The beginning of the school year is such an exciting and exhausting time! Isn’t it funny how we forget how little and new our students are when they start?! It’s like we have to reset our brains back to beginning after sending on last year’s students.
There is so much to teach our new little friends before we can have a functioning, well-running classroom. The work at the beginning really does pay off later in the year – however – it doesn’t make those first few weeks (months?) any easier!
But, I am a true believer that starting slow, getting all the necessaries in place so that later we can go faster with so much less stress and behavior issues.
So, what are those necessaries?? The 3 MUST DOS for the beginning of the year?
The 3 Rs! Relationships, Routines, Rules
Let’s start with Relationships
For the first couple of weeks, I actually put “Playing with children to build relationships” on my lesson plans during small group time. Building positive relationships are that important to me.
I truly believe that by creating solid relationships, children know they can trust us. They know we have their backs and that we care for them. They know that if they make a mistake that we will still be there to support them and we, as teachers, tend to better understand where the misbehaviors might be coming from when we take the time to really know a child.
Once that relationship has a good foundation, we can better help them learn missing skills – not punish them. We can expect students to want to please us, because we have that relationship in place. They can feel safe to take risks, try new things and bloom because they know we are there as a support.
Building relationships doesn’t have to be hard, but it does take time. Some relationships with students are easy to build. Others take (a looooong) time. But, just as we respect the time children need to learn skills – it’s also important we respect the time it might take to build connections.
Want to simple ideas to help you build relationships with students? The blogpost: Simple Ways to Build Positive Relationship in Early Childhood can help.
Routines – helping use create a well-oiled classroom machine
Raise your hand if you’d like to skip all the chaos and go straight to a classfull of children who know how to do all those classroom routines without much assistance? 🙋♀️ Yea! Me too!
Sadly, I’ve got no such magic wand. So, teaching and practicing routines are the next best thing. And while teaching routines isn’t fun, it is extremely necessary. Because the faster you can get those procedures and routines nailed down, the less time you’ll have to spend on managing said routines. Herding cats = no fun.
So, how can you teach and practice routines? Here are some tips:
- Start day 1 (or the closest to the beginning of the year as possible)
- Use songs for transitions and sing your directions.
- Use visuals to help children better understand the procedure and also be able to walk through the procedure without much assistance.
- Practice, practice, practice (keep it consistent)!
Rules – to keep everyone safe
In our class, rules are used to achieve one main goal: to create a safe environment for learning. I’m also an advocate for idea of ‘less is more’ – especially for young children (hello, short attention spans!). So, we have a very limited amount of rules.
When creating our class rules (and trying to keep them brief), I ran each idea through the one main goal (a safe environment for learning) to decide if it was a necessary rule.
We have 4 main rules:
- Be Safe – a pretty all encompassing rule (on purpose) that covers things like running, throwing toys, hitting, rough housing and so much more.
- Be Kind – if makes something that is done makes someone else feel sad or upset, chances are it wasn’t kind. Again a broad rule that covers a lot.
- Clean Up – man… the clean up struggle is real. It seems to get harder each year to get children to clean up (hence why it became a rule). When we are a class community, we all work together to keep our space clean.
- Listen to the Teacher – my first and most important job is to keep everyone safe. If children aren’t expected to follow directions and listen to the teacher chaos can erupt . Plus, if there were an emergency I would need the class to listen and act when asked.
We also have rug rules. These rules are specific to sitting down and doing whole group time or circle time. Again, with safety in mind… these rules consist of 1.Sit 2.Look 3.Listen. Since rug time is kept at an appropriate time span, these rules are in place so that we can practice self-control and attention to task (without distracting our peers by rolling around on the rug).
These rules are taught and re-visited often. While also, referenced when students need the extra reminder of our class rules.
So, tell me…
Do you make the 3R’s a priority at the beginning of the year?