Those first few days back to school are always filled with excitement and a little bit of anxiety too. This is true for teachers and students.
You can harness this energy in yourself and your students in order to set the tone for the entire academic year. It’s always a great idea to use the first week of school as an opportunity to introduce yourself, the course, and expectations plus you can begin to build the relationships and community within your class too.
Here are 8 tips and tricks for high school teachers that will make the first week of school a little easier and a lot more effective!
Get to know your students
One of the most important first steps for establishing a positive classroom culture is to get to know your students. In the first days, take time to learn your students’ names and something about them. Being able to tie something specific to a student’s name and face can help you remember them. Plus, an initial activity like this get-to-know-you activity with different templates can help you build a rapport with them.
Building relationships not only establishes a community that can promote a positive learning environment, but it can also help with classroom management beyond the first week back to school.
Set clear expectations
In the early days, it’s important to establish rules and expectations for behavior, attendance, and classwork. Make sure these expectations are clearly communicated and consistently enforced.
You might even co-create some of the policies and procedures for your classroom along with your students. This approach often makes it more likely that the ‘rules’ will be followed.
Additionally, display these initial rules and expectations in the room. The visual reminder is helpful for everyone in the room. As you get further into the school year, you can move this display or even remove it and replace it with something more specific to the course(s) you’re teaching.
Check out this blog post with more details about effectively adding student choice into your classroom routines.
A new class or new school invariably raises everyone’s levels of anxiety. However, when things have structure and some predictability, anxiety levels can be reduced. In the first days of school, make time to develop and to explain routines for things like starting and ending class, taking attendance, and submitting assignments.
If you’re teaching students who are new to the school and/or to your class, take some additional time to model these routines. What does it look like to wrap up class? Instead of simply saying the steps, go through it with students with direct guidelines and explanations. The clearer you can be the better everyone will be in the long run!
While you’re establishing routines for students, make sure you’ve made some for yourself, particularly for keeping your classroom and materials organized. This can help you stay on top of tasks and minimize stress.
With that said, this job doesn’t have to be yours alone as the teacher. Part of the students’ routine might be to clear the space around their desks, or to make sure they’re not storing anything in their desks, especially food! If you have baskets with supplies that are shared with students, make sure they know what the inventory is for the basket (a quick printable list that’s laminated and attached to the basket can be helpful) and where to store things when they’re finished! View this as your permission to label all of the things with this label maker or make things more personal and laminate them with this reliable option!
Explore this Amazon list of must-haves for every classroom, ensuring that you have everything you need to deliver effective lessons and foster student success starting from the first day of school.
Along with getting to know your students’ names, you want to make sure there’s time and space for students to get to know each other too. Plan activities that encourage students to get to know each other, such as icebreakers, group projects, or team-building exercises.
I love using a team-building challenge that’s tied to course materials such as this spaceship activity. Students receive a simulation about a giant meteor that is about to strike Earth. Students are tasked with choosing a limited number of individuals from a predetermined list to travel to another planet to set up life there. In small groups, they will justify why they did or did not choose the particular individuals.
It’s a great way for middle school or high school students to begin their journey in science and build bonds together. Spending some time building a sense of community within the classroom will pay great dividends as the school year continues.
While you might also be a bit nervous to start the new school year, you should still be yourself! Be open and approachable with your students. Let them know that you are there to support them and that they can come to you with any questions or concerns.
Share your email or the best way to contact you and explain your hours of availability. Students need to know that you are also a person with a life beyond school so set those boundaries early (for them and for you!).
Review the syllabus
This might be controversial but don’t spend a ton of time going over the syllabus on the first day. In fact, I might even say save it for day 2 or 3. But when you do go over the syllabus with your students, highlight important information like the course goals, grading policies, and expectations for participation. In fact, have students use a highlighter to physically highlight their copy.
If you’re working digitally, provide students with a copy of the syllabus and give them 10 or so minutes to review. To ensure students are reading the full syllabus, I embed a prompt, usually on page 2, that asks them to complete a task such as emailing me with a picture of sloths, flamingos, or dinosaurs. Aside from some accountability, it’s also an assessment opportunity to check how students are structuring their emails to their teachers!
Communicate with parents
As a final way to ensure a smooth start to the school year, take a few minutes to introduce yourself to parents and guardians. Send a quick email with some information about the course and how to contact you. Make sure to add parents’ emails to the BCC section so their email addresses are kept confidential! This initial contact can help establish a positive relationship between home and school.
With careful planning and a positive attitude, you can help your students start off on the right foot and create a successful learning environment. By following these tips, you can create a positive and productive learning environment for your students during the first week of school and throughout the year.
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- HOW TO ESTABLISH LAB SAFETY PROCEDURES IN YOUR MIDDLE OR HIGH SCHOOL CLASSROOM
- WHY EXPLICITLY TEACHING STUDENTS TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS IS A MUST
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