Beginning a new year with a brand new class can be very daunting. Lots of new names to learn, classroom structures to put into place, and behavioural expectations to set. As I am moving schools this year, I am also facing the task of learning new school structures and systems as well.
Here’s just a few ideas of how I start the year off on a positive note:
- Classroom tour and expectations
The first thing I do with new students is a classroom tour. I talk about what’s in each storage area and whether they are allowed to access it freely or ask. I explain the behaviours I’d like to see in reading corner and how to put books away appropriately. I show students the IWB and give some rules about the use of it. I show students our digital cameras, how to use them and how to pack them away. Most importantly I set the expectations for how I would like to see students moving in each area of the classroom. My school will be implementing the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) system this year, so I will be using the common language of this model during this time.
- Getting to know each other
It’s important that I get to understand the students, but also important that they value the strengths that each other brings to the classroom. I like to get the students to tell me a bit about themselves, their families and their interests. (I understand this can be a daunting task for some students, and try to be sensitive to this – giving them a warning when it’s their turn). Each student then completes a puzzle piece with some information about themselves. This goes on our classroom door for the whole year with the heading ‘We All Fit Together’. I usually spend some time talking about the interests students have written or drawn and about the vast differences we have in our classroom.
- Making the classroom our own
During the first week I like to do lots of crafty activities and display them immediately. This helps the students to make the classroom their own and begin to feel ‘at home’ in the space. We’ll be making name cards for desks and creating artwork using the student’s initials. Within a week this makes the classroom a place where they can look upon the walls and immediately be proud of their achievements.
How do you start the year off? Do you have a favourite activity to get to know your students?