Back to school is here for most teachers and kids now. Teachers in some places have already been in class for a month while others are about to return. It's a time to think about many things, but one of the ones we sometimes put on the back burner is student led conferences.
Planning now will make these meetings easier to prep for and they can also guide some of your teaching as you think about what kinds of assessments, projects, and curriculum content you might want to share.
From the first few days or weeks, you can be collecting information and learning about your students so you can best support them when it's time for conferences. Here are a few ideas to try right now.
Getting to know your students
Give your kids a chance to share things about themselves that will help you to better connect with them. Ask about their interests, hobbies, and preferences. Don't forget to give them a chance to also tell you about things that might be difficult or worrisome for them. Use the information gathered to create relationships and to inform your instruction based on interests and needs.
You could also try doing interest hearts. Fill in each space with an interest or passion. I usually do 2 copies - one for writing, and one for illustrations. Sometimes drawing is easier for younger children. These can be used as writing ideas for the first few weeks as well.
Communicating with parents
Set up ways to communicate with parents such as newsletters, email updates, or a classroom website. Share important information about the curriculum, classroom expectations, and upcoming events to keep them informed and involved. Some of this can be done at a Meet the Teacher Night.
During the first week of school, I often send home the following Getting Acquainted form so that I can get an idea about my student from the parents' perspective. It is interesting to see how kids can be very different in the home or school environment. This information form helps to see more of the whole child.
Sometimes parents want to help, but they aren't sure how best to do so. Home reading is an important part of the home/school connection, so I send home this letter so that parents have some support as they try to help their children with reading. This can be found in my Back To School Start Up Forms.
Having some goals will give kids some focus as they move forward. I like to start with celebrating what they can already do and then move to ways they can continue to improve or grow. Provide goal setting worksheets or templates for students to set personal or academic goals for the year. Encourage them to think about what they want to achieve and how they can work toward their goals.
Collect samples of work that show what your students are able to do at the beginning of the year as well as samples in the following weeks so that you can share how they have progressed. Formative assessment materials could also be used.
Don't forget to note the non-academic growth as well. Confidence, working with others, improved self esteem, and participation are a few areas to consider.
Get your students to help with this information collection. Let them know why you are collecting it and how they can help with the selections. This will help them to take ownership of their work and also prepare them to share their material with their parents when the time comes.
Next time I will share more about the actual student led conferences and why they are so beneficial.
The first weeks of school can be exhausting and overwhelming both for students and for teachers. It is important to make sure that these days are a mix of activities that help with the transition back into work mode, are fun and engaging, and also slowly reintroduce academic skills and concepts.
One of the most important goals is to create a positive and engaging learning environment where your students feel safe and the classroom community is one of respect and caring for each other. Here are 10 activities to consider:
1. Icebreaker Activities: Plan icebreaker activities to help your students get to know one another and build a sense of community. These can include "All About Me" presentations, "Find Someone Who", sharing circles, or partner interviews. Encourage students to share their interests, hobbies, and goals for the school year.
2. Establish Classroom Rules: Collaboratively develop classroom rules with your students. Discuss the importance of respect, responsibility, and cooperation. Create visual reminders of the rules and involve your students in creating a classroom rules display.
3. Name Games and All About Me Activities: Use name games and activities to help your students learn and remember each other's names. Play name games, create name tags, or use interactive name charts. Do activities that help them to share information about themselves. Create "All About Me" posters, collages, or shields. Try combining name acrostics with interests.
4. Daily Routines: Teach and practice daily routines and procedures, such as entering the classroom, morning routines, transitions, lining up, and using materials. Model and practice these routines to ensure a smooth flow of the school day.
5. Team Building Activities: Include team-building activities to encourage cooperation and collaboration. Assign the students group tasks or problem-solving activities that require them to work together and share ideas. This helps build relationships, create a supportive classroom community, and develop important social skills.
6. Classroom Jobs or Responsibilities: Introduce classroom jobs and allow your students to take on responsibilities within the classroom. Assign age-appropriate tasks such as line leader, librarian, or materials organizer. This encourages a sense of responsibility, promotes leadership skills, and helps them feel valued and involved in the classroom community.
