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Kids First from Day One

A Teacher’s Guide to Today’s Classroom

The classroom of your dreams starts with one big idea. From the first days of school to the last, Kids First from Day One shares how to put your deepest teaching belief into action. Whether it's building community, designing your classroom spaces, matching instruction to students' needs, or engaging students in curriculum, Christine Hertz and Kristi Mraz help you put into action the belief that children are the most important people in the room.

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“This book is a place to start creating the classroom of your dreams from the very first minute of school, a classroom that is research based, child centered, and in step with the world today.”
— Christine Hertz and Kristine Mraz

The classroom of your dreams starts with one big idea. From the first days of school to the last, Kids First from Day One shares teaching that puts your deepest teaching belief into action: that children are the most important people in the room.

Christine Hertz and Kristi Mraz show how to take that single, heartfelt value and create a cohesive, highly effective approach to teaching that addresses today’s connected, collaborative world. With infectious enthusiasm, hard-won experience, and a generous dose of humor, Kids First from Day One shows exactly how Christine and Kristi build and maintain a positive, cooperative, responsive classroom where students engage deeply with their learning and one another.

Kids First from Day One strengthens and deepens the connections between your love of working with kids, your desire to impact their lives, and your teaching practice. It shares:

  • plans for designing beautiful classroom spaces that burst with the fun of learning
  • positive language and classroom routines that reduce disruptive behavior—without rewards and consequences
  • suggestions for matching students’ needs to high-impact teaching structures
  • a treasury of the Christine and Kristi’s favorite “teacher stuff” such as quick guides for challenging behavior, small-group planning grids, and parent letters
  • links to videos that model the moves of Christine’s and Kristi’s own teaching.

Just starting out and want to know what really works in classrooms? Curious about how to make your room hum with learning? Or always on the lookout for amazing teaching ideas? Read Kids First from Day One. You’ll discover that the classroom of your dreams is well within your reach.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. Teaching Is Heart Work

The Flourishing Teacher
The Empathetic Teacher
The Playful Teacher
The Flexible Teacher
The Reflective Teacher
Conclusion: Glad We Got That All Figured Out
Interviews with Experts: Jessica Lifshitz, Sara Ahmed, Chad Everett 

2. The Physical Environment 
Big Idea: Setting Up Your Classroom: Start with a Blank Canvas Not a Finished Masterpiece 
Big Idea: Let Your Space Reflect Your Students 
Conclusion: Take Time to Reflect on Your Classroom and Your Beliefs 
Interview with an Expert: Julie Denberg 

3. The Emotional Environment 
Big Idea: Scheduling for Success 
Big Idea: Build a Community Don’t Just Manage One 
Big Idea: Social Skills Can Be Taught 
Big Idea: Supporting Every Child 
Conclusion: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day; Kids Won’t Learn Everything
About Your Community Overnight 
Interview with an Expert: Allyson Black-Foley 

4. Building Curriculum 
Big Idea: Curriculum Should Be Responsive and Intentional 
Big Idea: Build a Better Teaching Toolbox: Clear Teaching Structures Drive Complex Learning 
Big Idea: Responsive Teachers Draw from All They Know 
Conclusion: Assume Success Is Possible When the Factors Are Right
Interviews with Experts: Annie Dunn, Yvonne Yiu, Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts 

Tips for Family Interaction 
Annotated First-Day Letter 
Annotated Letter About Mindset 
Room Planning Guide 
Quick Guide to Teaching Social Skills 
Quick Guide to Challenging Behaviors 
Checklist Template 
Conference Notes Form
Conferring and Small-Group Planning Grid 

In Depth

This book is a place to start creating the classroom of your dreams. A classroom that is research based, child centered, and in step with the world today. A classroom that exemplifies the collaboration, flexibility, agency, and problem-solving that people need to be successful in the coming decades. A classroom where critical thinking, thoughtful reflection, and curious inquiry sit side by side with reading, writing, and math, But here’s a caveat: we’re not going to promise that you’ll ever achieve classroom nirvana—we know there’s no such thing as perfection. And we are the first to admit that this is hard, messy work. There will be missteps and mishaps, but just like your students, you will learn from your mistakes and grow. Know that there is a community out there ready to celebrate and commiserate and think and question with you every step of the way. This book is just a first step, a launching pad to what is possible. To help you along the way, we’ve included lots of our favorite books, people to follow on Twitter, interviews with experts, and videos of the two of us teaching.

Are you looking to infuse or reclaim a spirit of joy and possibility into your teaching? Do you wish your students were happier and more playful? Start in Section 1.

Looking to create a beautiful classroom space that fosters collaboration, independence, and curiosity? Are you curious about the intersection between environment and behavior? Start in Section 2.

Do you want to create a classroom community free of rewards and threats? Do you see a need for your children to learn social skills but aren’t sure how to go about it? Start in Section 3.

Do you find that you use the same teaching structures (guided reading for example) again and again and again? Are you interested in finding ways to engage students in learning that isn’t always teacher driven? Are you curious about how to make your teaching more responsive, even if the curriculum is set? Start in Section 4.

Do you love stuff? Let’s be honest, we all do. The goodies are in the back. Start in the appendixes.

— Introduction


Companion Resources

Study Guide

Related PD Services


Email if you would like to contact Christine Hertz directly about professional development support.

PD Resources From Kristine Mraz