The first day of school is probably the most important time of the entire school year. New students, new lessons, new opportunities for you to feel a sense of accomplishment as a teacher. When it comes to planning, the secret to success, as they say, is in the details. Provided below is a list of top 10 things all teachers should do during the first month of school.
Plan ahead of time
Setting up a classroom and making sure that everything is ready for the new school year takes time. There are lots of things to prepare and organize. Do not neglect your lesson plans. Taking time to lay out a calendar of when standards will be taught and how skills and strategies will build off of one another will give you a clear path for goal setting for student achievement. If you are unable to plan ahead of time, it can give you stress and anxiety that will last throughout the school year.
Organize your classroom
Teachers usually have only a few days before the new school year to set up the classroom. Often the first days teachers report to work are packed with meetings that keep teachers from working in their classrooms. Having an organized classroom is important. Find time to spend in your classroom outside of “workday” hours to put your mind at ease and give yourself quiet time to focus on your room. Arrange the classroom desks in such a way that students will feel comfortable, collaborative, and a sense of community.
Determine what classroom management strategies to use
Classroom management involves everything teachers can do to enhance student learning – environment, materials, behavior, expectations, and activities. It is essential to effective teaching and creates a classroom environment conducive to learning. Need ideas on how to do this? Check out “Behavior Management Strategies That Teachers Can Use.”
“Decorate” the classroom
You do not have to be an interior designer to create functional spaces inside the classroom. By adorning and furnishing the classroom with beautiful things, you can make it a place every student will love to see every day. Choose the theme, colors, and decorative products to enhance the appearance and ambiance of your classroom, but make sure each item has a purpose that supports students’ learning and helps to avoid clutter. Add purposeful decorations to bulletin boards that make it more attractive and visually pleasing, but are still strongly focused on student achievement rather than merely aesthetic.
Ready your resources
Prepare ahead of time the resources that you will be using for the first weeks of school. It’s advisable to make advance arrangements for photocopying materials so you can avoid the mad rush when the school year finally begins. Ready all the learning materials and resources – everything you’ll ever need to teach your students effectively.
Plan the activities for the first day of school
They say first impressions last. This also applies to the first day of class. What you will do on the first day can set the tone and direction for weeks to come. Think of activities that will help you break the ice so it will be easier for you to bond with your new students. Building relationships is key, so spend ample time planning for this key ingredient. Do not assume it will happen naturally. Students need to know you care about them before they will value what you teach.
Don’t be late!
Arrive early for the first day of class. You should set a good example for your students to follow. You can’t tell students to come early for class if you yourself come late on the first day of school. Arriving early will allow you to be more relaxed and composed. Take time the night before the first day to rehearse everything you will do on the first day from establishing procedures to setting up classroom rules. Rehearsal will further set your mind at ease and allow you to use your early arrival time to give your room a quick once-over and center yourself for the moment students arrive.
Know your students
This is very important – smile and warmly greet your students on the first day! It will help send a good impression and create a welcoming atmosphere. Have each student introduce themselves. You may not be able to memorize all their names in just one day, but you can call the names of students you remembered when you begin teaching. If you use Morning Meetings in your classroom, name game activities are fantastic for the first week of school. Every person values their name and when someone takes the time to know your name, it shows they care. Remember that all of the students are trying to learn their classmates’ names just as you are trying to learn them. Involve them in the process.
Involve the class in creating rules and procedures
It’s important to educate the class about classroom rules and procedures, so they will know what is expected of them. However, don’t fall into the trap of “scaring” your students! You can tell the students the rules in such a way that is objective and constructive. However, you don’t want to appear stiff, strict, and cold. You won’t win the trust and confidence of your student’s. Instead, involve the class in “creating” the rules. Be sure to have rules in mind that you want to see on the list. Keep rules to 3-5 for younger students and 5-7 for older students. In my classroom, we called them Promises. Students helped to create them and they signed the chart paper list when we finished them. If they broke a rule, I simply asked, “What promise are you breaking?”. The student would name the promise and adjust their behavior. When students help create the rules, they have ownership of them, they show that they understand the rules, and they are far more likely to follow them.
Observe and assess
When they come in the classroom, teachers don’t know exactly where the students are academically. Student files or previous teachers are good sources of information about this, but interacting with them personally can provide the best clues on how you can ensure that all your students will learn. Be sure to use the first 4-6 weeks of school assessing your students. Of course, you will not only assess them during this time, but you should spend a portion of time each day assessing them. Find out their skill level in your subject area. Determine what strategies they use when attacking a difficult academic area. Observe how they build relationships and interact with students and staff. Take note of how they react emotionally to difficult situations. All of these observations and assessments will give you a good picture of the whole child and his/her strengths and weaknesses. This information will help when goal setting with the child for the school year.
Planning ahead will ensure that you are ready, not just for the first day of school, but for the entire school year as well. By considering the tips mentioned above, you can minimize first day jitters and maximize learning for all your students.
INcompassing Education can help schools improve outcomes for students by providing high-quality professional development for teachers. For more information, please visit www.incompassinged.com.