The first week of school is not just stressful for the students; it is stressful for teachers, as well. As a new group of children descends upon the classroom, it can be hard to know where to begin, but we all know the importance of having an effective classroom.
Do you spend your students' first day of school teaching classroom procedures and digging into the rules?
Do you spend the first day having fun and leave rules for the future?
The key to a good school year falls on the tone that is set during the first week of school. This is the time where classroom rules, procedures, and schedules are shared. Spread out the procedure lessons over the first week so that the students don’t feel too overwhelmed on the first day.
Here are five must-teach procedures for the first week of school.
1. Bathroom & Water Fountain Procedures
It’s inevitable. Kids have to use the bathroom and get drinks of water frequently throughout the day. This can be disastrous if there is not a proper procedure associated with the process.
During the first week of school, explain the bathroom and water fountain rules. Explain to students the procedure for asking the teacher to go, times that are appropriate to go and times that are inappropriate to go, and expected behavior at both locations.
These procedures should be taught as early as possible to start the trend of expected behavior.
2. Behavior Management System
One of the most important things to teach children the first week of school is the classroom behavior management system and expectations.
Each teacher has a unique behavior management system and expectations for what is acceptable classroom behavior. Whatever your strategy is for managing student behavior, it is important to start it as soon as possible in order to maintain an orderly classroom.
Some teachers like to use green, yellow, and red cards where kids have to change their cards for certain misbehaviors. Other classroom management systems include clipping up and down depending on positive or negative behavior or earning points on an individual point sheet.
In addition to these individual classroom management techniques, it is also important to explain any group reward systems you have, such as table points or a “teachers vs. students” game.
While introducing the reward side of the system is important and a fun way to engage students, you also need to very clearly explain the expectations and consequences for your classroom.
3. Line Procedures
Lining up is a procedure that happens multiple times a day. Between specials, lunch, recess, and dismissal, students spend a lot of time lining up.
Teach this procedure the first day of school so that students know what to do. Then practice, practice, practice that first week to help students develop good habits.
Before the year begins, consider whether you plan to establish a line order. If you’ve had trouble with line behavior in the past or want to avoid any potential issues with students fighting over where they stand, this is a good solution.
Lining up the kids in set spots, typically in alphabetic order, is a good way to keep order in the line. This will prevent kids form fighting over spots in line and pushing to be the line leader or next to their friends.
Spend a few extra minutes on line up procedures the first few days of school. While it takes time, by practicing these procedures early and often, you can make transitions easier for the rest of the school year.
4. Morning Work Procedures
Morning work sets the tone for each school day, especially if students arrive at a variety of different times.
As students come in and unpack, you need some sort of task to get them focused for a day of learning. You might decide to use this time for silent reading or use it as a chance to do some spiral review for language arts or math.
Regardless of what you decide, it is important that you use this time to set the tone for the day. If you start the day with activities that create chaos, you can expect that chaos will trickle over into the rest of the day’s learning.
During the first week of school, you set the tone. Teach students specifically what is expected upon arrival and reinforce your expectations daily.
While your first day activities will likely look different, you can take time later that afternoon to teach the expected morning routine, and get started as early as day 2. This can help build a routine that can carry your students through the whole school year.
5. Supply Procedures
Crayons, paper, notebooks, rulers, oh my!! Supplies are a huge part of the school day. That’s why it is so important to have a well-planned system for how students will manage these tools.
What will they keep at their desks and how will they keep it organized?
Will you have table supplies or will each student keep their individual supplies?
Where will you keep supplies that are used infrequently?
There are many things to consider when planning how you’ll manage supplies in your classroom. Realistically, most students will have a set of personal supplies kept in their desk and then access to a class set of supplies that are shared by all.
It is important that you establish supply rules and procedures to ensure a smooth process of using and accessing supplies. For example, you’ll want to decide how many pencils students will keep at their desk vs. how many you’ll store and hand out as needed. In case you’re wondering, 3-5 pencils typically works well for older students. You can bump that down to 2 pencils for younger kiddos, as they tend to get lost more easily.
Think about how you’ll manage sharpening pencils. Can students just walk up and sharpen their pencils or can it only be used during certain times?
Alternatively, you might consider having pencil sharpening be a classroom job. In that case, as their pencils become dull, have a “dull” pencil box that they can place their old pencils in and a “sharp” pencil box where they can grab a new sharp pencil.
At the end of each day, your pencil sharpener can take care of the dull pencils and have them ready for the next day. This prevents students from loudly sharpening their pencils during lessons and gives them quick access to sharp pencils when needed. Create similar procedures about the various other supplies used during the school day.
6. Arrival & Dismissal Procedures
Teaching students how to enter and leave your classroom for the day is an essential part of making your year successful, and you need to start students on the right track from day one.
After your class arrives on the first day, spend some time teaching them how they'll come into the classroom, where they'll put their things, and what they should do once they've gotten everything put away.
Similarly, teach students how to wrap up the day. Be sure students understand your expectations for packing up and how the room should look when you leave for the day. Teach them where they'll go at dismissal. Doing this early in the afternoon on the first day can alleviate a lot of end-of-day stress for both you and your students.
Getting Started with Classroom Procedures
The five procedures listed above are must-teach procedures during the first week of school. There are likely many other procedures you’ll want to teach as well.
Create a checklist to help you stay organized and ensure that you’ve taught all the important procedures to help students achieve success in your classroom, or click the button to grab my FREE Routines & Procedures Checklist and save yourself some time.
Most importantly, don’t make the first day of school boring by spending hours droning on about the rules. Prioritize procedures and spread the lessons throughout the first week of school. This gives students a chance to internalize these expectations and can prevent behavior issues later on.