Dear Future Teachers,
I, along with many other teachers, students, and student teachers, have made it through our first couple of weeks back to school! The first week is filled with nerves, anticipation, and adjusting to the schedule of the school day. While I, personally, have worked in a school setting before, I've never experienced the beginning of the school year in the classroom. At the elementary level, the first week or two are filled more with learning classroom procedures than it is content... and there are a LOT of classroom procedures that students need to know! My mentor teacher has a little over a decade of classroom experience, so she's been able to establish an effective procedure for the 5th grade classroom. I found many of the procedures that she uses super neat, so I wanted to share some examples and how to implement them today!
Get To Know You Activities
Before introducing new classroom procedures on the first day, it's important to introduce yourself to the class and allow students to introduce themselves to you! Some activities that can help begin this process are:
Greeting students at the door! This is something I've done at my work with Student U, at my internship site last semester, and here at my student teaching placement! When you greet students at the door, you can set the tone for the day by making students feel welcomed and seen. It's also a great way to make sure you're remembering and practicing their names, as well as do a small check-in to see how they are entering the space.
"Predict the Teacher." My mentor teacher printed out a mini worksheet with various facts that students would try to predict about her. Facts can include: your age, where you were born, your likes/dislikes, your hobbies, your family, your favorite sports team, your favorite color, and more! Students can work together to make an educated guess about who their teacher is. To add to this activity, you could leave little hints around your room, such as pictures or decorative items, that students can draw from as they make their predictions. After your allotted time passes, you can go through the sheet together and show pictures of some of the facts featured on the sheet to allow students to get to know you!
Peer Interviews. One activity that my mentor teacher facilitated that I LOVED was the peer interviews. She randomly partnered students in the class and gave each student a list of interview questions. The students would take turns asking the interview questions and recording their partner's response on the interview sheet. Then, both partners would come to the front of the class and read out what they learned about one another to the whole group! Our students were a little shy, but it takes a little bit of the pressure off when they got to introduce someone else rather than having to name fun facts about themselves off the top of their heads.
Organize Binders/Notebooks/School Supplies
At Open House, families were provided with a supply list for the 5th grade classroom. This list included required materials (such as a binder, composition notebooks, pencils, etc.) and donation materials (tissues, hand sanitizer, rulers, color pencils, extra school supplies for the classroom!) Within the first week of school, my mentor teacher took time to help students organize their folders, notebooks, and binder to develop organizational and executive functioning skills. This process can vary from classroom to classroom and grade level to grade level; but here are some examples of how our students organized their materials!
Our students all have a large binder that serves as their take-home binder. They were provided with protective sheets and dividers to organize their work within their binders. Each protective sheet was dedicated to a core subject area. So, for example, math homework, returned assignments, and other math papers would go into one sheet protector. Similarly, ELA homework, returned assignments, and other relevant papers would go into one sheet protector.
School policies, schedule, and expectations were all printed out for students and they were also instructed to place these papers into their binders in their own respective sheet protectors. These documents serve as reminders to students and their families and can be referenced throughout the year!
Agenda books were given to our schools' 5th graders. These agenda books are able to be placed into the binder and students are expected to write their homework in it each day, get it signed by the teacher, and get it signed by a caregiver. My mentor teacher modeled for students how to log their homework and allowed them to practice this skill each day. Later in the year, vocabulary words, reading logs, and other small features will also begin to be logged in the agenda books.
Students have 3 composition notebooks for note-taking and classroom work. Each notebook is dedicated to math, ELA, and science, and my mentor teacher printed out color-coded labels with each students' name to be taped onto each notebook! After the notebooks were labeled with their corresponding subject area, my mentor teacher taught students how to properly title each page with the topic, their names, and the date. She also taught them how to write in the notebook, showing them to stay between the thin red lines on each lined page to keep their writing neat.
Specific Procedures To Structure the Classroom
In order to keep the classroom organized and avoid losing any student work, it's helpful to provide some procedures that add structure to the classroom.
Use turn-in bins! Especially in an elementary classroom where you are teaching multiple different subject areas, turn-in bins that correlate with each subject you teach can help you keep track of different assignments students are completing. My mentor teacher also color coordinated her turn-in bins with the composition notebook labels she created for students, too!
Similar to turn-in bins, classroom mailboxes can be used to store work that is not yet completed. By utilizing a space for unfinished work, you can minimize the risk of students losing assignments that they need to work on later. Usually if students finish their classwork early, my mentor teacher allows them to check their mailboxes to work on any unfinished assignments they've collected throughout the week.
Sometimes, students may forget to write their names on their papers, which is where the "No name" station comes into play! Hanging up student work that is missing a name allows students to retrieve their work and prevent any missing grades from popping up in the grade book.
Another station you can include in your classroom is for exit tickets. Exit tickets allow teachers to periodically check in with how much content students are understanding from a particular lesson. My mentor teacher set up an exit ticket where students placed their exit tickets in a folder that corresponds with how much they feel they understand or don't understand that day's lesson content. The exit tickets aren't graded, and student confidence in their exit tickets allows us to see what knowledge we may have to spend additional time on in class.
A great time management tool is the timer. My mentor teacher uses a timer to keep the lesson moving on track, but also to keep the students motivated. Students learn that when the timer goes off, whatever task or activity they are doing should be paused. If you see students may need a little bit more time, you can add time to the timer at your discretion. Timers can benefit the pacing of your lesson, and show you how long it typically takes your students to complete certain tasks.
Finally, a fun and extremely helpful classroom management procedure is assigning classroom jobs. There's typically only one of you in the room, and classroom jobs can allow students to help with more tedious and time consuming tasks, such as passing out papers, stacking chairs, collecting materials, etc. Not only does a classroom job help YOU out, but it also gives students a sense of responsibility in the community. Some jobs that we have are: passing out hand sanitizer after recess, sweeping the floor, erasing the board, passing out pencils, collecting materials, and organizing the books in the classroom library. They may feel like small tasks, but it's extremely helpful when all students have an opportunity to contribute to keeping the classroom space neat and safe!
Just for Fun!
One neat practice that my mentor teacher implemented was taking a photo of each student holding a sign that says "First Day of 5th Grade" to send to their families. On the last day, she will take another picture of each student saying "Last Day of 5th Grade", which is a cute way to document their growth throughout the school year!
I hope these procedures gave you all tons of ideas to implement in your classroom to make the school year flow smoothly! While this was a bit of a longer post, it is in no way comprehensive, and there are tons of other ideas that may work in your classroom as well. If you have additional classroom procedures you'd like to share, send them my way! You can contact me through the Contact Form on the Home Page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.