After teaching for more than a year now on google class room and zoom, it is hard to imagine what it used to feel like teaching in a physical classroom, as much as we loved or hated online teaching and studying for that matter, it does have some limitations and with things finally going back to normal, teachers need to prepare themselves as well as their classrooms for kids to join with the same enthusiasm they had before.
This is an area where new teachers especially struggle, a lot of things that are often missing in teacher preparation programs are important. Now you can debate about having an energetic attitude, engaging with students etc. is important, and you would be absolutely right, but that does not mean there is no room left for improvement or anything left to add in the classroom to make it better for students.
Preparing a classroom for the first day of school can be overwhelming and exciting for teachers; so we’ll try to guide you great educators so that you can make your first day of school a day to remember.
Remember, if you want to keep a certain arrangement In the class or want stuff to be in a certain order, the best way to do it is to arrange your class prior to the start of school. It is only human nature that when we visit a place for the first time, we make a mental note of the normal setting and almost every time, people accept it as the natural setting.
So as an educator you know the best distance between desks, how far should your desk be, you want to put a chair in the corner, where the stationary box should be, the class notice board, assessment rack, paper organizers, you name it, all of this should be in place before any of your students see their new class. This way not only it will be easier for you to manage, but your students will automatically follow the preset placement as natural and it will be easier for them to be comfortable with the setting sooner.
Moving forward we will talk about the physical aspects of how you can prepare your classroom for the first day as well as we will take a peak at what interpersonal skills you can practice for a smooth and seamless day one.
There are 10 tips that I want to share with you. This is by no means an exhausted list, but just some of the more important ones I feel would be a great help.
Number 1: Decide How to Place Student Desks
During the first days of school, you want to arrange your desks whereby every student can see you and that you can see every student. You, as the teacher do not want to see the back of anyone’s head.
Now after several days into the new school year you’ll want to move the student desks into clusters for easy discussion and collaboration. If you want to minimize distractions and chatting, consider separating each desk from the one next to it, leaving a little buffer space to discourage misbehavior. You could also place the desks in rows or in a semi-circle, or stadium seating.
Teacher discretion is in play here. So, whatever you choose, work with the room and materials you have, leaving plenty of aisle space for you and the students to move around with ease.
Number 2: Strategically Place the Teacher’s Desk
Some teachers use their desks as a central command station, while others use it primarily as a paper pile repository and rarely sit down to work there. Depending on how your desk functions as part of your teaching style, choose a spot where your desk will meet your needs. If it’s very messy, consider placing it in a less conspicuous spot. Obviously, placement of your teacher desk should not obstruct the traffic flow of your classroom.
Number 3: Determine What Belongs up Front
Since students spend most of their days facing the front of the classroom, be very deliberate about what you place on the walls up front. Perhaps you want to emphasize discipline by placing the class rules on a prominent bulletin board. Or maybe there’s a daily learning activity that requires easy-to-view space that all students can see. Make this prime time space engaging, but not distracting. After all, all eyes should be on you, not necessarily a colorful explosion of words and images that distract from the core instruction at hand.
Number 4: Organize Your Class Library
Just like a public library, your classroom book collection should be organized in a logical manner that will be easy for the students to maintain throughout the school year. This could mean sorting the books by genre, reading level, alphabetical order, or other criteria. Labeled plastic bins work well for this. Also consider providing a little comfortable reading space for students to lounge with their books during silent reading time. This could mean some inviting bean bag chairs or a dedicated “reading rug.”
Number 5: Set Aside Space for Your Discipline Plan
It’s wise to post your class rules in a prominent spot for all to see each day of the school year. That way, there’s no opportunity for argument, miscommunication, or ambiguity. If you have a sign-in book or flip chart for rule offenders, set up a station for this activity. Ideally it should be in an out-of-the-way spot where curious student eyes can’t easily stare as a rule-breaking student signs in, flips the card, or otherwise does his or her penance.
