Chances are you stumbled across this post because you are either moving to first grade, or you are a new teacher assigned to first grade. Congratulations! You are about to teach the BEST grade ever! You will see many of your students coming in as kindergarten graduates just beginning to read, and they will leave your room reading like rockstars!
Since so many teachers were asking for advice in my Fearless First Grade Teachers Facebook Group, I decided to make a collaborative blog post with all the expertise all into one post!
Now…if you are asking yourself, “Why am I not in that group!?”
Don’t worry! We want you to join us! You can join by requesting here!
31 Tips for New First Grade Teachers:
“Plan for short, structured activities…especially at the beginning of the year. It’s best to have too much planned than not enough.” -Angie
“Take lots and lots of time at the beginning of year to really get rules and routines in place. Model EVERYTHING you want done a certain way. Work on routines for 2 weeks before letting students work on their own. Also when starting station have all groups work on the same activity for a few days then slowly add in other activities and practice rotations.” -Carrie
“Get your expectations and routines down before you move on to independent work! Model! Model! And model some more! Find what interests your students and plan lessons based off interests. Easy way to create an engaging experience. Build a community within your classroom. Get to know your kiddos. This is the easiest way to manage behavior.And trust me, I definitely don’t mean it’ll be easy! One size doesn’t fit all with behavior management because each class is so different.” -Kelly
“Take your time, having a great classroom management is key! Find one that works best for you and your classroom!” -Amy
“You may be their only positive adult and provide their safest haven so greet them daily with a sincere smile and a warm good morning. Provide consistency, direction, and routines from the start but keep rules to a minimum. Provide practice, practice, practice for work, play, and behavior. Let them leave daily having had fun and positive experiences that outweigh the negative. Utilize all of your co-workers for collaboration and support.” -Suzanne
“Being consistent is the key! Pick a few things to do for classroom management and stick with it. It will make the whole year run more smoothly. Also over plan for the first week or so. It is better to have more and not finish than to not have enough material.” -Valerie
“I like to take the students around school to show them where everything is and to meet important people. Also, we practice, practice, practice restroom and hallway routines.” -Angela
“Solid reading and phonics instruction is so important. Guided reading or small group instruction in reading is key. The amount of growth that students will make in reading during first grade is the largest of any grade level. They come to us as sight word recognizers and CVC decoders and leave us as actual readers who understand and can analyze text. Remember that every child will grow at their own pace. We are there to provide them with all the tools they will need to be successful!” Anna
“My advice to a teacher moving to 1st grade is model, model, model and when you think they’ve got it down, model some more. Model everything!” -Cheryl
“Remember that your students will come in the first month as kindergarteners that need to be molded into first graders. Train then in procedures from the first day and keep it simple. -Victoria V.
“Enjoy yourself and the students. They need a caring and uplifting adult each day to help them grow socially, emotionally, and academically.” -Stacy
“Remember to keep the students needs in mind. Not every lesson in the teacher guide has to be taught and some will need to be taught again but in a different way. Give them as much hands on practice as you can. Make sure they get lots of actual reading time too. Most of all, let them know how much you care about them. Give lots of high fives, smiles and hugs. Email parents with something good about their child as much as possible, and when their child is absent, tell them how much they were missed. Build the relationships and the learning will come easily.” Julie
“Organize your materials both digitally and physically! Making sure you organize as you go will create a much smoother second year of teaching. It is a lot to do, but very much worth the time you put in to it.” -Erin
“The most important thing to remember is to make sure you know how they go home for dismissal on that first day!” -Elaine O.
“Classroom management is key! Routines and procedures are key! First graders will surprise you with how much they remember! If you are moving up grade levels you will be excited for all they know. If you are moving down grade levels remember flexibility is key. They are not as independent as you would think. The amount of growth you will see over the year will amaze you. Enjoy the ride.” -Kailie
“Don’t feel like you have to start teaching curriculum on day one. Spending the time to set up expectations and routines will ensure that you are able to focus on curriculum down the road.” -Susan
“I feel like the most important thing is to make sure you’re not alone. Even if you have the best class, being alone is a struggle. Make sure you know who your buddy rooms are and who you can contact for lessons or behavior. You also need to build that relationship with their children. Your hardest child is probably the one that you need to connect with most because they need you. Take the time to know them on a personal level. I struggled with one girl for the longest time but I finally picked up on everything and was able to connect with her to a point that I was the only adult she trusted. So… Make sure you’re not alone, build the relationship past school children, and finally… Connect with parents. Having their role in your class is important!!!!” -Charla
“Remember to be patient and empathetic. They are still babies and need lots guidance during this time of major growth.” -Bethany
“Have great communication with your parents from day one. Get to know them and their children. By having open communication, it will be more easy to discuss any concerns or other information with the parents. They also will be more willing to support you at home.” -Kristin
“The most important thing you’ll do is create a community. Firsties need to feel safe, valued, and respected in your classroom. Take the time to spend a few moments each day to share, laugh, and love one another. Once you’ve created a family, your kids can learn anything!” -Jenna
“Be sure you monitor as they learn the class rules and how to move fro center to center!! Be VERY firm the first month with the 6’s!! Making them understand that you are serious about the rules and procedures!!! The rest of your year will be great!! Many of my student teachers and interns did not take me seriously, and it was painful as they struggled to regain control after letting the students ignore and being very noisy in centers!!! It is much easier to let go than it is to regain control and they will NOT like it!!!” -Martha
“Find various ways to communicate with parents. Technology is great, but not all parents are tech savvy or have the resources to communicate online consistently. Establishing a strong, direct line with home will help in so many ways. Also, spending at least six weeks establishing routines, procedures, and making sure they understand the rules is key. The more they understand in the beginning, the easier your year will be.” -Jean
“Strong and consistent routines, transitions, and behavior management is vital. Even though it’s hard, take the time in those first few weeks to model, model, model. You get what you put into it. By taking the time to model and share expectations you are setting up your year for success.” -Alicia
“Build a safe and positive learning community that knows how to communicate effectively with each other. Ask yourself, how do I want my students to solve problems? If you want them to be independent problem solvers, you have to model and give them the tools. Model everything you expect and be fair, firm, and consistent.
