It is almost August, and for the last month popular department stores have been selling school supplies trying to remind me that summer is nearly ending. Personally, June is spent recuperating: spending down time with my kids, drinking a cup of coffee without allowing it to get cold or lost, and getting back into physical and emotional shape. Then, July comes. After the family holiday, it is time to start creeping Pinterest for some great new classroom theme and back-to-school ideas. Unfortunately, this is when my anxiety starts setting in, and the nightmares about crazy, out of control classrooms become a regular occurrence. But, this is also the time that is the most optimistic! This is the time that I am able to lay out my most idealistic year with my new group of students, teammates and school.
I am by no means a veteran teacher nor a brand new teacher. I have only taught 8 years in public school (grades 4-6), but in those 8 years I have found a few tricks, a few MUST-Do’s to start the year off right.
Grab a journal of some kind, my favorite is the simple black and white composition notebooks because the papers don’t tear out easily, it is small enough to fit in my laptop case or purse to have at any time. If you taught the previous year, jot down some of the most successful strategies, activities, and ideas that occurred the previous year. REFLECT. Ask yourself…
Why did this work?
What did the students already know that made this strategy, activity work?
What did I do to present the information that could have helped?
Jot all of this down !!!!
ALSO, jot down anything that wasn’t successful. This can be anything from student engagement and motivation to something as small as students getting their absent work. Ask yourself…
Why didn’t this work?
What is preventing them from understanding? Expectations? Clear directions? Procedures? Miscommunication?
What can I do differently to make this process better?
Look up research, strategies, and ask your colleagues how they solve these issues.
Jot all of this down!!!!!
Designing my classroom is so much fun, and I spend a lot of my time thinking about the function of my classroom. I want the room to work for me. In a previous post, I mentioned how a few on purpose design and organizational changes made my room work for me. All of these techniques were from trial and error and Reflection.
Get to KNOW your students and their parents
If you want support from the parents of the students that you will have in your class 5 days a week for 35 hours a week, you need to get to know these families.
- Call home to welcome the student to your class BEFORE the first day of school.
- Send a letter home ASAP to the parents and the students welcoming them to your class- This could be a newsletter or a postcard.
You should find out what they want from you.
- Parent Survey
- Meet the Teacher Night
Procedures Walk Through
Think about the routine of a day. So many issues begin because students are practiced in the day to day procedures that help the management of the classroom and the campus.
Think about how students will…
sharpen a pencil
go to the restroom
go to art, music, P.E.
go to the nurse
get your attention (while teaching a small group, while teaching whole group, while conferencing one-on-one)
Where and when and how to get supplies
Where and when and how to put away supplies or finished papers
How will they go to lunch or recess
How will they sit (at lunch, in your class, in the whole group meeting place)
How will students ask questions if they are embarrassed
How will students let you know they don’t understand
Harry Wong and his book titled, The First Days of School was given to me in college. I have read through some of the flagged sections every year that I have taught to make sure I am starting it off the right way. Combine these expectations with CHAMPS management procedures, and you will have no problems with classroom management.
Classroom Contract or Mission
This was a district initiative, but I can’t imagine starting a year off without this idea. Below are some great pictures I have collected to show teacher creativity, student ideas and how it is incorporated into the classroom.
I have completed the following procedure in a gallery walk and as a table team activity. The individual gallery walk has worked the best.
Place 6 posters around the room, give each student a set of post it notes to make notes. Ask the students to walk around the room, read the poster questions and answer on the post it not without talking to each other (this allows each student to answer completely independently to each other).
What should kids in our class be doing to make sure our class runs smooth?
What will you need from the teacher/s to be successful?
How will you be successful?
What will you need to do to be more successful?
Our classroom should be ______ every day?
School is important because _____.
Combine the post it notes into a class mission statement or contract, have each student sign the mission or contract, and post it on the wall for all to see.
MOST IMPORTANT!!!! refer to it throughout the year. Use it as a binding contract for all students to make smart choices, remind them why they are here and use it to hold each student accountable for their behaviors, progress, and successes.
These are Four things I do every year to make to grow, to learn and to make each year better than the last. I am sure you have some tricks up your sleeve, some things that have helped your years go smooth. I would love to hear about anything that has helped you become more successful.
Have the best school year, yet!