Starting School can be a pretty scary experience for some kids. Let's be honest, it can be pretty scary for teachers, too!
The thought of leaving home all day, being away from family and unknown expectations can be a little scary.
A wonderful resource for teachers to use on the first day of school to address first day fears is the book, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.
The Kissing Hand is a sweet story about a little raccoon named Chester who is afraid to be away from his mommy and go to school.
Chester's mommy shares a secret with him to help him feel connected to her throughout the day. Momma Raccoon places a kiss in Chester's hand for him to use anytime he misses her.
This sweet story with adorable pictures can be used to help talk with your class about the anxiety of going back to school.
After reading this story with your class, you can have a wonderful conversation about what feelings they might be having about going back to school. By drawing a hand print on the board, you could ask your students what feelings Chester had about going back to school. Write all the feelings around the hand.
You could explain to your class that sometimes, even parents and teachers feel nervous or afraid to do new things. Discuss with your students that their parents probably have some sad and anxious feelings about their kids going back to school. Admit to the students that you have some fears about starting a new year with new people and ask if you can all work through it together.
Talking about the word "brave" is also helpful. Explain that being brave means trying something even when you are afraid.
It helps in the days to come, to teach the kids to tell lingering parents, "We love you, but we have to do our work, so you need to be brave and go." This helps give the kids a feeling of power that they can do it. I say this with love, because, I AM the lingering parent.
After your discussion, here are some great activities to do with your class:
1. Help the students create hand prints of their own. You can help them trace their hands and paint or color hearts in the center. Cutting out hand prints from construction paper works, too. You can always use little heart stickers for the centers, as well. Here is a free printable of an adorable little Poem by Marjorie Davis about the Kissing Hand that you can add to this project created by Camp Kindergarten.
2. Create a graph with the words Excited, Scared, Happy and Sad for the students to chose. The students can then choose a laminated raccoon face or heart to put on the word that they are feeling the most.
3. Here is an adorable little template to make a Raccoon Mask with your students out of paper plates.
4. If your students are old enough for a writing activity, you could ask them to write you 3 sentences about how they are feeling about going back to school. This would give you time to see how each child is doing and talk to the ones individually about any fears or concerns they are having.
5. Transition into talking with the students about their family. Give each student a piece of white paper with a large hand print on it. Ask them to draw a picture of their family inside the hand print. Have your completed family hand print portrait up to allow the students to see who you are missing throughout the day! :)
6. This little project from Always First Grade is adorable!
Under the cute raccoon and Sign Language "I love you" the students write what three things they want to learn this year.
These are just a few of the many activities you can do with The Kissing Hand. You can find this adorable book here.