The first few weeks of school can set the tone for the entire year. Though this might sound overwhelming, don't worry! Some simple techniques that you can practice now will pay off throughout the school year. These strategies will increase your efficiency while creating a positive classroom environment:
1. Make connections with your students
In the first few weeks of school, you're sure to have a lengthy to-do list. Try to remember to spend time getting to know your students. Learn a little something about each one of your students and marvel at their individuality. Share about yourself and make connections whenever possible. If you teach multiple classes per day, this can be a bit harder, but it's still doable with extra concentration. Even little things like quickly learning the names of all your students can help. Want to be extra ambitious? Try to make connections with your students' families too.
In this two-minute video, see how Melina Johnson gets to know her students on the first day of school.
2. Allow time for exploration
Students are curious about their new classroom and their new teacher, just like you’re curious about your new students! Encourage exploration by including some unstructured time during the first few weeks of school. Have students take a tour of your classroom, noticing where materials live and exploring things that interest them. Lead your class through guided discovery of commonly used classroom materials, teaching students how to use them properly. Allow time to play around with materials such as math manipulatives so that students understand how the materials work. Students of all ages will benefit from having unstructured time to explore classroom tools. If you allow students to play around with tools now, they will be less likely to play around with them during work time.
3. Get routines going
Strong routines are the backbone of efficient classrooms. It's no fun practicing lining up 20 times a day or rehearsing how to put away materials again and again, but this practice is an investment that will pay off in the future. Build time into your day for practicing routines. As you're practicing an attention-getting signal for the 40th time, it may seem tempting to give up, but stay strong. Once your students have your classroom routines down, your life will become much easier.
In this two-minute video, see how Jen Saul "choreographs her classroom" by practicing transitions with her students.
4. Come up with classroom agreements
Sometime in the first few days of school, talk with your students about how they want their classroom to run. Engage in a discussion about how everyone needs to act in order to keep the classroom running smoothly. Develop a set of agreements (or "norms" or "rules") and have all students agree to follow these guidelines. Coming up with agreements collectively increases buy-in and engagement because students are more likely to follow rules that they came up with themselves. Post your agreements in the classroom and refer back to them every day, reminding students why they exist and encouraging reflection on how the agreements are working.
5. Bring joy into your classroom
With all the routines to practice and materials to introduce, it can be hard to remember to take a breath and have fun. Try to plan something fun every day. Think of something that will make you happy-- maybe reading aloud a favorite book or doing a fun group project. A positive classroom environment is the first step towards student success. This first step starts with you! If you're happy, your joy will be contagious.
In this 90-second video, Marlo Warburton explains how she shares her passion for teaching with her students.
I hope that these tips are beneficial for both you and your students. Here's to a joyful and efficient school year!