by Harry and Rosemary
First Day of
School Script—in Spanish, Too!
Elmo Sanchez and
Angelica Guerra are teachers with the Miami-Dade County Schools.
These are their stories of how they began their school
years with a first day of school script and how this simple technique
transformed them into effective teachers.
They started their teaching careers without first day of school
scripts or classroom management plans. Unsolicited, they
shared their stories with us after successfully developing and
implementing their first day of school PowerPoint presentations
and classroom management plans.
The Transformation of Elmo Sanchez
Elmo Sanchez begins,
“I was born and raised into a family of hard workers
who have always strived to provide a quality life for their
family members. My mother and father fled from the communist
country of Cuba with no assets in search of a better life.
While growing up I observed my parents working hard in order
to make ends meet. We never went on a vacation because
of the necessity to pay essential bills. My parents always
stressed to me the importance of getting an education as a way
to a better life.
“Everyone has a special teacher who has made a difference
in their lives. This special, beloved teacher that makes
one feel appreciated and loved. My special teacher was
my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Ferrero.
I always felt safe in Ms. Ferrero’s class. I always
looked forward to the day’s lesson. It was toward
the end of the school year in kindergarten when Ms. Ferrero
asked the class what we would like to be when we grew up.
Instantly, I knew the answer to her question. I
wanted to become a teacher.
“As I progressed through my academic years, I knew that
it was my destiny to become a teacher. But I faced teachers
who doubted my talents. I had many middle and high school
teachers tell me that I should be a ‘skilled laborer.’
When I would share with them my choice of career, they would
tell me to ‘get my head out of the clouds.’
“When I felt despair, I would think of the teacher who
impacted my life, Ms. Ferrero, and knew I would make a difference
in the classroom.”
After graduating with honors from Barry University with a degree
in elementary education, Elmo Sanchez was hired to teach in the
Miami-Dade County Schools.
“I was hired to teach fifth grade reading, language arts,
E.S.E. inclusion, and E.S.O.L.
“Monday, August 8, was the first day of the school year.
I struggled through my day’s lessons. My students
spoke throughout the class period and had no sense of direction.
I found myself using my ‘loud and/or angry’ voice.
I would go home angry and my family felt the direct effects.
“At the end of the school year, I reflected on my achievements
and failures in the classroom. I labeled myself an ‘ineffective
teacher’ because my classroom lacked structure.
As a professional, I was disappointed in myself and felt I needed
to make changes.
“Each year the Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a
summer professional development meeting. On Friday, June
9, I remember sitting in the Miami Lakes Educational Center
Auditorium and I was captivated. Dr. Wong’s classroom
management strategies, techniques, and explanations made sense.
Then, as he says, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment.
What would happen if I could take these strategies back with
me to improve the way I managed my class?
“I could visualize the changes in my head that were going
to take place in my classroom the next academic school year.
By the end of the seminar, changes were occurring in my mind.
I could picture ways of changing my flaws into successes.
“I took many of Dr. Wong’s “stolen”
ideas back with me to class. I even took some of Chelonnda
Seroyer’s ideas on procedures back with me to implement.
“After viewing Chelonnda
Seroyer’s PowerPoint presentation online, I began
to develop my own PowerPoint presentation. I also read
through The First Days of School twice
and began to formulate a plan that would suit me as a teacher.
“It took me about a month to develop my classroom management
“Picture this: Monday, August 14, the following
year, and it is the first day of the academic school year.
I opened the door at 8:15 a.m. and greeted my students with
an extended right arm. Shaking my students’ hands,
I would say, ‘Welcome to our class; I’m glad you
are here.’ My students greeted me back with warm smiles.
“I projected the bellwork assignment as a PowerPoint
slide. By the time I closed the door, all of my students
were actively working. I could not believe it.
“After my students completed the bellwork, I began to
introduce my students to the PowerPoint presentation I had created.
