Creating a Welcoming Classroom All Year

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Students gain empathy and use language to describe the mixed feelings that come with being new to a community. They watch and discuss video clips and compare character traits. Then they read a book and discuss how the book guides them to welcome new students to the classroom as the year progresses. As a service, they create coupon books for new students to use to get to know classroom routines and people.

PrintTwo 40-Minute Class Sessions

The learners will...

  • use language and empathy to describe being in a new situation
  • compare and contrast the characters in video clips on friendship
  • write ideas for welcome coupons for new students
  • read-aloud copy of The Day you Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
  • student copies of the Class Coupons handout below
  • Internet access to show the following movie clips
  1. “Inside Out” - The clip where Riley starts a new school. (The scene is entitled “Embarassed” and it begins 22:00.  It ends with Riley sitting back down.
  2. “Toy Story” - The clip where Buzz Lightyear meets the toys in Andy’s bedroom.
  3. “Charlotte’s Web”(2006) - The clip where Wilbur meets Charlotte.
Teacher Preparation 

Read this description of Using Venn diagrams in the classroom

Home Connection 

After day two, send home the Home Connection handout attached below.


In both the movie clips and book, the characters brought unique traits to the new group. What are some things that make you unique and how can you use those gifts to help create a caring and inclusive classroom?

  • The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson 
  • Also available on YouTube


  1. Anticipatory Set: Discuss beginnings: At the beginning of the year, everyone is new in the classroom. Even if you have been in the same school for several years and have very good friends in the class, we are all new to this year in this classroom. Beginnings can be scary while we all get to know each other. Today we’re going to watch a few movie clips and talk about how it feels to be in a new situation.

  2. Before you show the video clips, tell the students what you want them to notice about how the characters interact with each other. Write these on the board:

    • How does the main character feel about being in a new community? 
    • Describe how other people reacted to the new person. 

    After watching each individual clip, have students turn and talk with a partner about what they noticed. Invite a few students to share their observations.

  3. Introduce the Venn diagram to your class. In pairs, have students complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting characters from the different video clips. For younger students, the teacher will complete it with the whole group. Encourage students to focus on how the characters feel and interact with each other and not on differences such as boys/girls, people/animals. For younger students, complete one Venn diagram as a whole class.

  4. Day Two

    Say, “Yesterday we watched video clips and talked about what it felt like to be in a new community. Today we are going to continue that discussion by reading the book The Day you Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. While you are listening to the story, I want you to notice the way the characters feel at the beginning of the story and how they feel at the end.

  5. Pause on the page that says, “There will be times when the world feels like a place that you’re standing all the way outside of.”  Have students turn and talk with a neighbor about what the author means by this sentence.

  6. In the story the author challenges us to share our stories. Ask students, “What does she mean by sharing our story? How can we share our stories with each other?”

  7. Say, “The beginning of the school year is such an exciting and scary time. We all have a part to play in the kind of classroom community we want to create. We do this by sharing our stories. We create our classroom community together through all our sharing. But what if someone joins our class later in the year. How might they feel?”

  8. Brainstorm together ways that they can make the classroom feel welcoming to a new student. Some examples: sitting with them at lunch, inviting them to play at recess, reading the book “The Day you Begin” with them. 

    As a class, they will create a classroom coupon book to give to someone who is new to the class (or school) as a way to welcome them into the classroom community. Distribute one classroom coupon to each student. Have each student complete one coupon and decorate it. Collect the coupons, put them in "books" and save them give to new students later in the year.

  9. Many great movies have scenes tied to the themes of acceptance and inclusion. Use the comment section below to share ideas for additional movie clips.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.