Returning to school after a summer’s vacation is difficult for children…adults too! To soften the blow I would always contact my students during the summer months to introduce myself to them and to their parents. The two major issues for little children when they return to school are; What is my teacher really like? and Who is going to be in my class?
During the summer I would send a letter of introduction to each student. I would always let them know how much I enjoy reading poetry and included a copy of one of my favorite poems in the letter. Years later, one of my students told me that they still had that letter and poem, it was kept as a special remembrance. I would then ask the children to bring their favorite poem to class on the first day of school. If they did not have one they could bring in a book of poetry they enjoyed. This gave us a common point of interest and something that connected us as a class unit.
To continue with my introduction I would also include that I am a proud parent and grandparent and that there will be photographs of my family in the classroom. At this time I would ask the children to speak to their parents about bringing in a special photo of themselves for our class bulletin board. When the children enter the classroom on the first day of school they would see the “All About Me” bulletin board display filled with photos of me, my children, other family members and other memorabilia about my love of poetry, basketball, and scrap booking.
Each week the “All About Me” bulletin board would change and another class member would be on display. I would write their names on paper and select them at random and let them know a week in advance to prepare their display. The parents could ask for a different week if there was a problem with that date. I remember one display where a little girl’s mother brought in her daughter’s dance recital outfit and we had an incredible 3-D display.
I have also had many situations where there was no parental assistance and no photos at all. When that occurred I would take photos of the child in our room and we would work together to have him/her draw pictures of their favorite hobbies and memories. No one felt left out and we all enjoyed learning about each other.
This display definitely helped each student to learn more about their classmates. Another display we enjoyed was the “Getting to Know You Better Banner”. I would get a huge piece of bulletin board paper and list the names of all the children. We then would fill in the columns with information about ourselves. The columns included such titles as: Do you have a pet? What is it and what is its name? Have you any brothers or sisters? What is your favorite TV character? Do you play any sports? Which are your favorites? If you could go on a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go? Who would you take on this vacation? Filling out this survey takes a great deal of time, it is not done in one day! However, it is very useful for me as a tool to learn about my students, and the children enjoy it as well.
I have found that these helpful hints helped reduce the anxiety of returning back to school.