Control the Classroom from Day One
Avoid the beginning-of-the-year scramble by having a strategy for the first few days of school.
By Elijah Ammen
Reflect and Set Goals
Modeling Excellent Work
- Work Samples: Dust off some assignments from last year and have your class examine them. Have them guess what the grades were. Ask them analyze the differences in assignments that are incomplete, do not contain full sentences, or do not follow the instructions. Make sure they also see examples of excellent work, so they have exemplary work to imitate.
- Review Rubrics: Do you have a rubric you use for particular assignments? Have your class break down the rubric and understand how you will grade their work.
Logistically, seat assignments and group work are always messy at the beginning of the year. I like to jump straight into group work, but I also want to prevent social stratification. Sure, you can assign seats randomly, but then every change seems reactionary on your part. Here are a few ways to start off your classroom seating arrangements while everything is still fluid.
- Group Shuffle: If you work with groups early in the year, hand out playing cards at the beginning of the class and have the groups split by the cards they were given. It keeps kids from feeling like you're biased, and it gives you a reason to change up groups regularly.
- Split Groups in Half: If you split groups in half, have everyone cross their arms over their chest. Split the room by those with their right arm on top and their left arm on top. (This also works with the right and left thumbs when you interlace your fingers.) Believe it or not, this will almost always split a group evenly, and kids will think it's so cool.
- Class Project: Start your class in an informal arrangement. This can be used to discuss beginning-of-the-year details and expectations. Then have the class rearrange the desks, chairs, or tables, into the set-up for the rest of the year. This gives them a chance to move around on their first day back and take ownership of the way the classroom looks.