The first week of term usually flies by in a haze of reunions, new experiences and high emotions, and it can be easy to overlook how implementing a few simple procedures can make the rest of the academic year a breeze. Here are a few things to consider:
Before the first class, set up an area with pencils, pens, sharpeners, rubbers, colours, etc. This will then become an open access area where students can help themselves to what they need, when they need it. Training students to use this zone in the first week can save precious minutes in the rest of the year by not having to hand out equipment.
2. Set up a language wall
To encourage students, especially younger learners, to use the target la gauge as much as possible, dedicate a part of your wall display to useful phrases, such as “How do you say ___ in English?” Or “Can I borrow a ___?”. Soon, students will stop looking at the phrases and use them as part of their daily vocabulary.
3. Drill entry and exit procedures
Think about what you want students to do immediately on entering the class: answer a question? Sit down? Books out? Prior to the first class, decide what you want, and teach them it from the first moment. Drill what you want them to do. Repeat it. Then, in the next class, drill it again. Soon, students will enter the class on ‘automatic pilot’ and be ready to start the lesson quickly. Do the same with your exit procedures, be it standing behind their chair, making a line at the door etc.
4. Deal with the smartphone issue
Smartphones, simultaneously a marvel of the modern world and the worst thing to let into young (and some not-so-young!) students’ hands. Dealing with the issue on the first day can save a year of conflict. Set up an area of the classroom where students can place their phones, within their view, but out of reach. Ensure they are off, or at least silent (not vibrate) mode before entering the room. If you enjoy doing activities where students use their devices, set strict guidelines about when and how to use them.
5. Define a ‘silent’ signal
Nothing is more precious to a teacher than a healthy voice, so don’t destroy it by trying to fight against a noisy class. In the first class, set a signal that students will recognise as your call for silence. This can be placing your finger on your lips, pointing at the ceiling, or anything you want. Train students to copy your action while maintaining silence and you shouldn’t have to raise a voice in the rest of the year.
Let your students have input into this; let’s face it, they know what’s right and what’s wrong. Having some kind of written evidence of the rules, a poster displayed on the wall, for example, makes discipline as easy as pointing out the rule being violated.
7. Stop wasting class time taking the register
Have a student take on the responsibility, or have a sign-in sheet that students complete on arrival. This way, you are free to organise a starter activity for the rest of the class, engaging them from the moment they enter the room.
8. Give students roles
Assign each student a role in the classroom. One could be responsible for the register, another for cleaning the board at the end of the lesson. There are an array of jobs you can give students, and the extra responsibility boosts their confidence. Rotate the jobs regularly to keep things fresh.
Make it clear to students how often they will receive homework and the consequences of not completing assignments. Be consistent in implementing the consequences from the first day, and remember to treat all students equally.
10. Tidying the room
At the end of the first lesson, and in subsequent lessons, make it clear to students how they should leave the room. Show them where they should place their chairs (under or on the desk), return all materials to the correct place, bin all rubbish, check the floors for rubbish, etc. Teachers have more than enou to do without cleaning up after every group!
Putting a few of these ideas in place early in the first week of term can help save months of wasted moments. It’s surprisingly easy to train students of all ages to participate, and let’s face it, deep down everybody likes helping out the teacher!