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The First Two Weeks in a Self-Contained Classroom

September 4, 2020 No Comments

The First Two Weeks in a Self-Contained Classroom

The first two weeks in a self-contained classroom are fun and amazing, but they can also be overwhelming. Are you unsure of what to do at the beginning of the school year? I have put together a list of three things that I recommend you do to start EVERY year!


3 Recommendations for Your First Two Weeks in a Self-Contained Classroom

On the left is a picture of a boy playing with dinosaurs on a white table. The boy is wearing a blue shirt and there is a bookshelf behind the boy. On the right, the following text is written "Follow their lead."


1. Follow THEIR lead

During the first week or two, follow your students’ lead! See what toys, food items (if allowed), sensory items, books, gross motor activities, songs, etc that the students gravitate towards. We can learn so much by just observing students. During your observations, take notes. You can download my FREE data sheet at the end of this blog post for assistance. Here, you can write down what the student liked to play with, what toys they didn’t show interest in, what books they enjoyed looking at, skills they displayed at centers, and so on. This exercise is even valuable for students you know! So much can change over the summer and we want to make sure we’re prepared for and knowledgeable about our students. 

On the left is a picture of a woman smiling towards a young child. The teacher is dressed in a white shirt and blue blazer. The boy is in a yellow shirt looking at the teacher. On the right, the following text is written "be an earn!"

2. Make yourself an earn

Use this time to build rapport, gain their trust, and make yourself an earn. We want students to see their teachers as a preferred person. It is important that students want to work for us. We need students to know we are there for them, and we have their best interests at heart. This can be done by engaging with students, discussing shared interest, and capitalizing on positive interactions. Play with them! Read with them! Dance and sing with them!


On the left is a picture of a teacher at a table with three students. The students are working on a shape puzzle. The teacher is smiling at the child on the right. On the right, the following text is written "Establish Routines."

3. Establish routines and expectations

While many teachers may think this step is the most important, I would disagree. In my opinion, routines and expectations aren’t as meaningful to students if they don’t have a good relationship with their teacher, and they don’t see their classroom as a safe space. I don’t mean that you should allow students to stand on their desks. But I do mean that students becoming comfortable in their classroom should be a priority before inundating them with rules and procedures.

Wondering which routines to teach first?

  • Morning routine: Students should know what is expected of them as soon as they walk in the room. Also, you want students to start their days off successfully and on the right foot.
  • Center rotation: Make the centers on the first few days fun! Let them play with some of their preferred toys they have gravitated towards, have them complete puzzles, focus on transitioning and remaining at the center. The options are endless! If you have centers, teach students:
    • how to rotate
    • how to utilize their schedule
    • the way to navigate the room and materials.
  • Introduce working: Once you have gained instructional control, introduce work. This is a great opportunity to familiarize students with their earn boards, first/then boards, teach them how to access their earns, etc.


Wondering what to do for the first few days of remote instruction? Be sure to check out my blog post here:

Distance Learning Activities for New Students in a Self-Contained Class

To download the data sheet mentioned above, please fill out the form below! I am hoping this data sheet will assist you in keeping your observations organized at the beginning of the school year!


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