The first days of school were always some of the most anticipated and enjoyable times of year I experienced during my decades-long career as a classroom teacher. It was a time of starting fresh and “on the right foot.” I found that when I took the time to establish expectations and procedures in the first few days, the rest of the school year went much more smoothly.
Here are 3 social skills I taught on the first day of school no matter what grade I taught:
Greeting Others is not only a great skill to use at the beginning of each day, but also a lifelong skill to teach students to use when they meet someone else. Kids don’t naturally know how to look someone in the eye, use a pleasant voice, and say “Hi.” It takes teaching and modeling for them to learn.
In the first moments of the first day of school, even before we walked into our classroom, I taught my students what it looked and sounded like for us to greet each other every morning. I had my students line up at the classroom and listen quietly as I explained our procedure. In my classroom, we added a step to the basic way to greet someone by adding a handshake. Download our Back-to-School Resource Guide for a handout on Greeting Others.
Teaching my students a simple greeting procedure had multiple benefits. The most important benefit I found for my classroom was that it was a way for me to have a positive contact with each student at the beginning of each day. As my students became proficient with this basic skill, I added some small talk asking them questions to get to know them or by commenting on any positive behavior I recently noticed. These positive comments helped me to work toward praising my students more often than correcting them.
If you are an elementary teacher, you can find additional opportunities to use this skill by greeting students again after lunch and using a similar skill or procedure for saying good-bye to each student at the end of the day.
We all know how important it is for students to follow instructions. Just think about all the instructions kids get every day. From the moment they wake up and get ready for school, they have most likely heard several instructions from their parents. Then, when they arrive at school, they hear more instructions from the adults they encounter before the school day starts. Add those to all the instructions they get throughout their school day and a typical child may hear several dozens of instructions every day. Anything we expect a child to do well, it’s important that we provide them lots of practice. When children are able to follow instructions well, it can help them avoid frustration. Following Instructions was the second skill I taught the first day. Download our Back-to-School Resource Guide for a handout on Following Instructions.
Having students practice the skill of following instructions during the many instructions you give in the first days of school helps it be more likely students become proficient at the skill quickly.
Staying on Task
Finally, the third important skill I taught very soon on the first day of school was Staying on Task. For students to be successful both behaviorally and academically, staying on task is another key skill for them to become successful at as soon as possible. Download our Back-to-School Resource Guide for a handout on Staying on Task.
Staying on Task makes it more likely students are able to complete their work in a timely manner. That is always helpful when your students have several academic tasks to complete each day.
Taking the time to teach your students key social skills in the first days of school helps your students know exactly what to do to be successful each and every day of the school year.
Jo Ann Flaxbeard – Boys Town National Training Consultant
Bio: Jo Ann has 30 years of experience as an Elementary teacher. During her time in the classroom, she was honored both for excellence in teaching and for her support for students with special needs. After earning a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Supervision, she served as an instructional coach, guiding teachers in the application of educational best practices. Jo Ann uses her classroom and coaching experiences in her role as a National Trainer to both teach and support educators in their implementation of the Boys Town Education Model®.