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The candles have all been extinguished, random evergreen needles have been vacuumed up, and the presents have all been opened and enjoyed (or returned and re-gifted). But the end of the holidays is actually the beginning of something really special in your classroom: the start of a brand new year. And unlike the newness of the year in August, this “new year” is even better because your students will return to a class of friends and a teacher they know (and love, of course).
All of this old-newness is the perfect opportunity to revisit your classroom management plan and strengthen the bonds of community (not to mention obedience) with your students. Here’s a simple first-day-back plan to get your group on the right track for 2011:
- Brainstorm “The Ideal Classroom”
Start the day by asking students what the “perfect” classroom would be like. Tell them that you’re not talking about having recess all day or never having homework (dream on!), but rather you want to know how the students and teacher would treat each other. Ask: How would you like to be treated by your classmates? By me? How should we act toward each other? Lead students in a discussion on mutual respect, kindness…and (my personal favorite) self control. Rather than lecturing or preaching, let the students share their thoughts on what makes them feel respected when they’re talking (eye contact, no interruptions, etc) and how they can show extra kindness to each other. How can we become even more like a family?
- Revisit and Revise “The Rules”
Then, look over the classroom rules together. If they’re posted on your wall, have a student volunteer read the rules out loud, pausing after each one to ask, “Why is this a good standard for our classroom?” Then, ask the students to thoughtfully consider if the rules need to be amended. Do we need any additional standards? Do any need to be reworded? A thoughtful conversation on classroom behavior will impart ownership to the students and be a better motivator than any lecture.
- Play a Team-Building Game
Next, solidify the unity of your class with a team-building activity. Try a connecting web (see this post for the how-to), where students are encouraged to compliment each other.
However you choose to greet your students come January, here’s to a happy, productive, positive New Year!
Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed., holds a Bachelors in Education from The University of Georgia and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Lesley University, Cambridge. She is the editor of A Learning Experience.