As teachers, we have a responsibility to run a high functioning classroom with students focused on learning. I believe that our students expect this from their teachers and that this highly functional classroom environment starts on day one. A focused and organized approach for the first day sets the stage for every day that follows. As teachers it is important to have a detailed plan for how this day will play out because it sets the stage for all of the days that follow.
This is what the first day of class looks like for students coming into my chemistry class:
The student sees instructions for the day projected on the screen.
The student finds his/her assigned seat.
The room is arranged in double rows allowing for a quick share/pair with a partner or a lab group discussion. The student’s name is written on an index card on his/her assigned seat. There is also a handout entitled: “Class Rules for Conduct and Grading” set out for easy access.
Giving a student an assigned seat to start the period has many advantages that help to support student learning. The teacher knows where his/her students are so that (s)he can quickly and efficiently take roll and the student knows that you have a place reserved for them and that (s)he can quickly get started on the warm-up activity for the day. A seating chart gives the students a predictable starting position and allows the teacher to easily transition to the day’s activities. As opposed to a seating chart, a seating arrangement only informs the teacher and class of the location of desks. No matter the seating arrangement, I always have the students start the day in an assigned seat.
(To read more about various seating arrangements, please visit our previous posts entitled “Room Arrangement Matters”.)
The learning objective, homework assignment, and warm-up activity are displayed on the side boards.
“Objective: To learn the first few of our class routines as a foundation for future learning.”
“Assignment: Record the homework assignment in your notebook/planner..."
“Warm-up: Please do the following to complete your index card...”
While the students are recording the homework assignment, completing the index card, and reading the handout, I am checking my seating chart and taking attendance. Having a learning objective and expectation for how class is to begin informs the student that I plan to use all of the time allotted and that I am serious about their education.
The students experience a run through of a classroom activity/routine.
After taking attendance, I turn the class’s attention towards me with a raised hand and an attention getter. I pause for a moment and then tell the class that we will start each day with assigned seats and a warm up. I then formally introduce myself to the whole class and then state two truths and a lie about me. I pause for them to guess as to which is the lie and them talk about my truths.
I have students pair with their elbow buddy and take turns listing two truths and a lie. I give the students a few minutes to go through the process. I will use the same attention getter when it is time to end the activity. I collect the index cards and keep them for reference.
With this simple routine, the students see that there will be steps to follow when going in and out of groups. The same procedure is used for each activity that the class will do throughout the year. I describe the activity and make sure the students know how I plan to get their attention for transition to the next activity.
The students remind me of how they met the day’s objective and are dismissed with the bell.
A well planned first day lays the groundwork for the coming days by helping our students know that you are a teacher who has a place for them in class and that you will use procedures and routines to assist them in their learning.
This post brought to you by Dan Devine, Secondary Implementation Associate
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