Build your rules together! Maybe categorize them into 3 big rules like: take care of yourself, each other, and the school and have them come up with what each looks like and sounds like when following those rules. Write them positively and have the kids sign it!
When teaching listening and speaking skills, teach accountable talk (I agree, disagree, would like to add on…) and use it from day 1.
I’m not a fan of clip/color charts for behavior…. these are tier 2 interventions that schools are requiring to communicate home. Whether you use them or not, you must communicate with your kids. Don’t just tell them to drop their clip. Kids associate color with behavior and if your kids are always on yellow or red, they’re going to be labeled that. They go home saying I’m red (I’m bad) and have no idea why. The clip chart should be a discussion not a punishment. Think about why they’re on red. Do they know the expectations? Have you communicated with them and let them know the unwanted behavior and what you’d like to see instead. Is it attention? Maybe they need a special intervention to make them more successful. Also, if you use those charts.. move your kids to pink and purple if they’re having great days. They start to feel inadequate when they’re always green…. just like we feel when we’re evaluated as “accomplished” but we feel we were “exemplary.”
Start guided reading ASAP and do it everyday! Add individualized word work or writing to it to enhance your student’s learning. Don’t neglect your kids who are already on or above level, they need you, too!
Don’t neglect sight words, word building and writing in first. If you’re school doesn’t have a writing curriculum, get together with your team and make one. Have tools for them to use, personalized sight word walls in writing folder, sounds cards/mnemonics, etc.” -Tara
“Remember to set expectations right off the bat and to revisit teaching procedures as needed. Also look at your students (especially friends who may difficult) with the potential that they can attain. Looking at them and seeing what they can become and what wonderful things they can bring to your classroom.” -Richa
“First grade is a huge year in the process of learning to read. As a teacher, remember to celebrate even the smallest of successes and victories. Your reactions and encouragement can make a huge impact on students’ attitudes toward reading, so do what you can to help make it positive!
Don’t underestimate the power of modeling. Don’t assume that just because they’ve been in kindergarten that they know what you mean or what you expect. Model, model, model, and if they do a procedure incorrectly, stop and have them repeat it until they get it right! Your year will go much smoother if you set these expectations up front and STICK TO THEM! Consistency is key.” -Whitney
You will have bodily fluids end up on you no matter how careful you try to be. You WILL be sneezed on and catch some sort of cold from it. It’s an occupational hazard. -Lesa M.
Make a positive phone call to every student’s parent the first week of school to start off on a good note. It starts the communication ball rolling and later, if you need to call about a “not so happy” issue, you have already built some rapport with the parents. My first phone calls are always to parents of my more “challenging” students. Plus- it just makes the parents feel good and it gives you a chance to answer any questions or concerns they have early in the year. -Keely
“First grade is one, if not the most important year of your students schooling. This is where they get their basics to build on, especially in reading. Always make your kids (they will become your kids) feel loved, special, and secure. Celebrate them more often than not and remember you have a huge impact on their learning from your reactions and responses. Always build them up, never tear them down!
When you open your classroom door every morning, have a great big smile on your face and welcome them with a loving expression and have fun with them. Always make learning fun. Use Chants, songs and lots of read alouds and every first grade teacher needs Junie B. First Grader books!!
Have high expectations for every child. Every child can learn, always remember that! Start learning on the first day. Always be consistent and structured, especially with your procedures. Modeling is vitally important. Model everything (they watch your every move anyway!) always go back and correct something and repeat it until they’ve met that expectation.
Make sure you have good parent communication and not just for bad behavior. Send home bragging notes every now and again and tell parents how proud you are of their child. Have a good working relationship with that parent and make sure those parents know that you are doing everything possible to make sure their child is successful. Remind Parents that, THEY WERE THEIR CHILD’S FIRST TEACHER. You are just building in what they have already learned from them.
Find lots of resources, like this fb page. I love it! I get so many wonderful ideas here. Don’t get set on one teaching style either. Always look to better your teaching. I’ve been teaching 1st grade for 16 years and I’ve recently changed my style and I’m so pumped and excited. We do so much more chanting, songs and dancing in my class than ever before and I know everyday, at the end of the day, my kids go home liking one or more things we’ve done that day. My kids come into my classroom every morning listening to Kids Bop songs. They expect it and it’s so fun. Make a place they want to come to, not a place to dread.” -Lisa
“You will see so many loose/lost teeth! Some dangling by a thread, some bloodier than others, but each and everyone is special because once it’s out, there’s nothing cuter than the gap left behind in your students smile!” -Maria
So there you have it! 32 Tips to get your year started out right! If by now you are just dying to get in this group, here’s the link again! I hope to see you in there. There are so many fabulous first grade teachers with a WEALTH of information and we know you will fit right in!
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