“By the end of the day, my students were following the
classroom procedures. When the 3:00 p.m. dismissal bell
rang, no one got up. They all waited for me to dismiss
them. I had control of my class and it was only the first
day of school.
“At the end of the day, peace was with me. I had
an upbeat attitude and I went home happy. For the first
time in my professional career I had a feeling that was missing
from my life for a very long time. My family noticed the
difference in me and liked the ‘new, happier me.’
I came to love my profession after the first day of school.
My students felt safe in the classroom atmosphere that I created.
“Last year, I was a stressed out teacher with a chaotic
“This year I feel that I’m an effective teacher
with a structured classroom. My students are always happy
to come to my class. The parents are always asking, ‘What
do you do that causes my child to become so engaged in your
class? My child wants to come to your class even though
they are sick.’
“My secret recipe is having a structured classroom
with procedures. I’m glad I made a choice to restructure
“I would say that on June 9, my life as a professional
teacher was transformed.”
Elmo Sanchez, Jr.
Flamingo Elementary School
To see Elmo Sanchez’s First Day of School PowerPoint
presentation, click here.
As you look at his first day of school script, notice how he
cleverly refers to “homework” as “home learning.”
He is correct in that what is assigned must be given only if
it will review and cement what the student has learned in class.
The homework must be part of the lesson objective and
the assessment. If not, it’s busy work and
has no value as homework.
There should be no new material contained in the homework assignments,
as this will frustrate many students and even the parents who
are being called upon to teach what has not been taught in the
Just as effective teachers use guided practice followed by independent
practice, homework or home learning should be additional practice
to reinforce what was learned in the classroom. If a student
takes skating or music lessons, the teacher sends the student
home to practice on the lesson, not to create something new.
Therefore, the best home learning is that which involves examples
to practice. The key word is “practice.”
Keep in mind that the important question is, “Has the student
For more on home learning, go to our September 2006 column, “A
92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate.”
Angelica Guerra, Una gran profesora de español
Angelica Guerra was born in Cuba and raised in Nicaragua.
She immigrated to the United States when she was thirteen years
Angelica had been teaching for ten years and although ambitious
and dedicated, she knew that something was missing from
her technique. She wrote us a wonderful letter
explaining what she needed to move forward and improve her classroom
Angelica Guerra writes,
“You have no idea how much your book The
First Days of School has blessed me. I teach
Spanish, K-5, and have to travel from room to room. My
classes are generally well behaved, but there were always some
glitches. I realize now that it was because I didn’t
have specified procedures about some real common sense issues.
My students have always asked me about things that I
should have made clear from day one.
“Now I have a First Day Script. As you can imagine,
most things come from the book; a few I actually ‘stole’
from other teachers’ scripts you’ve posted at teachers.net
and modified to my particular needs.
“Things are going wonderfully well. The script
was awesome. I made the presentation to my classes in
which I asked them questions in a game-style, giving points
to the teams who could answer questions from the presentation
(procedures, routines, and class rules).
“We just finished our second week of school, and it is
amazing to see how my students are already following the procedures
I’ve taught them (from the little ones—Kindergartners
through the 5th grade). It is unbelievable, almost like
magic! I especially love when I say to them, ‘¡Denme
Cinco!’ (Give me five!).
“What I love the most is how my students have
learned to be ready to begin class the second I arrive and to
remain quiet waiting for instructions, ready to participate.
“Sometimes I arrive at a class, and one or two students
say, ‘YESSSS!!!!!’ What a high I get from that.
They sometimes even tell me how much they love my class.
“I positively love teaching, and I’m always
looking for ways to make learning engaging and ‘alive’
for my students. My goal is to be a reading coach
or to go back into a classroom of my own and teach language
arts. I also want to help other teachers in their mission
to help struggling readers. That’s one of my passions!
“Thank you for the wonderful job you’re doing to
help those of us who have a passion for children and teaching,
and what we are ultimately doing for them—the students.
