Your classroom is up and running. Your classroom management system is in place. Your students are learning the curriculum and know the routines. Then, you get notice that you will have a new student starting tomorrow. You start to panic as you have to get so many things ready, and wonder about how this new child will fit into your classroom. We have come up with our top 10 tips for welcoming a new student. This list will provide you with ideas and strategies to make the transition easy.
One of the most important activities you can have your students do before the new student arrives is to make individual welcome cards. This is a chance for your current class to tell the new student a little about themselves. It is also a chance for this new student to feel welcome from the moment s/he sees the cards. Welcome cards are a must for a new student starting in your room.
It is easy to get caught up in the stress of adding a new student during the school year. But if you keep a list of materials that you need to have on hand for a new student, it makes it much easier. Our list includes: student desk, chair, name tag for desk, name tag for locker, assignment notebook, home folders, ordering textbooks/workbooks, and extra supplies on hand in case the student doesn’t have any (pencils, colors, scissors, glue…). These materials will get you through the first day of school with your new student feeling like part of the classroom.
At the beginning of the year I always send a letter home to both my students and their parents introducing myself. I keep this letter on file and send it home with any new student as well. I want to not only let the parents know more about me, but I want the child to find some connections with me as well. I will include things in the students letter such as my favorite drink (Mountain Dew), favorite food (cheeseburgers), favorite movie (Star Wars), favorite color (blue), favorite video game (Mario Kart 8), and other things that I like to do. I have found that parents and students appreciate getting to know me a little more and it helps students connect with me more.
For a child to step foot in a new classroom with different expectations it can be difficult. Our school is a Restitution school that has class beliefs. Those beliefs were developed with the students at the beginning of the year. When a new student arrives, I pick a student from the class to go over our class beliefs that we have on a poster. They read through the poster together and the student learns what it looks like and sounds like to be responsible, respectful, kind, and safe. Throughout the first week that the student is there, s/he catches on pretty quick to the verbal and non-verbal signs that I use with the class to get their attention as well. Covering classroom management and your expectations the first day is a must.
One of the hardest and scariest things for a new student is to learn the class routines. To be able to know what to do when s/he comes into the classroom, where the bathrooms are, what to do for lunch, and what is needed for each subject can be very difficult. That is why I assign a student helper to the new student to help with these things. I make sure that the new student is sitting by the helper in class, and that the helper is allowed to whisper during the school day to help out the new student whenever a question arises. This has helped ease the transition for the new student into the classroom routines.
It is always important to be able to look at the student’s record from the previous school. A lot of valuable information can be in the file such as: test scores, any health issues, any IEPs or 504 plans, and any other information that may help you get to know the student a little bit better. If the student has special needs, connecting with the special educaiton department will be crucial right away. Being knowledgeable about the student before s/he arrives is very important to setting up success for that student on day one.
In order for the new student to experience success, you must also be able to communicate with the parents to let them know how their child is adapting to the new school. There are many ways to do this. Sometimes we write a short note in the assignment notebook. Other times we may make a phone call home. Probably the most frequent method that we use for parent communication is via email. It’s quick, easy, and we have found it to be the best way to get in contact with parents. But the main part here is to establish communication with parents early on so they know that you are looking out for their child.
Connections with Other Teachers
Once you find out your new students’ interests, make sure to introduce them to other staff members in the building. If the child likes sports, connect him/her with the Physical Education teacher or other staff members in the building. If the child likes to color or draw, seek out the Art teacher. If music is a passion, connect with the Music teacher. If the child has past issues, make sure to introduce the student to the guidance counselor too. Being able to form relationships with other staff members will help the child succeed at school too.
When a new student arrives, it is often a mystery as to where the student is academically in relation to his/her peers. Since we want to be able to place the student in the appropriate guided reading group, we will administer both the DRA and STAR reading assessments. In order to do this, we will have the class do Daily 3 choices while we administer these tests to the student. We do not want to keep the student in for recess, because that is a time for the student to socialize and make new friends. If there are other assessments that we want to give such as the Words Their Way inventory and a math inventory, we will find time during the school day to do these as well. Finding the new student’s academic level is important so the child’s needs can be met.
That first day of school for the new student will be challenging. Make sure that you check in with the student on a frequent basis to make sure s/he is understanding the procedures and the content that you are covering. Also, try to make a connection with the student if you can. Whether it be a sports team, a favorite food, or even a TV show try to establish a culture of openness with the student.