It can be overwhelming when you think of all the things you have to prepare for your class at the beginning of the year. No matter how many years I have been teaching, the beginning of the year is always a mix of excitement, filled with a “Let’s DO THIS!” attitude because I know how busy that time can be.
I believe I get more steps in the beginning of the year than any other time as I rearrange my room, make trips to the laminator, shop for special pretty and fun organizers so I know where all my things are! Well, most of the time! Some days I can forget where I placed my coffee! It all depends on the day!
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Although there are many things that is important to get done at the beginning of the year, this post does not include the detail list. You can find that FREE blank check list HERE. As well as one with a reminder list of ideas such as making name plates, creating bus lists, welcome letters to parents, and more!
You can also visit Getting Organized for the Beginning of the Year to make sure everything is just right for that first day!
These top 7 ideas focus on what holds your class together the whole year! So, midway through the year you are not stuck or even have to visit survival mode!
7 Most Important Things to Implement at the Beginning of the Year!
- Have Positive Expectations that ALL students can Learn.
If you are able to implement these, it will help you develop a strong start to the year that only gets stronger as your relationships grow and you learn about your students.
This first one is mostly a mindset really.
I like this one because you have nothing to prepare in the classroom, however it can have a big impact on the learning that takes place in your classroom. This one is prepared for on a mental level. That means it could be possible to have a teacher down the hall coming in to inform you about a student and although she/he may share what worked and what didn’t, you have to remember this student will be having a new start in YOUR room.
What worked for that teacher may not work for you and your blend of students. You can decide right then to have a positive expectation that all children can learn despite some challenges they face.
I have seen students show growth in empathy and helping others, stay on task, and even break unhealthy habits where they always sought negative attention. It’s also exciting when children do really well in math and literacy throughout the year. To see that growth is why we teach right?
Compassion for the Struggling Student
Finding where the student is struggling and helping them grow is what teachers are best at. Sometimes though when you see a student all last year running out of the room and know the student is coming to your room, it can make us wonder if we can reach them and if they will be able to progress and learn.
However, even though we see their struggle it doesn’t mean we are not reaching them or making a difference in that child’s life. That child may have made great strides in their social skills and learning despite the behavior challenges. Sometimes it takes stepping back to look at the growth that has occurred.
Since all behavior is communicating a strong feeling and an unmet need you may be able to meet a need and help the child flourish throughout the rest of their school years.
When a child does show behavior, it is not a reflection of you or how you are doing things. It’s still helpful to reassess what is working and what is not to further understand their needs so you can adapt and differentiate.
Some children come to us from varied backgrounds where lack of food, negative parenting styles, and neglect are prevalent. When they step in to your class and show behavior it can be a cry for help.
2. Plan for Social Emotional Skills to Develop Community
The social emotional environment and the community starts the moment children walk through your door each morning. The way the morning begins can set the tone of positive interactions for the day.
Connecting with students for that brief moment in a playful way such as with the Morning Greeting Chart or asking children questions about their lives can go a long way in developing a connection.
The next part that can help children self-regulate is to tune in to how they are feeling.
The Feeling Check-In Chart is also easy to implement and it can be discussed at Morning Meeting. The teacher can notice which children are feeling sad or angry right away and guide them to a calming center and offer assistance.
During morning meeting peers can also suggest ideas to help that they have been previously taught and they can come up with their own ideas on how to calm that works for them.
To plan for the Social Emotional Meeting here is a FREE SEL Morning Meeting Lesson Plan form with one week of SEL Lessons. If you would like to download it you can sign up here.
3 Classroom Management
Thinking through your classroom management plan ahead of time can be helpful. I like to start with involving student’s in the process of creating the rules. This can help them see themselves as part of helping the class be that safe and caring place.
A posted morning routine can also be helpful to think about.
Do they work with morning tubs or go to specific work stations to work on fine motor or letter recognition?
4. Teach Procedures and Routines
Where do things go? How do we line up? What does it look like to sit on the carpet for lessons? What do we do when there is a fire drill?
Whichever way you design your morning, it’s helpful to keep the routine the same because there are days when you will not be able to do so. Students will be better able to adapt to the changes such as picture day, an assembly, or a fire drill occasionally.
They learn to tune in and listen when something out of the ordinary is happening. If every day is different it can be harder to manage as a group. We may get bored with our routine however the students crave it and really thrive knowing what comes next and what is expected of them.
I have found when they have predictable routines, the unpredictable moments can be adapted to a little easier.
5. Plan for positive reinforcement to prevent behavior.
Prepare positive reinforcement systems. Although it is common to have a clip chart in elementary, this system focuses a lot on punishing children in front of the class for poor behavior. I admit I have used them in student teaching and in my classroom for a couple of years. Children were given the opportunity to correct their behavior and go back up the chart.
The years I did not use a red yellow and green chart I liked them the best. The children knew expectations and the chart as a whole class was not utilized.
I have observed classroom teachers and have seen this happen in my own room. Some children start to ask when they will get to move back up the chart. A few are sometimes clipping up, then down and what seems like all around by the end of the day.
My concern is the children who are waiting to move up again. If they do not get noticed for the positive behavior right away and are seeking extra attention and connection they will revert to the negative behavior. Then you can get stuck in a reacting pattern.
I am wondering is it the chart they care about when they go up and down like a yo yo? Or is it the connection and attention you are able to give them that they are really in need of?
This behavior management system for the beginning of the year focuses on being pro-active and putting things in place so you do not have to be reactive down the road. Plus, it rewards the whole class. Simply choose a picture and click when you see the positive behaviors you are looking for and teaching in your room.
I have had children who are new to the school experience and instantly went around the room seeking attention negatively. I even had one come in and instead of going through the morning routine visual pictures and teacher guidance began instead to climb bookshelves and desks.
That certainly got my attention!
Having a plan for positive reinforcement ahead of time can be what you implement on day one before any behavior occurs. When students know you are always looking for the positive and that is the way to GET your ATTENTION it can help a lot.
The sooner they learn this they will begin to calm their minds and bodies. If all they know is one way for attention helping learn that there are other ways help them throughout school.
Download this FREE positive reinforcement checklist HERE for some new ideas to prevent behavior before it starts. You may also enjoy the 20 Positive Behavior Digital Scenes to use as a whole class or individually based on the needs of the class.
6. Review IEP goals and make Accommodations before class starts.
Looking through the specific goals can help you prepare what that child needs to learn. This may include adapting testing, special seating accommodations, and a positive behavior plan. Having these in place helps prevent frustrations in the child and starts them off at the beginning of the year working towards their goals.
7. Develop your Support Tribe
If you are new to a building, getting to know your teachers in your grade and throughout the building can be helpful so you know who to go to for questions and support.
Also, reaching out to specialists who can support you with IEP goals and work out schedules that work for you both to come into your room. They can be valuable in providing support throughout the year. Give them a place they need in the room to work. Or just open up the class where they feel comfortable to land wherever they need can help establish a welcoming classroom.
We need other teachers to help us through the hard days, brainstorm with us, and just lend an ear to help us through the challenges.