7. Growth Mindset Activities: Teach and reinforce the concept of a growth mindset through activities and discussions. Help your students understand that their abilities can be developed through effort, perseverance, and a positive attitude. Engage in discussions about challenges, mistakes, and the power of "yet" (e.g., "I can't do it yet, but I will keep trying").
8. Math and Literacy Centers: Set up math and literacy centers with hands-on activities that review or reinforce skills previously taught. These centers can include puzzles, manipulatives, sorting activities, or small-group games that focus on essential concepts.
9. Arts and Craft Projects: Plan arts and craft projects that allow your students to express their creativity and personalize their learning environment. This can include creating classroom banners, designing name tags, or decorating bulletin boards with collaborative artwork.
10. Brain Breaks: It is important to include energizing brain breaks throughout the day to help your students stay focused and engaged. These can include quick physical activities, stretches, or movement-based games that allow them to recharge their energy.
Remember to create a balanced schedule that includes a mix of academic, social emotional, and community building activities during the first weeks of school.
These activities will help your students feel connected, engaged, and excited about the learning journey ahead. They may also help lessen your teacher overwhelm and stress as you make connections and develop relationships with your students.
Developing a nurturing environment and a positive learning community results from effective classroom management and student engagement. There are many different ways to encourage student participation and a caring classroom community. Here are a few different ideas to consider.
Try Ice breaker activities
Ice breaker activities are a good way to help students to get acquainted with each other. They can help to build community and depending on the types of activities, they can help kids to understand each other better as well. These activities can be combined with others to promote team building and working together. Here are some quick and easy games to try.
Roll the Di and Share
Give each person a di and get them to roll it and find others with the same number. When the groups are formed, have each person share 4 things about themselves. Repeat this activity as many times as wanted.
Students go around the room saying "mingle mingle" as they meet up with others. Call out a number and everyone with that number meets together. Call out a type of machinery and the members of the group need to figure out how to use their bodies to create the machinery.
Find Someone Who (5W version)
Interview one person or multiple people using the 5W questions. Share the results later with the class as you introduce students to each other. Here is a ready made resource for you to try.
Find Someone Who Ice Breaker - 5W Version
Set clear and consistent rules and expectations
Setting clear and consistent rules and expectations will help everyone to be on the same page when it comes to dealing with situations that arise in the classroom. Discussing and setting these rules and expectations together will help with creating a sense of ownership and responsibility. Students will know what is expected and will be more willing to accept consequences should these rules or expectations not be followed.
Using T-charts or other forms can help with visualizing these expectations and what they should look like and sound like. Here are some T-charts that might help.
Focusing on social emotional learning activities will also help with developing a caring classroom community. It will also help when conflicts happen. Conflict resolution strategies should be taught as well. Problem solving and learning to work together will go a long ways if the tools and strategies are taught.
Here are some Social booklets that might help.
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Social Stories And Activities
Transition activities and brain breaks
Incorporating transition activities will help to make movement between activities smoother and less disruptive and adding in brain breaks will help students stay energized and focused during longer periods of learning.
Morning meetings and class meetings
Morning meetings are a great way to get the day started and to encourage the students to work together. They can be used in a variety of ways, but appreciating and encouraging each other is a great way to develop positive relationships.
Classroom meetings are an effective way to deal with problems and situations that arise. Students have a chance to discuss their thoughts, concerns, and ideas, creating a sense of ownership within the classroom.
More activities and resources
If you are interested in more resources, check out my classroom management category and my ready to go kits.
Primary Teachers Ready To Go Kits
By implementing these activities, teachers can nurture a sense of community and caring in the classroom, creating an environment where students feel supported, respected, and valued as part of a cohesive learning community.
Have you ever noticed how some teachers seem to have great control of the classroom situation and that the kids seem to be engaged in learning and happy to be with their peers? Other teachers seem to be constantly dealing with disruptions, and struggling to keep kids on task and engaged? One of the main reasons for the difference could be classroom management.
What is classroom management?
Classroom management refers to strategies and techniques used by teachers to create positive and productive learning environments in which students can effectively engage in learning activities. It involves setting and enforcing rules, maintaining order, fostering a sense of respect and responsibility, and maximizing instructional time.
