January = A Fresh Start

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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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.



Filed under Activities, Behavior Management, Classroom Community, Discipline

8 responses to “January = A Fresh Start

  1. connie wiley

    Thanks Elizabeth. Great way to start the New Year. This is something that we need to revisit in January. I will use this in my first class meeting of the new year.

  2. Kristin

    Great article Elizabeth! These are simple and useful suggestions that I’m anxious to try! Thanks also for the revisit (link) to the older article about team-building! : )

  3. ecossick

    Glad the article is proving helpful to you, Connie and Kristin! And Kristin– I love that web idea! :)

    • I did start back on Tuesday and I had the kids clean out their desks and folders. We tossed whatever we didn’t need and got ready for a great new year. Then I read ” Have you Filled a Bucket Today” book and reviewed the rules. We have had a great first week back. Thanks for reminding me to review the rules. It set a great tone for the rest of the year.

    • Hey,
      I was just wondering who the random winners were for Dec. 12 and Dec. 17th? I couldn’t find who was picked. Thanks!

  4. Kay Wallin

    Other suggestions for starting the new year: 1) Reorganize the classroom. Have students clean out desks and backpacks (if this wasn’t done before vacation). 2) Have students set classroom goals for the rest of the year. They should be attainable goals. 3) Review good points from the first part of the school year. Focus on the positive, but don’t forget to discuss how to eliminate the negative.

  5. peggy

    Great article. I will be revisiting the classroom rules and it is always good to plan team building activities throughout the year. Great reminder! Thanks for gearing me up for Monday!

  6. ecossick

    I hope you’ve all had a smooth transition into 2011! Peggy was our random comment winner this week. Thanks for all the great comments! :)