Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to School II

Continuing with the last post about starting a new year, I've written about
1: Establishing Goals
2: Developing Class Rules

The main point argued in the handout is that parents need to be well informed. When parents know what is happening in the classroom, they often offer more support. Write a letter to parents on the first day of school. The letter should have goals for the year and the expected behaviour of the students. It should also be clear that you are available for phone conversations, meetings etc. Personally I generally state that I am available daily before and after school and give a time. It means that parents understand that during class time, I am not free to leave to have a meeting. (I will have my letter to parents available in an upcoming post).

Know what time school starts and how the day is normally set out e.g. my school has 8 lessons a day, assembly on Mondays and Fridays etc. Find out if there are any compulsory activities taking place on that first day. This day will be different than the normal classroom routine. Some schools even begin the testing process on the first day to decide on ability groups etc. Have a chat to colleagues, a Coordinator, the Principal, someone who will be able to help you. If you're new to the school, hopefully you will be given a mentor. If you haven't, find someone you are comfortable speaking to about it and ask whether or not you will have a mentor and who your first stop should be if there is a problem.
Have some group activities planned, particularly ones that allow you to get to know your students, for them to introduce themselves and for you to do the same. Name games are fantastic as well, as for some teachers, this can be one of the most challenging aspects of getting a new class, remembering those 30 names. Have an approximate time for each of the activities you do plan. It will help you to feel the flow of the day.
As well as group activities you will need some individual activities or 'filler' activities as you may know them.  These may be puzzles, colouring, listening posts, educational games (matching games, addition games), colouring book covers etc. You will find many ideas online, if you are having trouble. You may decide to make each student a pack of work to complete for the day. You may choose to use it as assessment or allow them to take it home to show their parents.
As well planning activities it is important for students to understand what the routines will be, where to find things, what materials they are allowed to use in free time, new classroom rules and so on. The rules you established earlier need to be discussed. Perhaps like me, you want your students involved in the making of these rules, so you will need to allow time for students to discuss with their peers and then share with the class. Another important thing is to take any new students on a tour of the school. I do this with the whole class as it refreshes their memories about the rules outside.
It's really important that you spend this first day talking and lots of it. Allow your students to talk and share with you and their peers. Try to really begin the process of getting to know your students before the pressures of the curriculum and the stresses of daily school life begin. The first day should be fun and exciting. The first day for many students can mean so many different things. Some are excited and some are dreading the day. It is your job to make it as enjoyable as possible, while giving them a taste of what the following days will be like.
Lastly, have your planning well organised that you can see what activity is next and what resources you will need at a glance. It is also better to over plan than to not have planned enough. The activities you might not get through on that first day can be done the next day. 

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