When my son began his first year at school, we lived in a large city and the schools were very large and intimidating. Teachers for years one and two knew this and used visual aids and special kind of name badge to help the children feel welcome and learn the layout of the school.We arrived, on his first day, at the same time as several other new students and their mums and dads. His teacher stood up from behind her desk, smiling as if she’d been expecting company for tea. She walked towards us and I saw something colourful draped across her left arm. The kids were absolutely silent. “Hello children. My name is Mrs. Burns, and I have something for each of you,” she said, “so please raise your hand when I call your name.” As she began calling out names, I realized she was reading from what she had draped across her left arm. They were name badges! Eager little hands shot into the air as each child heard their name. She would take a necklace made of colourful yarn from across her arm and would place it over their head.
Each necklace had a vinyl name badge holder attached to it with an animal face tucked inside. The students’ names were also written on the badges. “I would like each student to walk their parents to the door to say goodbye and then you may find the table and chair that have the same animal on as your name badges.” Now it was a game! No wide-eyed, pensive children now.
We parents were quickly escorted out by our children and my son was gone before I could say goodbye. They scampered from table to table as in a scavenger hunt, comparing their name badges to the animals at each round table and to each other.
These same animals were on tables in the lunch room, on lavatory doors and hung on the wall near the play yard where each child was to line up for his or her class after play breaks were over. All they had to do was look for the familiar animal face that matched their name badge. Instead of being intimidated by new surroundings, the students approached the day as an extremely large game of I-Spy.
The name badges were also academic. By having each child’s name printed on the vinyl badge holder, students were encouraged to look at the way in which their classmates’ names were spelled and the sounds those letters made together. The student’s were also broken down into groups assigned to certain tables which matched the animal on their name badges. Each animal was a single colour matching the beginning of its name, such as: the Red Robins, Green Geckos, Orange Otters, Purple Penguins, and so on. Can you guess which animal the teacher had for her name badge? It was the Wise Old Owl, of course, in ochre!