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  • Writer's pictureLindsey St Onge

3 Teacher Tips for the 1st Day and Beyond

It’s already back-to-school for many teachers across the country and the beginning of the year can feel overwhelming. Movement Exchange works with many new teachers and we have a formula to get them started off on the right foot with their new students. Whether you are teaching your students once a week or every day, we believe the recipe for success is the same.

Build relationships with your students right away, prepare in advance for any obstacles that may derail you in class, establish developmentally reasonable expectations, and stick to them.

The internet is full of suggestions but doesn’t always explain how to put these three things into practice. So where do we start? Here are our tips from veteran arts educators.

Building Relationships

Greet your students one by one at the door always!

They should enter the space knowing you are the person they can rely on to acknowledge them as an individual every time they see you. It also establishes they are entering the space for a specific purpose. Lastly, this is a great time to give them the first instruction, like where they will be sitting.

Plan a game every class that lets them share something about themselves with the group.

Simply, games are fun. Learning about your students and giving them the opportunity to learn about you and their peers builds connections. You can find out your similarities and refer back to what you have learned about them in subsequent classes.

End class with a reflection or sharing opportunity.

This seals the end of the class and gives you the opportunity to set expectations for what will happen next time they see you. It's also a great time to give compliments and have peer-to-peer recognition.

Prepare for Potential Missteps

Think about transitions

How will your students get to their spots? Is it developmentally appropriate to assume they know how to make a circle? What's the process of handing out materials? How will your students get from one formation to another? What is the process of sharing compliments or feedback? If doing a noisy activity, how will you bring them back to attention for the next direction?

Addressing students who are disruptive

What is your plan if a child is testing limits and disrupting class? What is your intervention and how does it change if the issue persists? Going straight to calling their parents or giving overly punitive consequences is only going to bruise your relationship. If you are flustered, wait to give your consequence at the end of class so you are clear-headed. Choose the words you will use with a student beforehand so you don’t say something you regret.

Establish Expectations

Set expectations that are appropriate for a student's age.

Expecting a group of 7-year-olds to sit up perfectly criss-cross applesauce the entire lesson is not a reasonable expectation. However, establishing that no matter how their body is positioned, whether they are on their tummies or leaning back on their arms, their head must be up, which they can reasonably do.

Having a class be silent through the lesson is not reasonable for any age but being silent while you are giving directions or when a peer is sharing, is a reasonable expectation. So plan for times in class when students can be social and know how you will get their attention when you need it.

Asking kindergarteners to get in a circle by themselves is not a reasonable expectation for their age but asking them to walk to a colored dot or an x on the floor is reasonable.

Finally, strive for 100% but look for 90% of students meeting your expectation before moving on. 100% is not ALWAYS a reasonable expectation as you might have a student who is having a particularly bad day and no matter what you do they are not in the headspace to accept your help or you may have a student who is neuro-diverse and needs additional support.

Those are the 1,2,3’s we establish with our teachers and we hope if you are new to the classroom these tips help you out on the first day and through your continued practice.

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