Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The First Few Days Of School: Getting To Know Each Other

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations.

The first few days of a new school year are challenging. I want students to feel comfortable and get to know our routines. I teach in a state funded pre-k program housed in a private learning center. Some of the students in my class have been in our center since birth. Others will walk into my classroom having never been separated from their parents. I also want my students to get to know each other and begin to build friendships. One of the most important things I will teach this year is how to treat each other. Today, I'm sharing some of the things I do to help us get to know each other. 

One of my new students in the first few minutes
 of a new school year! Today was our first day of school!

At our Parent Orientation, I send a questionnaire home about the family. I ask questions like:  What are the names and ages of children in the family? What major holidays does your family celebrate? Would you be willing to visit the class to share information about these celebrations?  What terminology does the child use regarding the bathroom? What are the parents' occupations? The answers help me to better understand the child when they are telling me about things in their world.

In addition to the questionnaire, I ask the parents to write me a letter telling all about the child. I suggest a few things they may want to include in the letter such as the type of learner they are, the types of play the child enjoys, the friends or types of friends he plays with and the parents' goals and expectations for the year. This gives them a chance to brag, plus it provides me with valuable insights I might never know otherwise. I've found often parents are more willing to write about difficult situations that may affect the child than to talk about them with the teacher. In these letters, I've read about difficult births, childhood battles with disease, parent battles with disease and struggles with homelessness. I have also read amazing stories of hope, courage and love. These letters help me understand exactly where the parents are coming from, how they parent and often the depth of their love for their child. 

During the first week of school, we play lots of "getting to know you" games. Usually, they consist of me naming a characteristic  and the child completing an action if the statement applies (if you have a brother, stand up; if you like pizza touch you head; if you have a dog clap your hands). It is great for a time filler or transition activity can last as long or short as you need and also helps us all get to know each other.

One of the first large group literacy activities we do in Pre-K is an ABC Names poster. I give each student a strip of paper with their picture and name on it. We talk about the letters of our names then glue them on the board alphabetically. We leave this up all year. Any time a student needs to spell a their own name or a friend's name, the chart is a handy reference. By the end of the year most of the class can either spell friends names or at least identify letters from friends' names.

Each month, I send home "family homework". Each project is intended for the family to work together to create. The first homework project is usually sent home during the second week of school. I ask the families to help the student create a family picture collage that will hang on the front of their cubby all year. The pictures bring a bit of "home" to school with the child and can be very reassuring. It also gives the child a chance to "brag" about their families. "This is when we all went to Disney." "My brother and I caught a GIANT fish!" They are proud of their families and love to show them off. These stories are great for anecdotal notes, as well as helping the children to engage in conversation with teachers and classmates.

I know that by the end of the year, I will really know my students and they will really know each other, but in the meantime, these are a few ways to help us get the ball rolling. I met my new class today, and I think this is going to be a really fun year. They are already looking out for each other and asking questions about each other!  

Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!


  1. Love your ideas! Do you have a form that you send home that you could share with us? Also do you have a list of family "homework that you do during the year?
    Thank you!
    Cheryl S.

  2. Pinned! Very nice ideas! We had a 10 minute family homework policy and sent home a list of 100 spelling words for the whole year (no tests).


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