Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Using the Back-To-School Excitement to Fuel a Strong Learning Environment for Your Classroom

...Begin School!

The beginning of school is SO important in so many ways because that first impression that you make on your students and your parents can establish an environment in your classroom.  If you appear unorganized and too laid back, parents and students may view you as to easy-going with an expectation that perhaps you really do not expect homework to be completed all of the time and especially not necessarily on time.  If you come across as if you already have the entire year planned out, then you may be viewed as inflexible and unwilling to adjust your teaching plans as needed for your students to learn.  You have to find the happy medium to show your parents and your students that you are organized, well-planned, and excited about the new year and use their back-to-school excitement to fuel a strong learning environment for your classroom!

First of all, communication is going to be a key area for creating a strong learning environment in your classroom.  You have to be able to easily communicate with your students as well as their parents, so you will want to get to know them to make that line of communication a little easier.  To begin, you will want to first introduce yourself and be sure to include something fun and interesting about yourself so that parents will know that you are down-to-earth.  Parents find it difficult to communicate with teachers who try to view themselves as a higher authority figure that others.  Once you have broken the ice with your introduction, you will offer something to both the students and the parents (if this is at a Meet the Teacher Night).  For younger students, you can offer them a small welcome treat such as a "I am Gushing with Excitement about Having you in My Class This Year!" with a bag of fruit gushers containing that message wrapped around them.  Another favorite of mine is to use a fruit roll-up and wrap a message around it that says "Here is a roll-up to roll out and welcome you to my classroom this year!"  You can do this with any type of small treat and create your own type of message, but if you like these, here is a link to my product in my TPT store.  With the welcome treat, you will want to have an information sheet that the student can fill out to give you more information about them and to help open the lines of communication.  For the parent, you can have a laminated card with your contact information that has a small magnet on the back so that they can stick the card to their refrigerator at home.  With this card, you can also have an information sheet that they are able to fill out to give you more information about them and to also open the lines of communication.  The parent information can be sent home if this is not a Meet The Teacher Night.

Secondly, you want to establish procedures and expectations (otherwise known as rules) in your classroom.  When you list these out to your students as a dictator, they become difficult to enforce.  When students develop the list themselves (with your input and help, of course), they buy into following them alot more later on!  I learned this lesson the hard way very early in my teacher career.  You can certainly start with a list for which you need to establish procedures and expectations, and then the students can help you come up with the specifics and consequences when they fail to meet what is expected.  Oftentimes, you will find that the students themselves will police each other with the rules when they develop them together.  You should certainly keep a written list posted in a highly visible area of the classroom where all students can see them at all times.

Finally, discussion of the daily schedule with a posting of that schedule also somewhere in the room is helpful for the students as well.  Different grade levels may operate on different schedule for different days of the week, but discussing the schedule ahead of time with the students so that they have some idea of the types of activities that they will be doing each day will help to keep them focused on the learning for that particular day.


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