Welcome to part 2 of my blog series on classroom management. (You can read part 1, building a foundation for classroom management, HERE.) Today we'll focus on starting the year strong. What you do in your classroom at the beginning of the year will set the tone and the standards for how things go the rest of the year - and this is especially true for classroom management.
So what can you do right away at the beginning of the year to help? These are my top 3 tips for starting the year off right.
This is without a doubt the most important thing you can do. Spend the time
now teaching routines and procedures or you'll have to be doing it all year long. Introduce it, model it, practice it, review it and model and practice again - for EVERYTHING. There are obvious procedures like how to start the day, how to ask to use the bathroom or get a drink, where to put papers, etc. Then there are the not-so-obvious things. These things become apparent right in the middle of the activity. How do we use a glue stick? How much glue goes on your paper? Where do scraps go after cutting? How do we come to the rug from our seats? Do NOT assume your kiddos know these things. And if they do know how to do them, they may not do them the way YOU want. For example, I have small buckets that get placed at each table/workspace for scraps when we cut. The scraps go into the buckets and then get emptied after we are all done and cleaning up. Who gets the buckets? Where do they go? Who empties them? When? Trust me. If you think about all this beforehand (remember my tip on being proactive from the last blog post?), you can teach all these things now and after in the year you won't even have to think about it.
The big question that always comes up is, "How long do I spend on this stuff?" My answer - figure out a time and double it! :-) Teachers who spend the first 2,4, even 6 weeks focusing on routines and procedures and creating the environment they want are the ones who have a class running smoothly in January. I know you can't actually spend the first six weeks not doing academics. And that's ok. But you need to spend as much time as possible on every routine and procedure. The time you put into this now will come back to you ten-fold later in the year.
This is right up there with everything I said above. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL! SHOW kids how things should be done, don't just tell them. Let students practice. Do it the right way, model it incorrectly and then model it correctly again. This is where your routines and procedures come to life. Have some fun with it! I usually talk about the routine first - why do we need a routine for this? what is going to be important to do? I will often write ideas on the whiteboard or smartboard, or we make an anchor chart if I want to save them. Then we practice. I ask one or to students to show me the right way to do something. We talk as a class and point out what that students did well (refer to the chart or notes we took). Then comes the fun part! I ask someone to show me the wrong way to do something. You might want to choose a student who you know has trouble with this routine. They will usually LOVE to come up and fool around and make a complete mess of what they need to do. Again, talk about it! Here's the important part - now ask the SAME student to demonstrate the CORRECT way of doing it. This serves two purposes. You are ending with a model of how to do things correctly, and the student who previously showed everything wrong, now shows it correctly - proving he or she CAN follow the rules!
The beginning of the year is a crucial time for establishing an environment in which kids feel safe enough to take risks and WANT to do well. This comes from feeling invested in the classroom. Allow students to be part of everything you can. Let them help establish rules, routines and procedures. Get their opinion on how things should be done. When we make our anchor charts for rules and routines early in the year, I always ask students for their input. What is important about how we do this? Why? What are the steps we need to take to do this successfully? Seeing their words and ideas on our chart makes them feel like they played a big part in establishing how things work. By asking for ideas and input, students may come up with things you haven't even thought about!
I promise - if you take the time now, even if other teachers are moving into more academic content - to work on routines, procedures and building community, the rest of the year will go much more smoothly! As I said at the beginning, do it now, or do it all year long!You can read more about classroom management ideas in my other posts in this series:
Classroom management - it all starts with you!
3 classroom management mistakes beginning teachers make
Ideas for classroom management incentives