The 5 most important things to do in the first month of school

For educators who feel overwhelmed at the start of the year, these simple actions can help you get centered and focused

3: Choose routines, habits, and systems.
This point is perhaps best addressed through a series of questions that teachers must ask:

  • What happens at the beginning of class? The end?
  • What happens when students are absent?
  • How do students distribute papers and other supplies?
  • Do you have a specific procedure for when students need to leave the classroom?
  • How should students submit homework assignments or projects?
  • What kind of policies do students need to know about using technology in your class?

While it’s comforting to hear other teacher’s ideas for these questions, ultimately, this is a very personal list. For a quick win, develop your own habit of reaching out to parents, especially to share good news. I use Remind to stay in touch with students or parents. Bloomz also offers a tool that teachers can use for sending high-quality multimedia messages to parents, as well as managing class calendars, organizing volunteer sign-ups, and arranging parent-teacher conferences.

4. Choose tech tools.
As I mentioned above, it’s important to develop systems and processes for using technology. Some tech tools have a learning curve for teachers and students. Because of this, it is helpful to invest some time into getting students onboarded into these apps or tools earlier in the year.

Another benefit of choosing tech tools earlier in the year is that many tools offer high-quality baseline or pre-assessments. Two I like are No Red Ink and ThinkCERCA. They offer assessments that teachers can give both before instruction and later on in the year as a way to measure progress and plan future instructional needs.

5. Build a strong class culture.
Students of all ages need to feel comfortable and respected in order to learn. For older students, setting norms can happen through curriculum-based discussions and activities. In other words, teachers may simply start to teach and infuse culture-building processes into that teaching. Other teachers, especially for younger students, prefer to take a more direct approach to culture-building by using icebreakers.

To be honest, I hated doing icebreakers when I was a student because I was reserved and soft spoken. An awesome tool that helps to address this problem is Lightspeed Redcat’s handheld microphones. Teachers can give these to students to amplify their voices. This simple change can improve the success of icebreakers by giving the activities the feel of a special event while removing students’ concern about not speaking loudly enough.

Most of these actions require investment. These activities and resources may take extra time to implement in the beginning of the year and you may feel pressured to skip it all and jump straight into your curriculum. But that would be a mistake. Because if you’re willing to take the time to lay a strong foundation in the first month, then the following nine months will go that much smoother.

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