First impressions can last an entire school year. How you start that first week of school can determine the success you will have with your students. It is crucial that you engage your students right from the start. We will help provide you some tips, ideas, and resources to make sure that your students are ready to learn when they come back to school.
- Greet the Students
Whether it be on the playground or outside your classroom door, take the time to say, “Good morning,” to your new group of students before they even step foot in the classroom. Be visible to show them that you are excited to see them and that they are important to you. Interacting with your new class right away will set a positive tone with the students. Make sure to do this each and every day for the rest of the year too. Don’t become “that teacher” who is behind the desk when the students come in. Take away the barriers and be front and center for them.
- Have a Morning Message
When the students enter the classroom, have a message for them to read. You want to engage students right away. It could be tasks that they need to do (getting out assignment notebooks for you to sign, writing in a journal, doing a classroom job), or it could be a fun calendar or day of the week activity that would get their minds working right away. You can also put an error in the message and see if the students can find it. Can you find the error below? Whatever it be, make sure that students have something to do right away. Students will have a purpose and will be busy completing the task, instead of being off-task.
- Conduct a Morning Meeting
Yes, curriculum is important, but the bonds you will build with the students are even more important. Take time those first few weeks of school to have a Morning Meeting in your classroom. It will make all the difference in students wanting to work hard the rest of the year. You can decide how you want to run your Morning Meeting. If you are familiar with Responsive Classroom, follow the four parts to their Morning Meeting. The main purpose of these Morning Meetings is to for you to get to know your students, and for your students to connect with their classmates. Through greetings, sharing, and cooperative games your class will learn how to respect each other, and work together to accomplish tasks. If there is one part of Back to School that we will not give up, it is Morning Meeting. It can be as short as a few minutes, or can go as long as 30 minutes. Find the time that you can fit into your schedule, and do it!
- Learn More About Your Students
Sure, you received a cumulative file or folder from last school year. But don’t just go by what numbers and statistics are in there. Make sure YOU get to know each and every child in your classroom personally, not from a file. There are many ways to accomplish this. Morning Meeting is a great time where students can share more about themselves. You can have questions ready to go (favorites) and have the students share. You can also have the students fill out an interest inventory that can even help you incorporate your students’ interests, favorites, and hobbies into your teaching. Students will love to see that you care about them and want to connect with them as well.
- Allow Choice
One of the biggest mistakes teachers make that first week of school is not allowing choice in the classroom. Yes, rules and routines are important, and so is curriculum. But if a teacher doesn’t allow choice, it can set the stage for a difficult year with some students. Choice can be as simple as allowing the students to choose what book they want to read for guided or independent reading. It can be giving the students the option of how they want to show their learning of a concept in social studies or science through a poster, presentation, written report, or song/rap. Students will be more vested and put forth more effort if they can show their learning in a way that best meets their strengths.Take these five tips and run with them the first week of school. As a result, your students will love how the year starts and it will make all the difference in their attitude and behavior as well.
These five tips should help you to increase student engagement right from the start. Stay tuned for our series of how to increase student engagement throughout the school year.