1 Learn names quickly
Use your students’ names regularly from day 1 to help you learn their names (sounds pretty basic but it’s the best way to actually learn them off by heart!). It also helps manage participation.
Get students to line up quietly in alphabetical order of first names and get them to say their names out loud.
Draw a quick sketch of your seating plan for each class. Note down names on your seating plan and take a couple of minutes in each class to learn 3 or 4 names off by heart.
Think of a word that describes the student and starts with the same letter as the student’s name. You can even go on to play a name chain with adjectives depending on the level of your students: My name is magical Maria and the next student repeats what I’ve said and adds his/her name, for example, magical Maria, my name’s daring David, etc. You can use this site if you’re stuck for an adjective for your name: adjectivesthatstart.com
2 Work with displays
- Show your pupils that you care for them as individuals by creating displays of their work from week 1.
Create a wall display in which they draw a picture of themselves, write ‘My name is ……’, I like ….’ Make sure you hang all of their contributions on a washing line with pegs or on the wall. If you don’t have enough room in your English classroom for all of your classes, use the wall displays outside in the corridors.
Get them involved as people and write a short text about their summer. Ideas taken from: sarahsmalley.wordpress.com/classroom-displays/, see some great photos of Sarah Smalley’s displays.
3 Make your expectations clear
Students like teachers who have high, manageable expectations of them. Many teachers say they have high expectations for the academic work in their classes, but experience tells us that academic work alone is not enough without first establishing the ground rules for high expectations for behaviour and achieving the implementation of rules and procedures in your class. As soon as you lower your expectations for behaviour, your students are less likely to respect you, will end up playing around and their overall learning will be affected. By creating a climate of high expectations for behaviour in your class through everything you and your students do, your students will quickly understand that you mean business and that you respect them for who they are and what they are able to do. This will then allow you to go on to focus on the learning in class. Don’t give in, even if there are some days you feel like sending them all home! Start by conveying what your expectations for behaviour are from day 1 onwards and ensure your students understand them clearly. Oh and don’t forget to praise desired behaviour and make your praise public so that everyone knows the kind of behaviour you’re looking for!
4 Rules and classroom routines: Start routines/rules from day 1
Routines Make a list of all the things your students do during your classes. Here are a few ideas: Pencil sharpening, going to the toilet, handing in homework, putting chairs on tables at the end of the day, hanging coats, raising hands to answer questions, working in groups, etc. Now make a corresponding list of exactly how you want your students to do each. The more specific you are, the less room you leave for misbehaviour. You can always change the routine or procedure if it isn’t working, but it’s important to start the year with a routine in place. Here are some suggestions for the how …
At Primary, pencil sharpening, giving out books, collecting in work, etc. can all be tasks assigned to specific pupils eg only one pupil is allowed to sharpen pencils. If you have too many pencils ‘break’, then have some class pencils ready to be used and given out by the child in charge of pencil sharpening. Create a class rota poster and have it clearly visible to all so there is no reason why children should be moving around when they are not supposed to.
Signalling for attention. Explain or show how you will ask for attention (using a special sound, something on the board, etc.) and tell the class that as soon as they hear the signal, they should stop what they are doing, look at and listen to you. Practise this several times from day 1 onwards.
At Secondary, for example, if any student misses work, you might decide to provide students with weekly updates on your class wiki so that all students know exactly where he/she can find the information about the work that is being done. If you don’t have a class wiki or blog, then you need to make sure you keep a close log of what is being done in your class. You may even want to hand over responsibility to the students in the class by having one student be the ‘scribe’ for that day. That student’s job is to note down all of the activities that have been done with their corresponding objectives, including homework. This list can then be sent to any student who has missed the class or given to the student after they come back for them to be able to catch up.
As you go through the year, you should be spending less and less time on establishing routines, trying to get the students to ‘do’ things in a certain way. As your students become more secure because they know what is happening or what is expected of them, they can then focus on learning. Rules
Make a list of a limited number of class rules, (the fewer there are, the easier it is to implement them), for example, to always show respect to you and others in the class, to take turns when speaking, etc. You can even ask your class to help write the rules together.
Decide what will happen if the rules are broken, eg a student arrives late/hands in work late/makes no effort to participate in groupwork activity for no real reason showing disrespect for both you and his/her fellow classmates, etc.
Go through the rules together as a class, discussing why it is important to have rules and what difference it makes to our class to have rules. Share the rules by giving a copy to each student or putting them up on a poster in a prominent place in class or on your school wiki or blog, etc. You may also wish to send the rules home to parents.
5 Organise your classroom
Show your students exactly where things are kept in class and how you expect them to store things. This sense of ownership is important so that the students feel responsible not only for the things in the class but also for what happens in class. An organized class means you can spend less time looking for things and it also conveys the idea of a teacher who knows what he/she is doing, leaving no room for improvisation.
6 Get your classroom ready
Have some kind of worksheet ready on the desks before your students come in or have them ready to give out at the start of the class. This frees up time for you to organize students on the first day. See how this teacher checks small details before starting back at school: www.youtube.com/watch
7 Treat your students as individuals
It is your responsibility to get to know your students and focus on the work they do in English. ‘That’s easier said than done with so many in the class’, I can hear you saying. Look for opportunities for 1 to 1 interactions even in a large class. This might be through a message written on a student’s piece of work, a short personal comment during an activity with individual students, an activity in which they set their own learning goals in consultation with you, an activity in which they become involved personally, etc. It isn’t easy with large classes and this will require an extremely well-organized record system in which you can note down anything you see or hear in class. However you do it, it’s important and will make learning come alive in your classroom. Use the record system from day 1 onwards. Aim to note down 3 comments on your record system of any personal interests your students express on the first day. Aim to update the record system daily. It will not only allow you to remember individual student’s names, but it will make the learning more personal.
8 Find out what your students know
A great first-day activity is a board game to see how much your students either remember (if you had them last year) or know (if this class is new to you). Make sure this is work that the students will be able to complete successfully to boost their confidence in English and make them feel good about the first class. Check out this Pinterest board for more ideas!
9 Go through a work plan
It helps to have an outline for the work you have planned for the first month or two or even the first term and to share this plan with your students. This could be based on how you intend to use the coursebook, supplementary materials, homework assignments and tests. The important point here is that students leave the first class knowing the kind of work that will be expected of them and how they will show what they have achieved.
10 Use a checklist
Take the stress away from the first day by drawing up a checklist of everything you wish to cover and go through each point in turn with your students. Using a checklist for every class also helps you to organize yourself. The more you prepare for the first day now, the less stressful it will be.