The Secret to Rocking the First Week of School

I don't know about all of you but I am beyond stoked for Back to School! Just like your students, my students come back from summer vacation having lost some of the skills they had before I said goodbye to them in May. More than anything, my students aren't used to having a lot of demands put on them at the beginning of the school year. They've relaxed into the calm routines of summer and Back to School can be a difficult transition. Check out how I structure our first 3 days of school!

Use your time wisely. I know I don't have a lot of time at the beginning of the year, but I make sure I start my classroom routines on day one. In my classroom with young learners, this doesn't exactly mean that I start in with academic tasks on day 1, but I am making sure my students are completing arrival and departure routines. We are establishing bathroom routines and transition routines in the classroom too.

This is my absolute FAVORITE time to collect baseline data on routines! My students have just returned from a long break, so now I can chart their regression or retention of skills, or if I have new students I can see what prompting level we will need to start with. I usually start with arrival and departure routines. I also like to keep data on how students are able to complete transition routines in the classroom. These are usually some of the first routines I teach and I like to check progress before I begin teaching.
Taking data in an autism classroom is an ongoing task, but getting baseline data during the first week of school gives you a great idea of where you and your student need to work towards mastery.
This data sheet was part of {this} blog post.

I also start the school year with a rough draft of a schedule I would like to use. I begin implementing center times for my students on day one. The students will rotate through their centers, but they don't look exactly how they will all year. I use my first week of school to conduct reinforcement surveys. Sometimes with new students, it is hard to know what they find reinforcing immediately. Taking time to complete some in class reinforcement surveys always make my life easier for the rest of the year (TIP: I also do a reinforcement survey after winter break, students likes and preferences may have changed after getting something new and awesome from Santa).

I have found that the reinforcers at school can differ from the reinforcers at home. Sometimes we don't have the one toy the student will work for at home and that is ok! Finding something new and exciting for the students is exactly what we want to do. The more reinforcers we can find for a student the less likely we are to run into satiation of preferred items.

Now, our reinforcement surveys aren't just a free for all, run around and have fun time. It is highly structured. I have our classroom centers set up and at each center, the students will find a variety of items that they may or may not find reinforcing. I lay a few of these out for students at each center and then I collect DATA on what they engage with, how long they engage with the item, and some basic notes on what they do with the item.

For example, I may stock my "Blue Table" with an bubbles, play dough, balloons, and some action figures while the "Red Table" is stocked with a board game, car toys, dinosaur toys, and some sensory toys. I will watch my students and let them take the lead. The is a free access time to reinforcers. I am not immediately working on requesting or other skills. During the time the student engages with the reinforcers I may try some of these techniques for more information, but if it affects the students interest in an item I will make a note of it on my data sheet. These notes help me to develop a priority ranking of reinforcers for use in the classroom.
Collecting reinforcement data in an autism classroom is going to help your behavior management all year! Keeping an idea of what students are interested in will provide a stock of reinforcers to use in the classroom.

If you're planning to run reinforcement centers at the beginning of the year (and I recommend you do), grab these free data form to use!
Reinforcement surveys drive your instructional time with students for the entire year, Finding out what students in an autism classroom are interested in can provide a years worth of reinforcement!
Now here's the important question, are you ready to rock the first week of school?!


  1. You have some awesome ideas that I had never thought of before! I definitely will be trying the reinforcer tables! Thank you for some great ideas

  2. I seriously need you to come to my classroom and reorganize it. Consider doing consultant work? :-P

    1. You are the sweetest. I have not considered that. Classroom organizational consultant. I like the ring of that...


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