School Screenings and Welcome Activities: Preparing for a New School Year

Session notes from “School Screenings and Welcome Activities,” led by Julie Bloss.

What were the speaker’s main messages?

Think outside of the box to welcome student, their families, and to learn as much as you can about how we can support them for the most successful year possible.

What was the speaker’s best quote?

Instead of assessing whether a student is ready for school, ask, “How are we making our schools ready for all children?”

What were the top ideas from the session?

  1. Consider how to help transition the families of your incoming students as well by inviting them in before school is set up and teachers are there to build their familiarity with the school and the leadership. Caregivers are often worried about the non-academic pieces of sending their children to school. Build that trust early on!
  2. Slow everything down in the beginning of school. Build their confidence and ability to tackle the little things. 
  3. Keep feeding into previous students (graduates) with backwards transitions anytime you can. Reconnect with them and let them know you’re thinking of their success in the future, too!

What is one strategy you will implement immediately?

Adjust the screening and sectioning process for kindergarten. Invite students in as medium-sized groups to gather information through observations, assessment, and input from caregivers and building specialists to anticipate how students and classes will actually function together.

What is one strategy that will help you with instructional leadership?

Set up a scavenger hunt, BINGO, or free play time for students to come and see the building before the screener begin. This will build their comfort in the space!

What are resources I will check out?

ESGI: free screener that will give a snapshot of academic and possibly SEL skills.

I can’t wait to tell my teachers about this idea:

Visually tag all spaces with an indicator sign. Students may not know their teacher’s name or face, or how to read, but they can recognize an apple, boat, or other object (not colors!) to help build their independence in navigating their spaces around school.

Notes by Jess Hutchison, principal of Avoca West School, Glenview, Illinois.