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The First Few Weeks: Establishing Classroom Expectations

by | Aug 1, 2018 | School

At the beginning of the new school year it’s important to give careful consideration to setting clear expectations, with consistent rules and routines. Establishing these expectations will set the tone in your classroom and help ward off challenges down the road. Here are a few areas to give thought to as you plan the first few weeks with your students:

Simple Routines

Think about the routine activities your students will complete on a daily basis. These are tasks like lining up, hanging up their coats and backpacks, walking down the hall, coming to the carpet, and getting ready to go home. All of these tasks may seem rather simple, but without clear routines communicated and practiced, things can quickly become a little chaotic. Decide, for example, where you want students to line up, if they need to be in any particular order, and how you will settle potential disputes over who’s first in line. You may also need to go over expectations for lining up such as being quiet and keeping hands and feet to yourself.

Daily Activities

It’s important to put some thought into how you want your students to complete other activities that will occur every day. When someone needs to use the bathroom, do they need to ask first, give you a predetermined non-verbal signal, or just go? You may also need to spend some time going over expectations like one person in the bathroom at a time, close the door, flush, and wash your hands. Think about other activities that will occur daily in your classroom that you need to teach upfront so they go smoothly throughout the year. This may include getting drinks, tidying up, and lunchtime expectations.

Class Rules

Even with young learners, you can engage in a discussion that leads to creating a set of rules, which may become your classroom motto or agreement. Students can identify what they need to do in order to make sure everyone feels safe and happy at school. Instead of creating a list of “dont’s,” try framing their ideas in a positive way. “Use kind words”, “The maker is the breaker“, and “Hands are for helping” are examples of simple rules for students to learn. You may wish to post the rules in your classroom and refer to them as you model and discuss what they look like, sound like, and feel like.

Teaching your students the many rules and routines you need in place is time well spent. The first few weeks of a new school year provide the ideal time to establish expectations, offer explicit teaching, and allow for practice. Taking the time upfront to make sure students understand what is expected of them will help provide them with a safe, predictable, positive environment all year long.

Written by: Erin Agnello

Edit, Design, & Graphics by: Jamie Schmalenberger

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John Haber
John Haber

My name is John Haber. I’m a Pediatric Occupational Therapist and the founder of Nogginsland. I became a COTA in 2003, and then went back to school much later, receiving my Master’s Degree in OT from Mercy College in New York in 2016.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a variety of populations in different settings, from school districts, to developmental disability centers, to children’s hospitals.