Good classroom management usually includes setting clear expectations, using positive reinforcement, effectively communicating, and being proactive. The lessons are interesting and relevant so that the students remain engaged in their learning.
The importance of good classroom management
Having good classroom management is essential for several reasons:
• A well-managed classroom allows teachers to focus on teaching rather than managing disruptions, leading to more instructional time and improved student learning outcomes.
• Positive classroom management encourages active student participation and engagement, enhancing the learning experience. It creates a safe, supportive, and comfortable atmosphere that helps students feel comfortable expressing themselves and taking risks. It enhances the teacher-student relationship and promotes trust and open communication. Students feel motivated and confident to learn.
• Effective management helps shape positive behaviors, social skills, and self-discipline among students, promoting personal growth. It also reduces stress for both teachers and students, enabling a more enjoyable teaching and learning experience.
Optimizing learning, student engagement, emotional safety, behavioral development, a positive learning environment, teacher-student relationships, and reducing stress for both the teacher and the students all make for more effective learning and a happier classroom experience.
Without effective classroom management, the learning environment can be disruptive and chaotic and the students are not going to be as engaged in their learning.
Poor classroom management can happen as a result of inconsistent enforcement and consequences for broken rules and poor behaviors. Lack of communication or negative reinforcement can also cause issues in the classroom.
If students don't have clear and consistent rules and expectations for behavior, academic performance, and participation, they will not develop trust and respect for the teacher or each other.
Benefits of planning routines and rules for classroom behavior
Establishing routines and rules for classroom behavior provides numerous benefits. Consistent expectations, time management, smooth transitions, predictability, reduced disruptions, social skills development, and behavioral guidance are some examples.
Consistency is key. When rules and expectations are consistently applied, students understand the standards of behavior, leading to a more harmonious classroom. Routines and rules help establish a positive classroom culture and reinforce appropriate behavior. Preplanned rules also provide a basis for addressing behavioral issues, making it easier to correct misbehavior.
Clearly defined rules help minimize disruptions and maintain a focused learning atmosphere. Having planned routines eases transitions between activities, saving time and reducing disruptions. Routines and rules provide opportunities for students to develop social skills, respect for others, and responsibility.
When students know what to expect, they feel more secure and can focus on learning without unnecessary anxiety helping them feel more at ease in the learning environment
Involving your students in setting expectations can be valuable for promoting ownership and a positive learning environment. This collaborative process can take place at the beginning of the school year or at the start of a new term. Students can be encouraged to contribute their ideas about how they should behave and interact in the classroom. By participating in this process, students are more likely to take ownership of the rules and understand the rationale behind them.
However, while involving students in establishing expectations can be beneficial, teachers should still have a clear framework and authority to make final decisions and ensure that the expectations are conducive to learning and respectful behavior.
Rules and expectations around the school
Similar to the classroom, setting expectations around the school helps maintain a positive and harmonious environment. These expectations may include respecting school property, showing kindness to peers and staff, following school rules and safety guidelines, and being responsible for one's actions. Consistency between classroom and school-wide expectations reinforces positive behavior and fosters a cohesive school culture.
These rules and expectations may vary from class to class, but some expectations should be common for all students.
Some areas to consider are hallway behavior, bathroom use, assembly behavior, and playground behavior. Consistent expectations throughout the school helps reinforce positive behavior and contributes to a more respectful learning community. It also helps as teachers are often required to monitor other students during transitions or recess breaks.
Choose what works for you
There are many different ways of developing effective classroom management, so it is important to find what works best for you. Professional development workshops, webinars, educational websites, and various other online tools are available. Learning from respected colleagues is also very useful when looking for practical ideas.
Remember: What works for someone else may or may not work for you based on your teaching style, personality, and the class makeup. It is important to check out different strategies and systems and choose something that will fit with you and your students.
Next time I will focus on some classroom management activities and resources to help get the year started off positively.
About Me Charlene Sequeira
I am a wife, mother of 4, grandmother of 9, and a retired primary and music teacher. I love working with kids and continue to volunteer at school and teach ukulele.