10 Timely Tips for the First Days of SchoolBy Harry K. & Rosemary Wong
From the archives…
Extracted from the original article.
How well you begin school with an organized, consistent, and well managed classroom will determine your success and your students’ success for the rest of the school year. Here are some of the items you’ll want to make sure you use consistently in your classroom to better the chances of your students winning each and every day.
- BEGINNING NEEDS OF STUDENTS. Students want to know seven things on the first day of school: 1) Am I in the right room? 2) Where am I supposed to sit? 3) What are the rules in this classroom? 4) What will we be doing this year? 5) How will I be graded? 6) Who are you as a person? 7) Will I be treated as a human being? Have answers to these questions ready and use them as part of your welcome to the students on the first day of school. Help can be found in our August 2000 column, “There Is Only One First Day of School.”
- CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT PLAN. Sarah Jondahl began as a first-year teacher six years ago, with a binder complete with a classroom management plan. She had a plan for how she wanted to operate her classroom. She knew the procedures she wanted her students to follow. With procedures in place, she says, “The educational experience in my classroom is extremely effective.” Use Sarah’s plan to help you plan for your student’s success. The plan can be seen in our September 2005 column, “A Successful First Day Is No Secret,” and at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
- SCRIPT. Diana Greenhouse, third-grade teacher near Fort Worth, Texas, starts her school year with a PowerPoint script of her classroom management plan. It’s ready to show to students who miss the opening of school and is a terrific Show and Tell for Back to School night. Diana says, “When I look back at all I’ve accomplished in one school year, it takes my breath away. My students learned. I loved every minute of teaching, and it all started with that very first minute of the first day of school.” Her PowerPoint can be seen in our October 2005 column, “Classroom Management Is Not Discipline,” and for more information read The First Days of School, page 95.
- BELLWORK. Chelonnda Seroyer, English teacher in Alabama, says that she spent two months preparing for one day, the first day of school. On her first day as a first-year teacher, her students entered her classroom and began to work immediately, and every day thereafter. She has an assignment posted and it is posted in the same location every day. There is a consistent procedure in her classroom and the students know that when the bell rings, they are to get to work immediately. Chelonnda’s plan can be seen in our February 2005 column, “The Power of Procedures.”
- ATTENTION PROCEDURE. Barbara DeSantis can bring her class to attention in five seconds by calmly saying, “Give me five, please.” This is because she knows the steps to teach a procedure, which are 1) Clearly state and demonstrate a procedure; 2) Rehearse the procedure; and 3) Assess the rehearsal and reinforce the procedure. All procedures must be rehearsed, until the procedure becomes a routine. Her plan can be seen in our August 2006 column, “Effective Teachers are Proactive.”
- HAND SIGNALS. While students are working, you can reduce the noise level in the classroom by using a set of hand signals. For instance, one finger could indicate a desire to speak, two fingers a desire to leave the seat, and three fingers to request help from the teacher. You respond by shaking your head or waving a hand that responds, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” This technique can be seen in The First Days of School, page 187.
- DISTRIBUTION OF MATERIALS. We know that students learn best with hands-on activities. Do not place materials on a central table and have continuous student movement in the classroom. Rather, place all materials needed for the activity in a container and post an inventory of the contents of the container in the classroom. Assign a student to carry the container to the group for the activity and return it after checking the inventory list that is posted. This technique can be seen in our September 2002 column, “Dispensing Materials in Five Seconds.”
- SCHOOL-WIDE PROCEDURES. The most effective schools have procedures that are used consistently by all teachers. These are ready and posted on the first day of school. Students can move from teacher to teacher knowing what to do. For instance, they know that all classrooms have an assignment, so they enter all classrooms knowing what to do and start their assignment. Work with your colleagues to get some general procedures established at your grade level teaching team or your school. A school with such a plan can be seen in our January 2002 column, “A Most Effective School.”
- TEACH TO AN OBJECTIVE. The effective teacher tells the class the objective of the lesson. You determine what you want your students to learn, perhaps based on state or district standards, and then you backward design a lesson to begin with an objective or objectives. Objectives are student learning targets. When the students know what they are aiming for, they know what they are responsible for learning.
Julie Johnson of Minnesota structures her lessons as follows: 1) She determines what she wants her students to learn; 2) She shows them what they are to learn; 3) They practice what they are to learn; and 4) They are tested on what they are to learn. She says, “There is no secret as to what is expected of them. When I do this they all succeed.” If students know what they are to learn, you greatly increase the chances that the students will learn. Julie’s technique can be seen in our April 2006 column, “They’re Eager to Do the Assignment.”
- ASSESS FOR LEARNING. The purpose of a test is not to grade the student. The results of a test are to be used to assess for learning. When a doctor gives a patient a test, such as a blood test, the results are not used to grade the patient. The results are used by the doctor to assess the patient’s health and to determine if any medication or treatment is needed to improve the patient’s health. Likewise, an effective teacher uses the results of a test to determine what instruction is needed to improve the learning of a student. Several columns were written in 2006 and 2007 on this subject. One is October 2006, “Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric.”