New Year, New Build, New Start

entrance2We are finally in our New Build – and what a lovely teaching environment to start the new year in. With that in mind I am sharing some strategies that Dr. Harry Wong, educator, educational speaker and author, claims work with any class. 

At the start of a new year, whether it be academic or calendar year, it can be difficult to feel prepared for school—in fact, can you ever really be ready for a class of students you may never have met? Or maybe last year was particularly rough, or you’ve heard rumors about your upcoming class, and that stress gets carried over into the new school year.

Whatever the reason, experts agree that the best antidote for a bad case of back-to-school butterflies is a detailed classroom management plan—one that outlines your every move from the first day of school. So we asked for advice from the experts’ experts: Harry and Rosemary Wong, authors of “The First Days of School” and “THE Classroom Management Book.”

“Just as a pilot has a flight plan and a coach has a game plan, effective teachers have a classroom management plan that students learn and understand,” say the Wongs.

This plan is more than just a list of teaching strategies. It’s a way of operating in the classroom that allows teachers to be proactive rather than reactive. Do it right, they say, and you never have to waste time repeating what students should be doing or reprimanding them for misbehaving.

Just follow the following three simple steps:

1. Establish ground rules
Procedures govern everything we do in life. Without procedures, these otherwise orderly activities would create mayhem. Students require similar constructs. They learn best when they know what to expect.

To that end, the Wongs recommend starting the first day of school with a script, or better yet, a PowerPoint presentation, that explains procedures, walks students through their responsibilities and ensures every student understands how to be successful. In fact, according to the Wongs, successful teachers have procedures for everything from selecting seats to exiting the classroom at the end of the day.

2. Consistency is key
Students thrive in a safe classroom environment that is predictable, reliable and consistent. “One of the most important gifts we can give our students is to be consistent,” say the Wongs. “Students need to feel that someone is responsible for their environment—someone who not only sets limits, but maintains them.”

While the agenda may change from day to day, the classroom procedures and transitions remain the same. It’s an ideal construct for learning—and retaining—new information since kids don’t have to waste precious brainpower wondering what’s next. Instead they can focus their attention on their learning.

3. Be positive!
Just saying, “hello,” “welcome,” or “I’m glad you’re here,” can make a dramatic impact on a child’s learning.

When students meet your expectations, call attention to their actions with specific praise. It’s not enough to say “Good job, Nicole,” or “Nice work, Johnny.” You have to identify the specific behaviour you want to encourage. The bonus: Students who weren’t paying attention have another opportunity to learn what’s expected of them.

A structured classroom also improves your attitude and leadership, which projects outward. If you view your glass (and class) as half-full, your kids will, too.