With schools across the country starting in June/July, its important to take a step back and plan, so that the year is more effective for all involved – schools, teachers, parents and students. The first article will focus on crucial activities for initial few weeks: Classroom management, Establishing rules and classroom routines and Effective Student-Teacher engagement.
A safe, secure classroom is foundation for setting an environment that is conducive for learning. Before the students come in, it is necessary to set the classroom well. Some tips that can help you set the classroom before the students start trickling in:
- Ergonomics: Basic things such as classroom lighting, the color of the room, the air quality, the layout and the quality of the furniture all affect students. When children and students spend 6+ hours of their day in dull and uncomfortable environments, it doesn’t make for the most inspired individuals. In order to achieve high levels of student engagement, the environment should be ergonomically and thoughtfully designed.
- Colors on the bulletin board, posters, plants should reflect your personality and teaching style. Personalize it. If you have traveled or learnt any new things, post pictures and artifacts from your vacation. Post a reading list of books you read that students can read too.
- Organize the classroom: Keep learning tools such as pencils, papers, map etc in easy-to-access places and minimize clutter. Students desks should be arranged so that you can always clearly see each one. Secure the environment by ensuring there are no loose cords, rugs or supplies that the students can trip over.
Establishing Rules and Guidelines
Appropriate behavior fosters a positive classroom environment. Engaging students on the first day of school in creating of a set of rules helps ensure their investment. If they play a role in setting the limitations, they will understand and respect it more. Engage the children in creating artwork that holds the rules and post them on bulletin boards. Have a short list of rules so as not to overwhelm students. Some rules could be:
- Raise your hands to participate or question
- Respect everyone in the classroom. For younger students, this could be more explicit like - No hitting, shouting or name calling
- Listen while others are speaking
- Come prepared to class with assignments done or any questions on homework given
What happens when rules are broken? Have a fair and consistent way of enforcing the rules. It could be simple one such as – Losing points when assignments are not handed on time. Share the rules and guidelines to parents so they can reinforce the rules at home. It will take 4-6 weeks for these rules to sink in and be followed. So be flexible till then.
Establishing Classroom Routines
Efficient routines make it easier for students to learn and achieve more. When routines and procedures are carefully taught, modeled, and established in the classroom, children know what’s expected of them and how to do certain things on their own. Having these predictable patterns in place allows teachers to spend more time in meaningful instruction.
- Arriving in the morning: As children start trickling into the classroom, they need to know exactly what to do. What should they do with their homework? Where should they put their book bags? Where do their coats and other materials belong? What should they do while they wait for the rest of the class to arrive? When does class actually start? Will there be a quiet reading time? If its raining, what will happen to Physical education classes? If a teacher is absent, how will the day be managed? Will a substitute teacher step in or the class will be split to other sections? When kids know the answers to these questions, they can move smoothly through the morning routine and get straight into learning. Taking attendance and discussing the schedule for the day can ensure a well-organized day for everyone involved.
- Throughout the Day: Have a predictable routine so that students can move smoothly from one activity to next without losing learning times. Plan the in-between lesson times as much as you plan for lessons. The in-between times could be free play or quiet reading or playing a class game. Ensure that all students know the way to different classes such as Music, Art or Gym.
- Ending of the Day: An end-of-the-day routine helps get children and the classroom ready for the next day. You can assign roles to different students- tidying up classroom, putting away stationery, collecting homework assignments etc. Rotate these roles every month so that students learn responsible behavior.
Effective Teacher-Student Engagement
It is critical that teachers and students engage from day 1 and establish a trusting and comfortable relationship.
First Day of School: When children come to school on first day, they are nervous and excited. Start the day well, either by reading a story or play icebreaker games. The games could be to ask each student to introduce themselves and talk about their favorite subjects, movies , food or hobbies. Introduce yourself in the same way, not as a teacher , but as an individual who has interests, hobbies and favorite movies. It is good to personalize the introduction and share funny things that happened during vacation or last school year. You could take a video of the introduction sessions and share it with parents on school app or email. This way the parents can connect the names to faces and be involved. Settle the students down and let them reunite with their existing friends and make new friends.
First Week: Do more of collaborative activities and make the students move around the room and do the lessons. A math concept can be taught in the form of storytelling, or an English story can be enacted by the students. Let the children read aloud the lessons or do creative writing and share them aloud.
Once you and the students settle in, it is important to focus on setting goals for the year and planning an effective first Parent Teacher meeting. Next week’s article will give some tips to plan the rest of the year well and make parents involved and accountable for their children’s learning outcomes.