How do I start my school year?

One of the things  that students notice is if they are valued, respected, and recognized. Greeting them by name and with a smile on your face is the most important first impression that you can have. I still cringe when I hear someone say that they won’t remember students’ names until Christmas. Do what you have to do to know names of students without any introductions! That is the first main step in building an atmosphere of respect. Calling students by first name as soon as possible shows that you care about them and respect them. Watch a student’s face light up when you know their name before you are expected to!

I have used a variety of things from Harry Wong’s First Days of School as a reference. There is a link to a pdf that had a few of the important parts to start the year. This is one particular part that I pay attention to.

  • Seven things students want to know on the first day.
  • Am I in the right room?
  • Where am I supposed to sit?
  • Who is the teacher as a person?
  • Will the teacher treat me as a human being?
  • What are the rules in this classroom?
  • What will I be doing this year?
  • How will I be graded?

One thing that I try to do is to avoid going through a rules list. On the first day of school, I give a reading survey, play a “Find someone who…” game and highlight a few of the things from the list above. I now just project the syllabus and highlight a few key points. One thing that I am happy about, and I hear it every year from students is that they were so grateful that they didn’t have to sit and listen to classroom rules and procedures the entire time on the first day. School should be a positive thing, I’d love it to be a celebration! I’m probably not quite to that level, but I want to be close!

Practicing procedures the first week is something important as well. I start with just the first 5 minutes or so on the first day, where we do the task on the board before the song is finished. This gives me a chance to take attendance and get myself ready while the students are doing something productive. We practice checking out books from my classroom library in order to become familiar with the procedure. This also gives students a chance to look at some books and see other students who are excited about reading. The more we talk about books, the better!

Those are a few things that I do in order to make students feel comfortable in my classroom and begin our journey to a great year. What other ideas do you have for valuing students and making them feel respected, comfortable, and ready to learn?


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