Effective classroom management is a major part of learning. If your students don’t know the rules of the classroom – or ignore them – then you will spend more time addressing behavioral issues than you expect. Even a few disruptions each hour can add up, distracting you from your lessons and restricting how much you can teach each day.
As you welcome a fresh batch of students in the new school year, they need to learn how to be successful in your classroom. While some students might have good habits from previous instructors, others might need to hone these skills.
Spend the first day (or first few days) introducing key skills to your students. Here are eight things your kids need to know to be successful this year.
1. Successfully Submitting Assignments
One of the first lessons you need to review with your students is how to submit assignments. This process will range from basic name-writing for elementary kids to uploading assignments to plagiarism detection tools for older students.
Before the first day, create a sample assignment to show your students all of the elements they need to submit their work. Each assignment will likely have the student’s name, date, and class period (if applicable).
Ensuring each student includes this information will prevent burnout on your end. You won’t have to compare the handwriting of different students to figure out who submitted an assignment but forget to label it.
2. Email Etiquette
Teachers and students rely on email to communicate. Students can request assignments when they are sick or ask for help with difficult concepts. However, you may find that your elementary kids send garbled emails that are unclear or provide too much information.
Spend some time reviewing basic email etiquette with students. You can also develop formulas for students to follow in order to get to the point. A few concepts to highlight include:
- What should students include in the subject line? (Topic/page/assignment/project)
- How can students clearly state their needs in the first sentence?
- How can students value a teacher’s time by emailing at appropriate hours?
- What tools can students use to proofread messages before sending them?
You can also review email faux pas for students to avoid. You don’t need your learners sending you the latest TikTok dances or cat videos. They need to learn to respect professional boundaries established in email communication.
3. Digital Literacy and Fact Checking
Along with email communication, dedicate time to helping students understand how to navigate the web and sort facts from fiction. This is a skill that many adults struggle with today – even those who constantly check sources and question what they are reading.
Your students need basic digital literacy in order to complete their assignments. They need to find quality research with useful, age-appropriate information. However, teaching digital literacy can also save you time in the classroom. You will lose less teaching time debunking fake news stories that your students read about online and believe are true.
4. Emotion Self-Regulation
Like digital literacy, this is another skill that even many adults need help with. It can be challenging to teach young kids how to identify and regulate their emotions and you may need to build these skills throughout the year. However, make emotion management a key lesson from the first day of class.
First, help students put words to their feelings. Use emojis and emotion wheels to help students describe how they are feeling. Then work with your students to learn why they feel that way. This is applicable to younger students in the new school year. If a student cries when their parent drops them off, they might not feel sad but rather scared. They are scared because they are in a new place with new people. This process assigns words and reasons to feelings.
Over time, you can teach your students how to identify their feelings and the sources of these emotions. The next step is to regulate emotions after your students identify them.
Reviewing email etiquette will be part of your communication lessons, but communication extends well beyond email. Your students need to learn how to communicate their needs and advocate for themselves – all while feeling safe. A few aspects of communication in the classroom include:
- Requesting permission to use the bathroom or get water
- Asking for help on an assignment
- Sharing communication from a parent to a teacher
- Seeking help with another student is bullying or bothering them
You may want to develop multiple communication channels to help your students reach out to you. Not all of your students will feel comfortable raising their hands and speaking up in class. Instead, they might feel safer posting questions in chat boxes or asking for help during an independent study period.
6. Setting Personal Goals
It’s easy to tell which students worked on their projects and assignments ahead of time and which ones waited until the night before to start. One concept you might want to introduce in the new school year and stick with each month is goal setting. When students set goals for themselves, they are internally motivated. They are working to reach their own milestones for their own benefits.
Goal setting can be applied in multiple ways. Students can break down reading assignments so they read a chapter each night over the course of two weeks. They can set goals to learn a new set of multiplication tables each week until they know that 12 x12 is 144. To incorporate goal setting into your classroom, start each lesson by reviewing the goals of the activity and talk with students about breaking down larger goals into smaller, tangible milestones.
Code-switching is the practice of alternating between multiple forms of language in different situations. Your students might develop their own slang and ways of speaking with each other, but then switch to more formal English phrases in the classroom.
Code-switching isn’t always bad. Allowing students to ask questions in ways they feel comfortable can give them confidence in speaking up when they otherwise would remain confused and sit in silence. It also allows them to fill in gaps when other words and phrases fail them.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab created a useful guide to code-switching and when teachers should allow it. Discuss this concept with students on the first day of the new school year and help them learn to identify code-switching in multiple aspects of their lives. If you aren’t sure how to discuss this, there are several kid-targeted YouTube videos that can help.
8. Reporting Cyberbullying
The pandemic increased the rate of cyberbullying for kids of all ages. Through online learning, students were able to message each other throughout the day and harass each other on digital platforms. Cyberbullying was a problem before 2020 but continues to grow each year as students spend more time online.
There’s a lot to cover in your lessons about cyberbullying. A few topics to review include:
- What is it and how can kids identify it amongst other online communications?
- How can students report cyberbullying to parents and school officials?
- How can students spot cyberbullying and stand up for their peers who are affected?
- How often are cyberbullying and in-person bullying connected?
It is particularly important to discuss these topics at the start of the school year as your students might have experienced cyberbullying over the summer and need help from an adult immediately.
Evaluate What Your Students Need in the New School Year
Every teacher runs their classroom differently. Spend some time reflecting on what your students need in order to thrive in your classroom. What skills can they take with them once the school year is over? Some skills (like remembering to write their names on their papers) can be mastered at the start of the new school year. Other skills, like emotional regulation and goal setting, will take more time to learn. As long as your students continue to grow, they can improve their classroom behavior so you can focus on teaching and leading activities.