When heading back to school, smart teachers use the first week to establish procedures, expectations, and routines. A common mistake, and one I’ve made in the past, is to move too quickly into teaching content. If you fill the first few days of school with fun and easy activities, it’s easier for students to focus on the procedures and expectations you want them to learn.
1. Take lots of time to practice procedures.
There are a ton of different ways you can effectively manage each of these procedures. The details are up to you. Just make sure to introduce each of these in the first few days of school. It will make classroom management over the course of the entire year SO much easier.
Procedures I take time to teach at the start of the school year are:
- Entering the classroom (Teach how you expect them to come in, what to do with their things, and the morning routine.)
- Lining up
- Walking in the hall (I like to point out lines or cracks, and tell them one foot must touch that line! When I say “check your feet” it means they put one foot on the line. It works, but I once had a visitor think she might have stepped in something yucky…lol…so you might change the wording.)
- Restroom & water signals
- Cafeteria Procedures (Teach them how to get their lunches and the lunchroom rules BEFORE lunch time.)
- Getting / sharpening pencils
- Coming to the carpet (primary)
- Getting / returning books and materials
- Classroom rules (4 rules cover it ALL: Be Safe, Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Kind)
- Behavior management (I introduce our behavior clip chart, and demonstrate how it works.)
- Conflict management: ° I go over “I messages” on the very first day of school. ( I feel…When you….Please stop.) ° We also review what to do when an accident happens, like bumping into each other. Both kids apologize instantly, and we move on. I spend a lot of time having the kids role play different scenarios.
- Dismissal procedures
2. The “Teach to…”
This is how I teach the above procedures.
During my first year of teaching, my principal really focused in on “teach to”. This simple procedure proved very effective, and I still use it today. To use this method follow the same “script” for each procedure. Let’s take lining up for example.
- First, you would tell them your detailed expectations.
- You model your expectations.
- Then, ask them what lining up would look like if it is done incorrectly.
Take a few suggestions, and YOU model the incorrect behavior. They’ll laugh each time. Tell them they were right. That is NOT how they should line up. (Don’t let students model the incorrect behavior. It gets too silly, and the focus of what you’re teaching is lost.)
- Ask them who remembers the proper way to line up. They will eagerly tell you.
- Ask, “Who would like to demonstrate that for us?” Have a single student demonstrate the proper way to line up. Have them sit back down.
- Say, “I would like a few more volunteers to help us out.” Have several students demonstrate the procedure, and sit back down.
- Finally, have the whole class show you how it should be done!
From then on out, every time I have them line up, I ask them to demonstrate what we learned earlier about lining up. I might do this lining up exercise a couple times on the first day, and continue it throughout the first week. Throughout the year, I will ask them to remind me what the procedure is if they start to lose it. I might even go through the “teach to” steps again.
3. Set a positive tone with fun and easy 1st week activities.
Easy and fun activities that first week set a good tone for the rest of the year. They also make learning the procedures easier because their minds can focus on their new routines. Here are some suggested 1st week activities created for my classrooms.