Getting Started on the Almost Perfect School Year

2015-05-Lakeridge-14As educators, August is a time to begin letting go of summer and start preparing for the new school year. What do you and your students need to make this year the best one ever? What would your classroom, and school look like, feel like, sound like, if everyone was learning and teaching, feeling safe and comfortable? Spend a few minutes imagining this, as you begin to plan for the year.

The first week of school is critical – students want to know who you are, and who they will be ‘as a group’. They do best in an environment that encourages comfort and safety. Some ‘social settling in’ is important before jumping into academics. Children need to know that you care.

Structure: Guidelines and Routines:

In the first few days of the new school year developing Guidelines for your classroom is critical. Involving your students in creating these is a powerful way to create a ‘shared vision’ for your classroom. You as the teacher, become the steward of this vision. Check out how to do this with the activity ‘Beginning the Almost Perfect School Year’ in Positive Discipline In the School and Classroom Teachers Guide, Activities for Students.

Routines create structure and safety for your students. They also make it easier for you to teach. Make a list of the 5 most important routines in your classroom and a plan for how and when you will teach them. Make sure you include time for practice. (Lining up, entry task, turning work in etc.)

Here are a couple of First Day activities:

  • Scavenger hunt: Give each student a piece of paper with 4 or 5 questions (favorite ice cream, most recently seen movie, how he/she gets to school). On the paper next to the questions are 4 columns – the student answers each question in column 1, and then must find 3 other students who answered one question the same way, and write their names in columns 2, 3 and 4.
  • Partner introductions: Students work in pairs. Have the partners interview each other (you can have pre-planned questions, or let them decide what they want to know), and then introduce their partner to the class.
  • Digital photo bio: On the bottom half of a sheet of paper have students list 3 or 4 things that describe who they are. Take a photo of each child to attach to top of paper. Post around the room.
  • Make a dream list: What do your students want to learn this year? Make a list and post it. Don’t worry about the content.

Other helpful hints for the first week:

  • Decorate: Make your classroom bright and welcoming. Post some biographical information about you in the room along with some photos, so your students can get to know you as well as each other.
  • Greeting: Try to greet every child by name every day. Connect by including something you know about them. “Hi Joey – I hear you got a puppy over the summer. I bet that’s fun!”
  • Clean slate: Give every child in your class the opportunity to ‘’start fresh’ in your classroom, no matter what their history in previous grades.
  • Appreciate and reflect on small steps: At the end of the first week, spend some time asking students to share one thing they learned.

Cheers for the ‘Best Year Ever’!