The first day of school sets the tone for the entire year. That’s a lot of pressure. But with a little extra planning, you’ll be ready to greet your students and begin a successful school year. Here are a few tips to help you prepare, so you and your students start the year on the same page.
Be Organized. On the first day, you’re on the spot to show what you want from your students. If you want them to come to class prepared, set a good example. Have your pencils sharpened, file folders labeled, and lessons ready. The Organization Station Pocket Chart has enough pockets for all the kids in your class. They’ll see their names and feel you are ready to welcome them.
Create Learning Centers. It’s more important than ever before to have students collaborate. Teamwork is a skill that develops with experience and practice. Set up the class to promote active, collaborative learning by moving desks into pods or groups, rather than rows. Set up stations to stimulate students’ minds while harnessing their energy for constructive learning. Younger grades may enjoy a construction center with Gears Sets or STEM kits where older grades can benefit from Makerspaces.
Use Attention Grabbers. Let students know you mean business, and that keeping order in the class is at the top of the list. Use this simple, yet effective, call-and-response technique to get their attention. Below are a few snappy phrases and responses to get you started. Find a couple you like and stick with them, so students’ reactions become almost automatic!
You say: Hocus Pocus!
Students respond: Everybody Focus
You say: All Set!
Students respond: You Bet!
You say: Holy Moly!
Students respond: Guacamole!
You say: Macaroni and Cheese!
Students respond: Everybody Freeze
Encourage with Words. Support kids learning using positive phrases, like, “Do you need to move your desk to be more successful?” The positive tone is more effective, and it’s easier on your vocal cords than a yell!
Use Transition Tools. Moving from one class, lesson, or group to another happens multiple times a day and can be a time guzzler and chaos creator. Nip that in the bud by preparing students for those switches. Time Tracker works great for all students. Set the time and it automatically changes from a green light to yellow and then red when time is up. It’s language-free and has optional sound effects, making it ideal for your students with special needs and English learners too.
Post a Schedule. Set up a classroom routine and stick to it. By establishing a regular pattern in class, your day will run smoother. Pin up a visual schedule to help students know what to expect throughout the day. Check out the Daily Schedule Pocket Chart as an easy tool to use.
Establish Rules. Pick a few powerful rules that you’ll use throughout the year. A few well designed, concise messages are all you need. Here are a couple common ones, but take a few minutes to Google ideas and pick what resonates with you.
- Be Kind
- Do Your Best
- Respect Yourself and Others
- Follow Directions
Assess the Environment. Noise and light can be big contributors to distraction. A strategically placed carpet works to center a session and absorb ambient noise. Tone down harsh fluorescent lights with fabric light panels. They reduce the flicker and glare while still providing light. Fluorescent Light Filters by Educational Insights fit the bill.
Store the Phones. Kids as young as six have cell phones and the current stats say 6 out of 10 elementary students have phones. Curb kids’ need to text in class with handy phone parking. The Multi-Use Storage Pocket Chart is an easy way to keep kids’ phones stashed and safe.
Stock up on Rewards. Though we hope kids are intrinsically motivated to pay attention and learn, it helps to have an extra reward system up your sleeve. Students can earn points or classroom cash for things like good deeds, completing assignments, and staying on task. Those points can then be redeemed for prizes like extra free time, stickers, or trinkets. Check out our line of fun rubber counters in all different shapes from cows to dinosaurs to pets and bugs. They are the perfect prize size!
Do Your Homework. Educate yourself on the students you’ll welcome in the fall. Think through special accommodations ahead of time for children who have special needs or who are English learners.
By planning ahead and putting in a little extra effort, you can make your students feel welcomed while also establishing clear rules, well organized systems, and appropriate expectations that will get the year off right.
Take a look at our other classroom articles to help you throughout the school year.
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