Setting Procedures For A Successful Year

It's coming, your first week of school with your new class.  What should you do?  Set your rules, and set your procedures.  Don't begin teaching a unit, don't delve into the common core just yet.  Instead, take the time to set the tone and build the community you want to continue throughout the school year.

1.  All activities and lessons for the first week of school should be centered around learning the rules, learning the routines, and building community.  Everyone is nervous the first few days of school, even the teacher.  Taking the time to get to know one another is very important.  Students need activities to help them learn your name, and the names of all of their classmates. Students need to know when they can and cannot be out of their seats.  How to turn in their completed assignments, and the proper door to exit through in order to catch their school bus.  All of these procedures must be taught - by you.  One activity we do during the first week of school is practicing.  We practice lining up quietly, we practice pushing our chairs in when we stand up from our seats.  As adults it's so easy to forget that we had to be taught these simple things.  Even if you teach older students, they will still need to practice procedures which they did not need over the summer - like walking quietly in the hallway.  The first week of school sets the tone for the rest of the school year.  It's easy to overlook the fact that you need to teach your students how you expect them to line up, however, overlooking even the littlest things can lead to confusion later.  My favorite first week of school activity is the School Rules Flip Flap Book.  It's fun for students, and it helps them learn the rules that have been set in your room.

2.  Start the year with as much structure as possible.  You can always let go of some structure later in the school year.  Trying to add more structure later, however, is not easy.  Have as many procedures in place as possible.  Students want to know how things will work in your room, and introducing procedures to them will ease their nerves.  Let your students know when and how technology will be used in your room.  Show students where they should store their lunch boxes.  Teach your students how you want them to enter the classroom each morning, and what they should do once they come in.  One tip for figuring out what you'll need a procedure for is to mentally go through all of the activities your students will have during the day.  Then make sure you have a routine in mind for any activity that involves students being out of their seat.

3.  Over plan for the first week of school.  I do not want a single minute that first week of school where I do not have an activity for my students to do.  To make sure I don't forget important things, I read over my plans each night before I go to bed.  I also keep a handy copy of my plans on my desk, just in case I need a last minute activity.  I know it sounds like a bit much, but believe me it is better to be over prepared than under.  

What do the plans consist of?  Well, I make sure that I have a getting to know you activity each day for my students.  We also go over all of the rules and consequences at least once, but sometimes twice each day during the first week back at school.  We learn and practice our routine for morning meeting.  Each day I select a read aloud that focuses on back to school jitters, or back to school lessons my students need to learn.  I adore Kevin Henkes, and usually begin the year with Chrysanthemum, Wemberly Worried, and Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse. I also enjoy reading The Recess Queen by Alexis O'neill the first week back to school. Any read alouds that focus on proper school behavior, and making friends, will work. 

4.  Introduce your students to balanced literacy through minilessons.  If you're using balanced literacy in your room I highly recommend following the first 20 days laid out by Fountas and Pinnell in Guiding Readers and Writers (Grades 3-6): Teaching, Comprehension, Genre, and Content Literacy. Chapter 9 literally lays out the first 20 days of literacy instruction and introducing your students to the structure of balanced literacy.  Your students have to build their stamina in order to read independently for 30 minutes a day.  This chapter does a great job of teaching all of the ins and outs of balanced literacy - right down to teaching students how to select books in your library.  

5.  Before you teach the subject, teach the routine.  I do not begin teaching actual curriculum the first few days of the school year.  I do, however, need my students to know when it is time for each subject.  What I do instead, is during math for the first days of school I let the students know it's time for math.  Then I pass out the math books and have students put them in their desks.  I go over what our daily math routine will be (in my class we begin with a math warm up, then a lesson, followed by independent work).  I show students where communal math materials are stored, finally I answer questions students may have about second grade math.  Then we do a community building activity (like graphing the number of letters in our first names on the board).  Whatever the activity is, I make sure that it is a high success one that all of my students can do.  I want everyone to start the year feeling good about all subjects.

I hope you found these tips useful.  If you have any first week of school tips, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Michelle,
    I adore Kevin Henkes, too. I met him at the University of Washington Bookstore and I have a signed copy of Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse.
    Happy Back to School.
    Artistry of Education



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