Kick Off the New School Year - Create a Welcoming Classroom for Students
You’re back at school getting ready for the first day. Your classroom is coming along and you feel those first day of school jitters. You’re excited about meeting your students for the year.
As you get ready to kick off the new school year, you know you want your students to feel comfortable and included. Let’s talk about some ways to create a welcoming classroom for your students this year!
Learn Student Names...and use them
Learning your student’s names quickly helps them feel valued and connected in the classroom.
You could start off the first day of class with a roll call, but inevitably you will pronounce a student’s name wrong or find out that they go by something other than the name on the classroom roster.
Here are some ideas for putting names to faces so that you can connect with your students right away.
- For younger students, you can have pre-made name tag stickers to use for the first day of school. As students come in, greet them and ask their name. Then give them their name sticker. Have a few blank stickers on hand, just in case you need to replace one or have a student who goes by a different name than the one on the roster.
- For upper elementary students, have them design tri-fold name plates that include things they are interested in. This is a great first day activity that all students can do without feeling the anxiety of having to speak in front of the class. Give students that want to share their design and interests the opportunity to do so in front of the class. If you have more than one section per day, they can keep their name plates in a folder and get them out at the beginning of every class.
- For middle and high school students (where you may have hundreds of names to learn!) you can let them choose their seats, then ask them to sit in the same spot for the week. While they are working on an independent activity the first day, speak individually to each student and fill in a seating chart for each block. Then study your chart briefly before each class and really practice using each student’s name as you dive in to learning.
Using student names is one simple way to show students that you care about them and that they are part of your classroom community.
Encourage Student Choice
Choice in the classroom give student ownership and investment in their learning.
One critical part of student choice is making sure that all the choices available to the students are teacher approved.
For example, you may start off the day with sensory bins that the students can choose from when they enter the classroom, with a limit of 5 students per bin.
Or maybe you allow students to sit where they choose as long as it does not become a problem. If their seating choice does become a problem, then that seat is no longer an option.
Here are a few easy scenarios where you can empower your students with choice in your classroom:
- Students, you can complete all of the even numbered problems, or all of the odd numbered problems.
- You may read quietly at your seat, or you may read quietly on the rug.
- We will be finishing up our writing assignment from yesterday, and working on our online math program for 20 minutes. You can choose which activity you would like to do first.
- For the next 30 minutes you may work on your book report project or your vocabulary. Both will need to be completed by the end of the week.
These options may seem small, but they will make a big difference for students. As the year goes on, you will find that when students have a choice about what to work on, they will be more invested and eager to learn.
Infuse YOUR Personality
In the world of teaching, there are endless strategies and methods to implement in your classroom.
As a leader, you need to teach authentically and choose activities that you can implement and feel good about.
Imagine you want to introduce some flexible seating options in your classroom.
If you do not mind a little more movement and noise in your classroom, then you may let students choose their seats when it is appropriate.
If you prefer more order, you may have students complete a form letting you know their top three seating preferences, and assign seats for the week accordingly.
Also, students love learning more about you. Do you enjoy gardening? Running marathons? Eating tacos? Talk to your students about these things and connect with them about what makes you, well, you!
Include Students in Classroom Decor
You have been thinking about your classroom since mid summer. What worked well, what you want to change, and of course, your decor!
Pinterest and Instagram are flooded with images of classrooms that flow perfectly, are bright and happy, and wow, those classroom libraries!
It is important to have organization and structure in your classroom layout. It is equally important to let your students take part in creating your classroom decor.
For your math word wall, let students design the word tags with illustrations or definitions. The content will stick with them, and they will feel proud of the useful work they created in the classroom.
Hang final drafts of your student’s writing on the walls. Display art that your students create. Make an ongoing list of books your students have read that they can add to with each completed book.
Make sure there are opportunities for ALL students to show off work they are proud of in the classroom.
Support Learning Styles
All students learn differently. The four major learning styles include visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic.
At the beginning of the year, give your students a learning inventory to see how each student learns best.
Knowing what works for your individual students will guide you in crafting lessons that meet their needs. It is also helpful for students to know this about themselves.
Here are some ideas that support students using each learning style in your classroom.
- Visual learners like to see and observe. Helpful materials include things like word walls, content based posters, diagrams, and written directions.
- Auditory learners listen and relate information to sound. They prefer hearing directions out loud, process information by talking about it, and often repeat to process what the teacher is saying. These are typically the most vocal students in a classroom.
- Reading/writing learners search for information through reading articles and books. They express themselves best through writing. Traditional classrooms are geared toward this type of learning.
- Kinesthetic learners prefer to use their bodies while learning. This can include acting things out, or moving from station to station during work time. There are also many classroom seating options geared toward this type of learner, such as wobble stools or balance boards.
Setting up a new classroom and thinking about systems and procedures is an exciting part of getting ready for the new school year. Students are bound to feel welcome and cared for when you take the time to get to know them.
Investing in student relationships will yield higher students investment in the classroom, and a more welcoming environment for everyone.