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Setting High Expectations the First Weeks of School

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As summer is nearing the finish line, many teachers are starting to think about school. There are so many things to do! We spend hours setting up our classrooms, making IEP binders, organizing data sheets, and getting our day plans ready for the first week. Did I mention that’s all before our students even arrive?! We want our first week to be fun, engaging, and a positive experience for everyone! AND we want to have high classroom expectations!

Let’s Have a Real Talk Moment!

Something to keep in mind for the first week is to set high classroom expectations but, still have fun. In fact, this is great to do, because I love a good pairing session! The first week is a training week. We should be setting expectations for the year in that first week. This not only applies to the students but the staff too!

No matter which grade or subject area you teach, there are procedures, rules, and routines that you want your students to carry out. The dos and don’ts of the classroom. So here’s a good starting point:

Where to Start with Classroom Expectations:

Check out this Sensory Room Blog Post!”

Before the kids arrive, get things organized. Figure out where you want things to go, how you want kids to do things, where you want kids to sit, etc. Figuring these things out, before the kids get there, is important. It helps the kids to know you are in charge and you actually have a plan. Winging it on in the first week should NOT be an option. Once you figure out these things and you’ve planned your activities, you are ready for kids.

Set aside a good chunk of time each day going over classroom expectations and routines. Actually have it written into the schedule and make sure your staff know you are doing this so they can assist and perhaps help model with you!  Have students demonstrate how to do something, even if it’s as simple as sitting quietly on the carpet. Then have someone demonstrate how not to do something. After, have the whole class practice. Even if the students don’t get it right it doesn’t mean you assume this procedure won’t work, just PRACTICE!

We need to be consistent with our classroom expectations. Consistent does not mean the same. Each child is not the same, so we might have varied expectations for some kids. For example, for a child with autism, I cannot expect that they will be able to do everything the same as a child without autism. That would not be realistic. However, my expectations for him should still be consistent, even if they are slightly different.

Resources to Try for Classroom Expectations!

There are lots of good resources out there and management strategies. Pick the ones that work for you. What works for me, might not work for you, but here are some suggestions:

Visuals of Classroom Expectations: This could be posters or video clips to show the kids what you expect. There are a lot of great visual posters on TeachersPayTeachers for classroom management.

For example these from my store!

classroom rule posters with real photos

Give Me Five: This is a common listening strategy. When the teacher says “Give Me Five”, the students are expected to have Listening Ears, Hands in Lap, Eyes on Teacher, Legs still, and Mouth Closed.

Class Dojo:  There will be an upcoming blog post about how I like to use this in my self-contained classroom so stay tuned.

Helping Students to Understand

No matter what age your students are it’s important to explain to them why the procedures you are teaching are important. We all want to know why we have to do something and when we provide that meaning, it becomes more motivating to the student.

For example, if you expect books to be put back in certain book bins, let them know it is because you want the books to stay organized so other students can find a book. If you want students to line up in alphabetical order, explain that it is so you can easily take attendance during fire drills!

I hope you have an amazing first week with your class. I hope you engage with them and let them know how fun you can be! Just remember, set high expectations but, also have some grace with understanding if they don’t get it the first time! It will take practice! It will help them learn more in your classroom and it will help you keep your sanity! Do you have any great tips for setting high expectations in the first week of school?