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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Start the Year Off Right: Ideas for Creating a Happy Classroom

My two favorite times of the academic year are the beginning and the ending, and one of the best things about working in education is that we get all summer to recharge. As I gear up to start a new school year, I've been thinking quite a bit about beginnings.

Dennis Potthoff, a colleague of mine, created the following list for teachers to refer to when beginning the new school year:

  • Before the year starts, get ideas for your curriculum by reviewing lessons from past terms.
  • Establish classroom norms, expectations, and procedures.
  • When the year starts, just jump right into the curriculum.
  • Motivate and excite students -- "sell" the class, the curriculum, and the teacher.
  • Work on relationship building (student-to-teacher and/or student-to-student).
  • Preassess your students to gauge their current knowledge, skills, or dispositions.

In the past, I've followed the second, third, and fourth ideas by discussing with the class my goals for the year, sharing my enthusiasm with the students to pique their interest, and jumping into the lessons and activities for the term.

As I share Potthoff's list with you now, I wonder how these ideas sound from the students' viewpoint. For example, would students prefer to work more on relationship building and the reviewing of previous class material? Would additional preassessments help me understand more about where my students stand in the learning process?

What do you think of these ideas? Which ideas would you use, and why? Do you have other ideas to add to this list? I'd like to hear from you!

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Carol Brown's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Great list of ideas to review at the start of each year. However, your question was how the students would view the list. My bet is the only issues they care about are numbers 4 and 5 (and not necessarily in that order). If you, as a teacher, can not build a relationship with your students, then there is a good possibility that they will not buy into the rest of the curriculum. If you can not motivate or excite your students then the rest of the checklist may be an excercise in futility at worst, or an uphill battle at best. It is my belief that if I can establish a personal relationship with my students, they will perform better. I am not going to question why they want to learn from me, I only want to insure that they do.

Christina's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Do you have any good recommendations for keeping organized in the beginning of the year? And keeping organized throughout the year? I always seem to create good ideas, but it can be hard to follow through with all of them.

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