Tips to Manage New Students at the Beginning of the School Year
School supplies on sale already! As I scrolled through Facebook, I couldn’t help but notice the advertisement for reduced prices on school supplies for educators–and it wasn’t even August yet! As teachers, we know that even with a summer vacation, the thoughts of the next school year are already looming in our heads: How will we improve our curriculum? What type of students will we be working with? How will we handle the unruly student we heard about? Where will we find time to grade all of those papers? And, and even more important, What’s the best way to start off the school year so our students know what to expect in our classroom? From eighteen years of experience, I have found that spending the first week of school addressing this last question can make all the difference. So with that in mind, here are a few tips:
Spend the first day of school going through your expectations for behavior; I only have four: Respect, Prepare, Work, Belong. I find that almost all behaviors fall into these four categories. I then go through the rewards, intrinsic and extrinsic, of following the expectations and the consequences for breaking the expectations. All week long I remind students of the expectations, rewards, and consequences. I even give a pop quiz each day on the material to cement it into their brains. At the end of the week, students take a quiz to show me they know what I expect. The material is also part of their syllabus that students and parents must sign.
Procedures are an important part of life. Spend the first week teaching students the procedures of your room, like how to enter the classroom, exit the classroom, pass up papers, get absent homework, and take tests. We go over the procedures, practice the procedures, and even take a quiz on them. If students know what to do and how to do it, they can be more successful!
A seating chart is a must in my book! I’ve found that most classroom behavior can be managed by simply placing students in the right spot. I have index cards with the students’ names placed on desks for when they walk in my room the first day. As I greet them at the door, I politely tell them to find their desk. My classroom is shaped like a horse shoe. This is to minimize disruptions–the less students they sit by, the less students to talk to. The horse shoe shape also allows me to walk around the room easily and help students. I strategically place students around the room. If I don’t know the students coming into my room, I check with teachers who have had the students to see what they think of my chart.
Stay organized. I’ve got every minute of class planned, especially the first week. In fact, I’ve got extra activities planned each day just in case we have extra time. Show students that you are in control and know what you are doing. Be professional. Be credible.
Most of my ideas come from Harry Wong’s book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher. My father, who was also a teacher and principal, gave it to me and many of his new teachers as they started off the year. I strongly suggest taking a peek at it for even more tips to make the first days of school the best ones!
Jory Magel began her teaching career in Nashwauk-Keewatin in 1996. Eventually, she moved back to her hometown of Pine City, MN and began to teach English 10 and English 11. Jory then began teaching the college bound juniors and seniors. Today, she teaches a college prep English course and three different College in the Schools courses for the University of Minnesota. She is the mother of two beautiful girls, and she spends her summer traveling on the carnival with her family.