By the end of the school year, we have our classrooms running like well-oiled machines. The students know what to do, when to do it, and what to expect from us. The beginning of the year is an entirely different story though. On the first day of school, a fresh batch of newbies enters our classroom with wide eyes. They are excited to see their friends, and they are a little anxious about their new classes. However, if they don’t have guidance and structure in the first week of school, they will call the shots and run the show. That is why it is so important to establish these five routines as quickly as possible. By the end of the first full week of school, students should know how you run your class and what you expect from them.
You might also be interested in reading my blog post about the 10 lessons and activities to teach when you go back to school.
1. Establish a bell ringer routine
I love bell ringers because they are a proven way to get students on-task quickly. Once a bell ringer routine is established, students will know that once the bell rings, the need to be in their seat working on the task. Bell ringers also are great because you can use those first five minutes in class to introduce a new topic, review an old concept, practice grammar, or make a student really think. I have a free bell ringer and do now log and many bell ringers available in my store. You can read more about how I hold students accountable for their bell work here. These self-inking stamps work great in the classroom, and they are very easy to use.
2. Establish how students will enter class
If it were up to middle school and high school students, they would congregate outside of your classroom with their friends until the very last moment. Then just as the bell is almost done ringing, they would push through the door and meander through the room until eventually finding their seat. If you don’t establish your expectations and policies for how students will enter your classroom early on, this can be a difficult habit to break. It’s helpful to enforce your tardy policy early on and to have an activity during the first couple of minutes of class.
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3. Establish how students will leave class
At the end of the year, my students know not to pack up early. They just don’t do it because I make the students who pack up early, even two minutes early unpack everything and write at least one word on whatever it was you were working on. The beginning of the year is an entirely different scene; I have students packing up almost six minutes early the first week of school. Unacceptable. To combat this, I give students the very last minute of class to pack up. However, in order to be dismissed at the bell, every student needs to be in their seat, sitting down, with phones put away.
4. Establish how students will turn in work
Usually, you will have some sort of turn in bin or basket in which students turn in their completed assignments. However, at the beginning of the year, students won’t know this. You will want to show and explain to them how, when, and where students will turn in their work. I use a paper basket like this one to collect papers as students leave the classroom.
5. Establish when and how often students will be able to use the restroom
Without a clearly defined class restroom policy in place, your class will be the one class in their schedule that students designate as their time to use their restroom. And by using the restroom, I mean slowly walk to the restroom while simultaneously sending out some snaps and taking a few selfies. As middle school and high schoolers, students need to know when it and is not an appropriate time to use the restroom. I like to assign a limited-use restroom pass to my students at the beginning of each semester. This pass is available for free here.
Once these five routines are established in your classroom, your room will begin to work more like a well-oiled machine. This post contains affiliate links.