Number 6: Plan for Student Needs
Make sure basic school supplies are strategically placed for easy student access. This may include various types of writing paper, sharpened pencils, markers, erasers, calculators, rulers, scissors, and glue. Organize these materials in one clearly-delineated part of the classroom.
Number 7: Define the Role Technology Plays in Your Classroom
Placement of your computer center communicates the role technology plays in your teaching. If you aim for a more traditional approach to instruction with technology as an occasional compliment, the computers likely belong in the back of the room or a cozy corner. If you integrate technology into most of the lessons, you might want to mix the computers in throughout the room so they’re easily accessible. This is a personal choice based on your beliefs about teaching in the 21st Century in combination with how available technology is in your school.
Number 8: Express Yourself Through Bulletin Boards
Almost every elementary school classroom has bulletin boards on the walls, requiring themes, displays, and regular rotation. Consider designating one or two bulletin boards as seasonal, and thus focus on keeping those boards timely and relevant to current holidays, instructional units, or class activities. Make it easy on yourself by keeping the majority of the bulletin boards “evergreen” and constant throughout the school year.
Number 9: Sprinkle in Some Fun Stuff
Elementary school is primarily about learning, for sure. But it’s also a time for fun personal touches that your students will remember for a lifetime. Think about having a class pet and make space for cages, food, and other required materials. If a pet’s not your style, place a few houseplants around the room to add life and a touch of nature. Make a game center for educational activities that students can use when finished with their work. Pop a couple personal photos from home on your desk to express your interests and personality. A little bit of fun goes a long way.
Number 10: Minimize Clutter and Maximize Functionality
Before your new students and their parents enter the classroom on the first day of school, take a look around your classroom with fresh eyes. Are there any little piles that could be put into a cupboard to tidy up? Does each part of the room serve a clear, functional purpose? What messages are you sending with your classroom’s overall appearance at first glance? Make tweaks as necessary.
Now that we have your classroom covered, let’s get you sorted for your first day as a teacher back to school.
The first thing as students enter the class you’ll want to do this:
Build excitement about you
Your students are as curious about you as you are about them, and they’re just as likely to have the jitters. Mixed with their nervousness is excitement about meeting a new person, and they’ll have questions – Who are you? What do you like? Are you a fun teacher?
In short, they want to know everything they can about you, and indulging them is a great way to build excitement.
Show them an introductory video about you, Create flyers or brochures with some fun facts about you, Play a question and answer game
Of course, once you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to get to know them. They’ll be all the more open once you’ve told them some things about yourself, so kick things off with a fun icebreaker activity.
Secondly, establish your rules
The world of Rules alone sparks the feelings of strictness in student minds, they imagine being in jail where they cannot be themselves. They must follow a set path, but as a teacher you understand the importance of discipline more than any one in your class.
Part of maintaining a healthy and collaborative classroom environment is consistency. Establishing rules early, both explicitly telling them verbally or written out and implicitly (showing them how you react to different situations. it can be done best once you have created a picture of fun and a joyful person of yourself.
For the first day you’ll want to introduce the rules that matter most… explicitly, but keep it short and sweet – they need to be remembered and you don’t want to come across as overbearing.
Where possible, involve your students in setting additional rules. By including them in the process, they’ll naturally feel more ownership of their class and their learning.
Continue by establishing your energy
Set the tone of your energy on the first day. Whether you’re calm and collected or more boisterous and outgoing doesn’t matter – what matters is that they come to understand what they can expect from you and that you’re excited to be teaching them.
It’s important to be genuine – you have to be able to sustain your energy. You don’t want to burn through a week’s worth of enthusiasm on your first day.
Before the day ends give them something to look forward to
Before the day’s end, after you’ve introduced yourself, learned about your new students and kick-started the learning momentum, you’ll want to give them a reason to look forward to day two. Leave your students with a mystery or the promise of something exciting for the next day, and maybe send a follow-up email to their parents summing up the first day.