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Settling into the New School Year: Tools for Success

Janelle Cox



With the new school year underway, teachers are settling into their classrooms and getting to know their students. By now you should have an idea of what is working and what changes need to be made in order to have a successful school year. Here are a few tips to help you in your endeavor.

Rethink Your Desk Arrangement

In order to provide an optimal learning environment for your students make sure your desk arrangement is working. Are students' desks grouped together? Are they in straight lines? If students’ desks are in groups, make sure that the students seated next to one another aren't chit-chatting and work well together. If students' desks are in a straight line, ask yourself "Is this working?" If you plan on doing a lot if group activities or classroom games, you may want to consider rearranging students' desks into groups.

Do Students Understand the Rules?

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Is your behavior management system working? Do you have too many rules? Are students understanding what is expected of them, and do they know the consequences if they break a rule? These are questions you should be asking yourself. Research shows that students seem to remember rules easier when they are grouped in three. If you think you have too many rules, try to break them up into three main rules for students to follow. Once they grasp those, you can add more.

Are you Getting Students' Attention?

I am sure you have thought long and hard about how you will get, and keep your students' attention. Ask yourself, "Is my signal working?" Some teachers swear by the traditional clap of their hands, and then have students repeat them, while others say "Give me five" works just as well. However you choose to get students' attention, make sure it is working. Choose one signal and keep it throughout the year.

Attention Signals That Work:

  • Teacher says, "One, Two … "(students say, "Eyes on you"), "Three, Four…" ("Talk no more").
  • Teacher claps twice (students repeat the clap).
  • Teacher raises hand and says "Give me five" (students respond by raising their hand).

Is the Classroom Job Chart Working?

One of the many jobs teachers have is to teach children to be responsible. Assigning classroom jobs is a great way to do this. At this point in the school year, you should re-evaluate if the jobs you assigned are working out. If they are not, there are many ways to quickly create the perfect job chart for your classroom. Here are a few ideas:

  • Write down each task you want completed and laminate. Next, write students’ names on clothespins. Then simply clip the name onto the job the student must complete for that day or week.
  • Choose a leader for the day. This student’s job is to choose who gets what job each morning.
  • Have students fill out a job application to see who the best fit for each job is.

Are Transition Periods Running Smoothly?

One of the toughest times teachers have with students is during transition periods. This can either be the times between specials, or those few minutes in between lessons. To make sure you are using these precious minutes wisely, have a variety of five-minute activities already prepared in your back pocket. These quick time-savers will help fill the gap between lessons, and help students from going bonkers.

Here are a few tips and five-minute activities:

  • Think of these few minutes as an opportunity for a teachable moment. Expand on your daily lessons with minute math sheets or reading the Scholastic News.
  • Play a quick getting-to-know you game or another one of your classroom games. Call students to line up by what they look like. For example, "All students that have on blue please stand up."
  • Use this time to clean up desks or the classroom. Treat it as one of your classroom games, perhaps "Beat the clock." Students that are cleaned up before the timer goes off win a prize.

How are you settling into the new school year? Do you have any tips or suggestions to inspire your fellow teachers? Please share with us in the comment section below.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Guide to Elementary Education for, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers across the United States.

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