Starting school is one of the most significant milestones of childhood. It can bring excitement and anticipation as children begin the next step of their educational journeys. But it can also provoke anxieties amongst children, parents… and teachers! Here are my top tips for settling children into Reception!
There are so many challenges associated with the first few days and weeks in Reception, from navigating new surroundings, communicating with unknown adults, adapting to the behavioural expectations of school, and managing the transition from a more familiar nursery setting. The role of EYFS teacher is to ensure that children approach these challenges with the confidence and resilience that will set them up for the rest of their school lives and beyond.
Here are my top 5 tips to ease the transition process and settle your new class in:
1. Keep the goodbyes short
School drop off can be a stressful time for both children and adults, especially on day one. While we don’t want to diminish the ceremony of the occasion, or deny parents a tear of pride as they drop their little ones off at school for the very first time, I do suggest that the quick and short goodbyes are the best ones. The hustle and bustle of drop-off time can be overwhelming, and, for both parents and children, anxieties might be prompted by the fear of the unknown. But encouraging a quick goodbye routine can help to avoid unwanted tantrums and long emotional goodbyes.
2. Story Time
There’s no doubt that, after the heightened emotions of the first goodbye, your class will be feeling a little anxious on their first day. So what better way to ease them into school life than with a story about… school life?! A book that walks them through the routines of the day will be just perfect, and might even get them feeling a little excited about what is to come.
Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School is a great read if you are sensing your class is a little nervous. Harry feels exactly the same way, but his beloved dinosaurs help him through the day.
Lulu’s First Day is the perfect pick to introduce your class to all of the activities that they will take part in during their time in EYFS. From playing in the sand, to painting pictures, to reading stories in the special reading tent… the possibilities are endless.
Or, if you’re looking for a read that will spark some giggles, The Colour Monster is the one for your new class! The story follows the adventures of the colour monster on his first day at school, as he causes chaos in the classroom. A great book to put your children at ease – but hopefully not to set a precedent for what is to come!
If you’re looking to really use this text with your class to help them to understand and regulate those strong emotions then the Colour Monster Planning Bank is a great place to start!
3. Building relationships with trusted adults
The first weeks at primary school are essential in developing relationships with trusted adults and teachers. A classroom can be feel big and difficult to navigate for a 4-year-old – having an adult who they know will help them along the way is crucial.
Making sure your key adults are available (with their most nurturing smiles!) in the first few hours, days and weeks will really help in settling children into Reception. Encourage your team to interact and support individual children during their learning as much as possible. Building these relationships is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. It’ll give you and your team a chance to really get to know your new class.
4. Keep it simple!
The first couple of weeks with a new class are so exciting – but it can be easy to get bogged down in the assessment demands of EYFS.
Remember that you’ll be wanting to encourage new friendships and relationships amongst your class – as well as with your adults. Planning in some ‘getting to know you’ activities is important and circle time opportunities, games and chances to play are perfect ways to do this and help in settling children into Reception. It’s also important for your new class to feel successful during their first few weeks – low stakes activities and lots of praise are ideal for this. It will help your class to develop a positive outlook towards school and set them up with an effective learning attitude.
A great topic to support this is “All About Me” or the enquiry based “Who am I?”. There is a Planning Bank and Medium Term Plan available to support this theme and enable you to find out a bit more about all those little personalities!
5. Establish your routines
Establishing your routines and procedures in the first few days and weeks will not only make your life much easier in the long run, but it will help your class to settle in more quickly. Routines are crucial for behaviour management – if a child knows what is expected of them, they will find it much easier to manage their behaviour within those expectations.
You might want to consider visual cues in your classroom – knowing where, what and when things are will really help your children to settle in. A visual timetable with symbols for activities means that they will know what to expect.
You’ll also need to think about the needs of any SEN of EAL children within your class – it may take different individuals longer to understand routines, or they might need additional help in following through activities.
Also consider communication between your staff at this point. Who is managing which routine? Is everybody positioned in the correct place? How can you best manage the learning environment? Team work makes the dream work!
And finally- setting the tone with your morning routine. A familiar morning routine means everyone (children and staff) know the expectations and this familiar routine leads to a calm morning, where everyone knows what to expect. I always set up linked provision activities with name cards (for R from Spring term onwards, or Y1) or colour cards.
So, as we get stuck in to the new school year, keep these little tips and tricks up your sleeve for a calm and relaxed beginning. No doubt there will be a few hiccups along the way – but remember to enjoy this very special time with your new class as they embark on their educational journey.
As always, I am here for support and guidance as and when you need it!
Have a great first few weeks settling children into Reception!