My Way

It is important to get to know your students as quickly and deeply as possible at the beginning for the school year. It is during this establishment phase of the year that the seeds of a successful year are planted. On the first day of school I play “get to know you games” such as class bingo and a “guess me” game. These games, and many more like them, help develop a supportive and co-operative class culture. However, I believe, of equal importance is understanding how your children learn, what they would like to learn, and how they best like to express their learning.

Joseph Renzulli and his team at the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at UCONN developed an excellent tool that allows teachers to quickly gauge how your students best like to express their learning called “My Way”. I have found this tool incredibly useful when planning lessons and units of work. One year I discovered that the majority of my class liked to express their learning through building and constructing. Therefore I gave them a lot of opportunities to express their learning in this way. Read this article if you would like to find out more about “My Way”.

Two other fantastic tools that will help you understand your student’s interests are the “Interest-A-Lyzer” and “If I Ran the School”.

My Way.pdf
If I Ran the School.pdf

Back to School – Student Book Covers

In some schools children are asked to cover their own workbooks while other schools have printed covers the children must use.  I prefer that different exercise books are different colors so they are easier to find for both students and staff.  I have uploaded a template that I used for my student’s workbooks this year.  I would photocopy the different covers on colored paper, for example the English cover orange and the number cover blue.  Please feel free modify these covers so they best suit your needs.  I used Microsoft clipart for the images.

I have uploaded an A4 and letter version of the book covers.

Book Covers – Letter.doc
Book Covers – A4.doc

Back to School Activities – “The 4Rs”

At the start of the school year I spend a lot of time establishing “The 4Rs”, Rules, Rights, Responsibilities and Routines (again, a Bill Rogers idea!).  Class rules have a large role to play in creating a cohesive class atmosphere while also helping with ongoing classroom management.  Rights are the expectations that the student has of the school. For example, the student expecting to be treated with respect and to be safe.  Explaining student rights can be difficult at first, however, I have found that the students soon understand and embrace the ideas.

I generally see student responsibilities as two fold, the students have a responsibility to follow the classroom rules and respect the rights of others as well as having responsibilities, or jobs, within the classroom.  I use class jobs as a way to foster a sense of belonging and responsibility (for more information about class jobs please see the post “classroom jobs” below).  The last of “The 4Rs” is routines.  Having routines helps children feel safe and at ease.  This does not mean that a classroom has to be overly regimented, just that children have an idea of why, how and when things are done. For more information about classroom routines you can read a good article by Denise Young entitled “Classroom routines and procedures”.

During the first week of school I discuss classroom rules with the students.  I explain why I believe they are important and ask them to think of rules they have had in previous classrooms.  I write these on the board and ask if we can write any of the rules in a more positive tone.  For example, instead of writing, “Don’t run in the classroom,” I write, “We walk in the classroom.”  Writing the rules in this way emphasizes what the student should do rather than what they should not do.

Below are two sheets to help you create class rules. The first is a sheet I give to groups of two or three students and ask them to formulate class rules.  The second sheet contains the class rules I had on my classroom wall this year.  I photocopied this sheet on different colored A3 paper and displayed it around my classroom.

Creating Rules.doc
Class Rules Example.doc

For more information about “The 4Rs” please read this keynote address from Bill Rogers:

Back to School Activities – Questionnaires

Many schools across the Northern Hemisphere are preparing to go back to school in the next few weeks.  A new school year brings tremendous opportunities for teachers.  We are able to reflect on our previous year’s success and failures and modify our classroom methods and routines.  Bill Rogers calls the start of the year the “establishment phase of the year” and writes, “The first few weeks are crucial in developing the smooth running of a class group.  In fact the first day – the first meeting with a new group – can have a significant effect on how students perceive our leadership” (Rogers; 2006, p. 86).  I spend a lot of time planning the few weeks of the school year.  This time allows me to set the tone for the school year.  Over the next week I will post a few ideas that have helped me begin the school year in a positive way.

Getting to know your students names and interests as soon as possible has a tremendous impact on a classroom culture.  As does establishing communication with the child’s parent or guardian. A have uploaded two sheets that I have found useful. One sheet is a questionnaire for the students to fill out and the other is for their parent or guardian. These questionnaires will give you a good understanding of your student’s interests.  Please modify these sheets so they best suit your needs.

Student Questionnaire.doc
Parent/Guardian Questionnaire.doc