positive beginning to a great school year!

    Warmly,

    Sandy

    Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” When I reflect on what this quote means, I can’t help but think about my very own first day of school, and my very own first impression at the tender age of five. I remember the excitement that I felt that day, the anticipation, and the butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t wait to go to school and that day had finally arrived.

    What I remember most about that day was how I felt. The environment was inviting, the personal connection I made with my teacher, Mrs. Birk (Miss Standiford back then), was invaluable, and overall, I felt very safe. Young children, as well as their parents, look forward to this huge milestone. It is extremely important, as teachers of our youngest learners, to ensure that the first impression we make is a positive one. Essentially, this sets the stage for school success. 

    It becomes second nature for teachers to create a list of things to prepare for the first day of school such as creating name tags, supply lists, etc. Sometimes, though, we must take a reflective step back and look a little deeper.

    Here are five things that I feel are important when creating that positive first impression:

    1.  Send notecards home prior to the first day of school.

    There is nothing more exciting to a child than getting something in the mail specifically addressed to them! I have had students run up to me on the first day of school or at Open House with their postcard in hand. The smiles on their faces are priceless. An instant connection is made when they receive that postcard in the mail. Parents and caregivers appreciate this small gesture as well. What a positive way to start the year! The Teacher Store has a variety of postcards to commemorate special occasions and holidays.  

    2.  Be purposeful in the activity you lay out for children to engage in as they settle into their new environment.                                              

    I will never forget the coloring sheet that was placed on the table for me when I walked into my kindergarten classroom. It was an elephant and I colored it purple! I glanced up at the window and could see my mother peering in. I was engaged in my first school activity and I somehow knew that put her at ease. However, what worked for me and some children will not necessarily work for others. Crayons and paper will not always do the trick. For another child, it might be LEGO blocks, Play-Doh, or puzzles that will draw them in.

    Also, while we want children to interact early on, we’re mindful that it takes time to get to know one another. While it’s important to have a variety of age-appropriate materials available, we must make sure to include options where children can work together, or work alone if they choose. When planning any kind of activity, the Children's Learning Institute emphasizes the importance of the three P's: activities should be "planned, purposeful, and playful."

    3. Make time to walk into your classroom acting as if you are a new student.  

    Take a moment and think about your favorite store. What kind of impression is made upon you when you first walk in?  What is it about the environment that encourages you to continue shopping there? Just as the physical environment affects us as adults, it also affects children in a variety of ways. 

    Here are a few things to keep in mind when setting up your classroom. In a preschool or pre-kindergarten classroom, everything should be at eye level. Here’s a trick that might sound strange, but is really effective: walk around on your knees to help you gain a clearer perspective of what a small child sees upon entering the classroom. And always keep in mind with young learners that less is more. It is best to not overwhelm them with too much stuff. Ask yourself these questions: 

    ·      Is the environment safe?

    ·      Is there a good traffic flow throughout the classroom?

    ·      What visual cues immediately grab my attention — what is their purpose?

           What is my first impression? 

    4.  Make sure that you are ready to document the first day of school.

    ·      Take a picture of each individual student — a snapshot of them engaged in an activity. This picture does not have to go home on the first day, but it should go home by the end of the week with some sort of caption: “My Very First Day of School” along with the date.  

    ·      Every child should go home with something that they created on the first day of school such as a drawing about their favorite part of the day, a special activity, etc. (Have the child tell you about their picture, write down what they say, make sure to date it.) You can create a personalized frame for it to make it even more special. An authentic piece of writing is always more meaningful! This will also give parents and children an opportunity to share this special moment, through conversation.

    5.   Reflect on the unique rituals you intend to implement in your classroom.

    For example, consider setting up an "Author's Chair." Plan a designated spot for the chair and introduce it to the children on the very first day. The chair can be used to share journal entries created in class or at home with parents. Include a stuffed animal in the area along with the journal. Many preschool classrooms have a stuffed animal to serve as a buddy or mascot. Each child should have an opportunity to take the journal and the buddy home.

    This activity should include a backpack to hold and protect the classroom buddy, a variety of writing materials, and a journal or notebook. In the evening, with adult assistance, the child will draw a picture of all the adventures shared between the two throughout the day and will dictate his/her story to the parent. The parent, in turn, will write down what the child says and read the finished product together with their child. When the student and the classroom buddy return to school the following day, the child will have the opportunity to sit in the Author's Chair and share the journal entry with the rest of the class. This activity helps children (and parents) adapt to their new environment and in turn gives them something to look forward to.

    To create the Author's Chair you need:  

    ·      Pillowcase

    ·      Stickers and iron-on letters

    ·      Backpack 

    ·      Fun writing materials: pencils, colored pencils, crayons

    ·      Class buddy or mascot

    ·      Journal

    Be creative! Iron-on letters work best on the pillowcase and will last longer, but in a pinch you could use letter stickers. The chair below was created using stickers. As far as the backpack, all of the take-home items should be able to fit. Keep that in mind when choosing the stuffed animal. It is best if it is not too large. This is a simple way to create a very special place in the classroom focused on promoting classroom community through sharing and writing.  

     

    There is so much to think about as a new school year begins, but I hope these few tips help to shine a light on the importance of creating a positive first impression for our little ones. An early childhood teacher plays a very important role in building the foundation for school readiness and success. We want it to be a positive experience!                           

    First impressions remain with us for a very long time. I may not remember every single detail of my first day of school back in 1977, but I do remember how I felt and that speaks volumes! That feeling set the stage for my confidence in school and later a successful career. I feel very fortunate and blessed to have had a wonderful beginning! Thank you Mrs. Birk!

    I look forward to connecting with all of you, and I wish you all a very positive beginning to a great school year!

    Warmly,

    Sandy

Comments

Share your ideas about this article

Susan Cheyney

GRADES: 1-2
About Us