The first day of school for any child can be a moment of anxiety and confusion. The transition from home to the outside world is filled with new experiences, some rewarding and others frightful. Educational professionals, whether in kindergarten, pre-school, first grade or other child care environments can find it especially challenging to put children at ease in a classroom environment. It is not difficult to make children safe, secure and attentive in their first school setting. Teachers only have to keep some helpful tips in mind in easing the transition and making the learning experience a thrilling adventure for children.

Program Activities

Teachers should have an outlined program of activities developmentally structured and age appropriate for the children in their class. Simple group activities work well in this vein, such as coloring and painting, story reading, toy identification and other simple activities. Decorating activities such as applying colorful window clings allows children to personalize their environment, letting them think the classroom is part of their property. Any task provoking interest will comfort children and let them have some control in the creative process.

Individualized Attention

Every child is different in needs and expectations. Teachers should spend time with each individual child in an effort to learn about their personal views and needs. This is the time to learn about certain phobias and things that make a child uncomfortable. Fears and apprehension are especially magnified when children are away from their home setting for the first time and such fears should be addressed in a soothing but reassuring manner. Children who are quiet or unusually non-social should be gently encouraged to join activities and make friends with other students. Teachers should spend added instructional time with students who might be slow or hesitant in accomplishing tasks. Positive reinforcement will go a long way in helping a child to adjust and gain confidence.

Familiarization with the Environment

Children are naturally curious when it comes to a new environment. The classroom can be a strange and mysterious place, but outside, the hallways, other rooms, additional children and strange adults can leave children wondering what else is happening around them. This is when an orientation can be the perfect icebreaker. A teacher can explain the curriculum and meet the parents, providing an opportunity for parents to discuss their children’s habits and special needs. A simple guided tour around the school helps to demystify the environment. Children in the company of their parents will feel comfortable and protected as well as receptive to any positive signs shown by the parents. A parent’s seal of approval of an establishment often gets the same reaction from the child.

Safety

An emphasis on safety cannot be stressed enough. Heavy objects should be removed from high shelving to avoid spills and injury. Pathways in the classroom should be routinely cleared for easy walking, while toys that may prove injurious or harmful should be removed. Teachers need to be mindful of keeping sharp or pointed objects away from children and discouraging any type of aggressive behavior that involves objects that might cause injury. Fights and disagreements between children should be quelled immediately, giving timeout or verbal discipline for aggressive acts against others.

That Home Feeling

Teachers who allow and encourage home photos of family and parents into their classrooms encourage sharing and open discussion. Photos of loved ones, and even pets, can be pinned to a large cork board for all the children to see and visit each day. As a permanent fixture, this sharing activity imparts that “home” feeling where a parent, family member or pet is now part of the classroom. Children should be encouraged to bring and share items of cultural significance, such as crafted Native American items or possessions that have ethnic importance. Such displays help children to understand and respect others who are new or different.

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