Here we are gearing up for another exciting academic year with students! Whether you’re a seasoned educator or a fresh-faced teacher embarking on your first year, the back-to-school period is a critical time for setting the stage for a successful and productive school year. Here are some best practices of mine that have helped me throughout the years to make a smooth transition back to the classroom while creating a positive learning environment for all students.
1) Prep to pronounce names correctly
First, I think it is very important to learn how to pronounce both your students’ first and last names correctly. How you can do this is by giving them a piece of paper on the first day of school for them to write down what name they prefer to be called. After that, you can provide a link to Microsoft Flip where students have the opportunity to record the correct pronunciation of their first and last name. By doing this simple activity on the first day will help students feel valued and cared for that their teacher wants to know them personally and names truly do matter.
2) Give families a chance to introduce themselves
Second, I send out an electronic Padlet to all my students’ families. I provide my families with an opportunity for them to introduce themselves to me. Many families attach photos and share about their student, other family members, pets, summer highlights, etc. I enjoy reading each and everyone of these comments because this allows me to get to know my students better. Plus, this is convenient for the families to fill out at home on their own time.
3) Greet students at the door
Third, greet all students at your door every single day! This truly matters to me because I am making an individual connection with each student. Students can wave, say hello, give me a hug, dance party, etc. Whatever they choose is fine with me, as long as they greet me in some sort of way.
4) Set up seating charts
Fourth, have a seating chart from day one. I like to provide my students with a sense of security that they know where they will sit. While many like to make up their seating charts as the year progresses, I feel that students will not need to worry who to sit by and where to sit.
5) Take a class photo
Fifth, take a class photo and have students sign their name on it. After completing this activity, hang up the class poster in the classroom for all to see. This will help build community and rapport with students.
6) Integrate daily bell ringers/exit tickets
Sixth, establish consistency by integrating a daily bell ringer/exit ticket from the beginning. I truly believe it is important for students to have an activity to complete as soon as they enter the classroom. Unstructured time is never a good idea. The bellringer in my classroom takes five minutes and they complete this individually. Additionally, at the end of the class they complete a brief exit ticket about the class. By having students complete these two activities on the daily provides consistency and will help establish a strong sense of routine.
7) Use students’ names in lessons
Seventh, use student names in warm-up questions/test questions/exit tickets etc. Every time I add a student’s name in a question, I often hear a clap or a student gets excited externally. This is a very easy way to build relationships too.
8) Engage students with some tactile fun!
Eighth, integrate PlayDoh and Shaving cream into the lessons during the first week. I find when students have tactile learning experiences they are very engaged and get excited! This helps also elevate some of the back-to-school jitters some students may be experiencing.
In conclusion, the back-to-school season is a prime opportunity for educators to establish a positive and productive classroom environment. By implementing these effective tips, educators can ensure a smooth transition, engage their students, and foster a love of learning that will last throughout the academic year and beyond.
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