Saturday, August 23, 2014

Starting the School Year Off Right

This is Jessica, from What I Have Learned.

Happy Back-to-School time.  Boy am I exhausted!  We started back to school on Monday.  Students' first day was Wednesday.  I'm always so tired as I get back into the routine of it all!

Here are a few tips for you first few days back, from my classroom, to yours.  This post is a bit wordy . . . it's kind of a brain dump.  I'm hoping you'll find some tips in it to help you with your own students over the next few weeks!

Go slow

very slow.  So slow, it's almost painful.  Slower than you think you should.  Okay, maybe not that slow.  But, serious, we spent the first hour going over classroom rules (in a fun and interactive way) and establishing procedures for pair sharing.  I'm starting Whole Brain Teaching this year and it has been so fun teaching all the procedures!  The next hour was spent establishing Read to Self (Daily 5).

Model, Model, Model

Model the right way to do things.  Model the wrong way to do things.  Then, model the right way to do things.  This is established with Daily 5, but can be transferred to anything you want students to do.  Walk in a line, put their papers away, etc.  Model it.  Have students model it.  Have students model doing it incorrectly.  Then have the same students do it correctly.


When you see incorrect behavior (or when something annoys you).  Then model some more.  Call out the behavior.  Or students will think they can get away with it!

Keep it positive

I've decided this year to focus on positive behavior management (through the use of Whole Brain Teaching).  I've realized (don't know how it took me 16 years!) that negative feedback doesn't really work for the students that I really need to reign in.  For most of my students, just establishing good practices is enough to keep them in line with gentle reminders.  My most challenging students don't need more negative feedback.  They get enough of it at home and have had it in previous years.  I've got one kiddo this year that is pushing all the buttons.  It's been a challenge to catch myself and try to redirect the behavior rather than become negative and turn toward a punishment mentality.  I'm trying though!

Admit your mistakes and your fears

Show students that you are a real person, too.  There was a time this week when I couldn't find a set of papers.  There were times when I said something wrong (learning new processes is hard).  Admit that you don't know it all.  It will ease their fears.  We read Wemberly Worries on the second day of school this week.  I admitted that I worry that I won't teach them well.  I also admitted that I was afraid that they wouldn't like me.  Just trying to make it real, people.

Plan more than you think you need

Overplan for the first couple days or even weeks, until you figure out the rhythm of your classroom.  It's better to have more in your back pocket than you think you need.

Come up with some sponge activities or "fillers" 

for those extra 10 minutes that you can't do a full lesson, but you can't do the next activity.  Have those in your "back pocket" to use when you have a couple extra minutes.

Don't forget to sit down

while your students are engaged in an activity, sit down.  Really take a seat.  Watch them.  See how they interact with one another.  Observe the choices they make.  Look at their personalities and see how they work together to make you classroom unique.


Inhale.  Exhale.  Relax.  Take some time for yourself.  Treat yourself to a coffee, a massage, a pedicure, a cup of tea.  Anything that allows you to breathe and reflect.  I keep going and going and going, that I often forget about myself during the first few weeks at school.

I hope you're first few days of school go smoothly with few stressors and that your students are amazing little learners!


  1. Thank you! After 20 years in 6th and 5th, I'm starting in 1st this year. These reminders are helpful!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I go back Monday. The students start Wednesday. Maybe I should print out you blog post for my desk! Have a great year.
    Laughter and Consistency