“I just wish I would have read your book ten
“I want to share my PowerPoint presentation with you.
Obviously, it’s in Spanish, so I hope someone can benefit.”
Doral Academy Charter School
To see Angelica Guerra’s First Day of School PowerPoint
presentation, click here.
As a courtesy to our readers, we asked Angelica to translate
a few of her slides.
Two Stories, One Result: Effective Teachers
Regardless of how long a teacher has been teaching, or
what subject or grade, the one true constant to becoming an effective
teacher is classroom management.
Angelica and Elmo were both able to become effective teachers
because they put in time and effort. They each created a
First Day of School script in the form of a PowerPoint presentation.
They shared their scripts with their students on the first day
They told their students what was expected of them, and the students
responded by following the procedures and routines they were taught.
Having a classroom management plan led to a more effective
learning environment for Angelica and Elmo.
Additional first day scripts, some in PowerPoint, from other
effective teachers can be found in the past issues of our teachers.net
articles. Go to the most recent June column to find the
archive listing all of our previous articles.
If you have a story to share, we would love to hear from you.
We thank Elmo and Angelica for sharing with us. It
is only through sharing that we can continue to learn from each
Elmo was exposed to effective classroom management after listening
to a speech. Angela had her “aha” moment while
reading our book. There is a third resource you can use
for creating your own classroom management plan. The website
is home to our eLearning course that will help you create a binder
with your own personal management plan for the classroom.
Here’s what two teachers said after taking the course,
I am a first year teacher. I came from the
business world and it was a very rough transition. Having
never taken an educational class, this on line course Classroom
Management helped me so much. My classes are completely
different from the first semester and the second semester.
I really do enjoy teaching now.
Alice C. Estevez
Business Technology Teacher
Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School, Florida
After this course I'm like a NEW TEACHER with wonderful
and fresh ideas. It is not easy because I have been a teacher
for almost 20 years. Thank you so much!”
Janeth del Rosario Rodriguez
ESE teacher, North Glade Elementary School
Opa Locka, Miami, Florida
Start With a Plan
The research is implicit. Common sense is implicit.
It you don’t have a plan, then you’re planning
The rush to get your classroom ready for the new school year
typically revolves around decorating the bulletin board, finding
enough chairs for warm bodies, securing a class set of textbooks,
and oiling the squeaks in your chair.
These are all necessary tasks, but your foremost responsibility
as a teacher is to get your classroom organized for student success.
Student success will not hinge on a color coordinated, letter
perfect display or even if you have enough textbooks at the start
of school. They are all items that will increase your students’
chances of success, but they are not the core of their success.
The foundation for student success is a classroom that is organized
so that the maximum number of classroom minutes can be spent on
instruction and learning. Procedural tasks eat away at precious
learning minutes, especially if these tasks are not thought out
in advance and rehearsed with students.
More common sense says, the more the students are engaged in
meaningful learning activities, the greater the chances are that
the students will learn.
By pre-planning your classroom organization and sharing and teaching
it to your students at the start of school, these tasks will become
automatic actions for the students. Little class time will
be spent on these tasks once they become routines in your classroom.
Time is the most precious commodity of the classroom teacher.
With classroom procedures clearly defined at the start of the
year, your instructional day will be filled with excitement and
learning, instead of berating and reminding.
Make Your List
- Make a list of all the actions that eat away from your instructional
time. Include on your list things like exchanging and collecting
papers, sharpening pencils, bathroom passes, missed classroom
work, tardies, and dismissal.
- How do you want your students to carry out those actions so
they take minimum time with little distractions?
- Devise a plan for teaching the procedures you want the students
- And then, DO IT! Teach the plan so that your students know
your expectations for how the class is organized for their success.
The first day of school is the most important day of
the school year and will set the tone for all that follows.
Show your students you are organized for their success. Plan now
for a most effective school year for you and your students.
For a printable version of this article click
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