August 21, 2019

Setting the Tone: Strategies to Start the Year Off Right

We all know how we start the year with students directly impacts what is to come . . . and just how smoothly it will go. Following are a few ideas to get things flowing in the right direction.

Post an inspirational quote on the door, or at the entryway.

Something about striving for excellence, or perhaps self esteem. This is a great way to establish atmosphere from the start.

A horizontal line of clocks above the board at the front of the room.

Starting with the city your classroom is in, and moving from left to right, put a sign under each clock with the name of a different international city. If you have pen pals in a particular city, include that one as well. Set each clock to the appropriate time zone for its corresponding city. This decorative element is fun, unexpected, and sets a serious academic tone in your room. It’s also very grown up, making it excellent for high school students as well as classrooms as young as the fourth grade, where feeling more grown up is a huge priority.

A math assessment.

On day one. Pick whichever one you deem fit for your new students. A quiz, or perhaps the annual grade level pre-assessment from your school’s selected math series. If the series does not provide a pre-assessment, there should be a yearly review from the previous year’s grade level. Consider using that. Not only will it provide you with hard data on whether or not your students’ skills have atrophied over the summer, but incorporating this on day one will send the message that you mean business. Math is considered serious subject matter, and starting off with an assessment on mathematical content will ensure your students will take you seriously as well. Obviously middle and high school teachers who don’t instruct on every single subject will need to consider alternative assessments or activities, but for general elementary teachers, this is a winner.

Post the latitude and longitude of your location outside your room.

A simple “welcome to” sign will suffice. You can determine your accurate longitude and latitude by using either a GPS, Google Earth, or this link from the USGS.

Letter writing.

Since basic letter writing skills start getting covered as early as first grade, and reviewed for years afterward, they are a great activity to assign the first day of school. The basic elements are quick to reintroduce, the assignment is assessable at a glance, and it allows for a variety of ability levels to participate without being singled out. Whether you have the students write away for freebies, compose a thank you letter to last year’s teacher, or choose a favorite author to write to, the important thing is to have a hard copy of an entry level writing sample for each student. From here you can gather multitudes of information on exactly how you should implement your initial language arts program.

A walk through practice session of the admin-approved fire drill procedure.

You might also include a tour of key locations such as the nurse’s office, where to line up after recess, the cafeteria, etc.

Pack your evacuation bag.

This one is more for your peace of mind. The details are covered in the previous bomb bag post, but suffice it to say an emergency departure bag is a good idea for any teacher in today’s society.

These are my top seven picks for beginning of the year elements to include. I deliberately left off the covering of the class rules, because I know you’ll all do that anyway. The purpose of the piece was to provide solid strategies for professionals at multiple grade levels that would help set a productive tone. My hope is that I’ve achieved that purpose. I believe I have. Have a great start to the school year, everybody.

Photo Credit: KB35

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