There are so many things that teachers must do the first week of school. Do these sound familiar?
All of these things (and probably a few others that I missed) must be taught, discussed, and practiced (repeatedly) if you want your classroom to run smoothly all year long. See the last item on that list? That's my favorite 'must do.' In my eyes, all the items in the list are equal in ranking when it comes to importance, but I truly enjoy teaching my kiddos good work habits from the start.
Good work habits, in my classroom, include:
We all want our students to be neat, to pay attention to detail, to follow directions, to take pride in their work, and to pace themselves when working. When I say "pace themselves" I'm talking about not rushing. I want my students to focus on the task at hand and thoughtfully complete that task. Rushing rarely yields stellar results.
Our students don't always come to us doing all of these things. And, that's OK, they are little kids. They aren't born knowing the skills that make up good work habits. They learn these skills.
My favorite way to teach these important habits is in context. What I mean by that is, I use back to school activities, projects, and assignments that I have planned for the first week to introduce and reinforce these skills.
I usually start teaching these skills on day one. I like to start with neatness. Of course, being neat also entails paying attention to detail, and not rushing through a task. My favorite project to use on day one is a class book.
We talk about what a class book is and who will be reading it. When kids know that other kids will be reading their work, they are typically motivated to do their best. They want their peers to love what they have contributed to the special book. This makes the class book perfect for encouraging students to take pride in their work. You can cover so many work habits with one simple project!
Once we talk about the class book and its audience, I show them an example of neat work (see below). I point out that I colored in the lines (yes, accidents happen, and that's OK). I also point out that I used colors that make sense (I don't have purple hair, so I didn't color myself with purple hair). A page like this is perfect for focusing on those coloring skills.
The next day, we make another class book. One that includes more writing, so that we can focus on neatness as it pertains to handwriting. I review the skills we talked about the day before, and I remind the students of who will be reading this book. Then, I show an example and point out the use of neat handwriting (Do you like my typical second grader response? Hehe). When I say neat handwriting, I simply mean that the words can be easily read.
Over the course of the week, we end up making several class books, which gives the students several opportunities to practice using neat handwriting and coloring, paying attention to detail, pacing themselves (not rushing), and taking pride in their work. It's easy to get student buy-in when focusing on these skills in this capacity because they want to make a really awesome page for that special class book!
Class books are one of my go to projects that help reinforce notions of neatness, attention to detail, pacing, and taking pride in one's work, but I love to do craftivity projects too! Craft projects are perfect for teaching all these same work habits, but are also great for reinforcing the important skill of following directions!
You're probably thinking, crafts during the first week? Really? Yes! I'm not talking about hard core, super involved projects here. It is the first week of school, so keep it simple! You can still teach your students to be neat, to pay attention to detail, to follow directions, and to take pride in their work with simple activities. Take this project for example.
It's a writing project disguised as a craft. More specifically, it's a first week journal. Each day, the students write about that day. With this kind of project, you can model neat coloring and handwriting, attention to detail, and pacing (remember, when I say pacing, I mean not rushing through the work). Then, they can practice those skills. Whether you have students cut and assemble the book before they begin writing, or after they finish writing on all of the pages, you can use that portion of the project as a means to reinforce following directions and paying attention to detail.
If you walk into my classroom the first week, you'll likely see my second graders completing a craft like this. Well, actually, this exact craft. Hehe. I like to get student work up on the board ASAP, and this is a quick and easy project for that.
It's simple enough and provides great practice with attention to detail and following directions. I typically pass out all the templates that the students need. Then, I model how to cut out each piece. Once I cut a piece, the students cut that same piece. As I model, I talk about what I'm doing. I point out that when cutting rounded or circular shaped pieces, I really need to slow down and carefully follow my cutting line. I even teach them where to set their cut pieces so they don't misplace them. This reinforces the notion of neatness beyond writing and coloring.
Then, I repeat this process with the gluing phase of the project. I display the craft on the board so they can see it and attend to detail and follow directions more easily. Breaking it down step by step makes it easy for them to follow directions. It also puts them at ease because they can easily see what is expected, and ultimately they end up feeling successful at the end of the project.
While there are so many things we must do that first week of school, remember to take time to make sure that good work habits are on your list of must dos. Focusing on these habits from the get go will pay off in the long run. The activities pictured above can all be found in my Return of the Nerds Back to School Activities pack. You can check it out here on TPT.
One last thing before you go. I'd love for you to use this class book to help teach your students some great work habits this coming school year. You can download it for free by clicking here. Enjoy!
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