The very first thing a teacher should do in a new class is to establish behavior rules. They should be reasonable and doable. There is no better time than the first day to establish these rules.
First, attendance should be taken. Then a seating chart, already filled out, should be used. On the first day students are waiting to see what happens. The seating chart, is part of their first day experience. When a seating chart is established later, it disrupts at least some of the students in their routines, makes some unhappy with the changes, and signals that the teacher is having difficulty controlling the class.
A seating chart the first day establishes that the teacher is in charge of the physical environment of the classroom as well as the academic environment. This understanding is particularly useful when dealing with ‘kinesthetic’ students who are often those who first need discipline.
To avoid placing students in the class alphabetically, as they may have been since kindergarten, students can be assigned alphabetically in diagonal row order. That is, students can be assigned from the bottom left corner of the seating chart to the upper right corner, diagonally. The assignments can work upward or downward from there. The purpose is simply not to have the same people sitting next to each other who are very familiar with each other.
As a result, students with ‘early alphabet names,’ may be seated in the back of the class and some whose names usually come later, are placed in the front of the class. This change may prevent routine behavior learned in earlier years from being easily reestablished in a new classroom.
How to do:
When you take attendance the first day, you can ignore some noise and problems as you call out the names and fill out the attendance sheet. Do it calmly. Have the attendance taken accurately first.
Then, standing by the first seat to be assigned [the front left hand corner] announce to the class that in your classes you have assigned seating. Then announce, pointing to that desk, the name of the student who is to sit there. The student already sitting there will be willing to leave. Generally students don’t want to sit in the front of the class. The others, except the one whose name has been called, are glad not to have to sit there. They are all hoping they won’t have to sit in the next seat [to that student’s left].
[You assign the first row across, the second row across, the third row across, etc. for the actual seating of the students because it is easy for the students to understand where to go.]]
The student who is assigned to that first seat may not be happy, but remember, on the First Day the students are waiting to see what will happen. How can he/she object to being assigned a seat? Will any student be willing to go to the office on the first day for that reason? [If so, you will be establishing control, and that student will have a “mark against them” in the principal’s office for unreasonable actions.] You focus on that one student at a time. You are not focusing on controlling the entire class, rather, one student at a time… in the back of your mind, you are controlling the class, but the focus is one seat at a time. Look at the *seat*, point to it. Move on to the next seat as the one student leaves, the next one starts coming to it. Once the momentum starts, it will move smoothly even though some may be losing seats they thought that they had, next to friends, or in the back of the room.
Once they are all assigned, it is important to have the class focus on some work in order to cement the transition they just went through. I tell students to take out their notebooks and write down the class rules. This “take out the book” behavior is established habit so it helps in getting them past any feelings about their new seating positions. They write down class rules as I read them and comment on them, so that they will understand and remember them.
*Again, on the First Day students are waiting to see what will happen. If they don’t get the rules that first day, they will begin to assume what the rules will be, or are, according to past experiences. Then you may have to undo their assumptions before establishing your rules. The first day is better. And giving the rules is a good transition exercise.
[If new students come in the next day, you can give them a copy of the class rules to copy into their notebooks, and ask them to return the original. Check to see whether they did copy them, and put a mark into the gradebook to certify that they read and have the rules. *Then later they can not claim that they didn’t know what a particular rule was.
If you get done with the rules before the end of class, you should have a not too difficult homework assignment for them… to keep their good behavior in the process of being established for the entire class period.
In my classes the first homework assignment is to write out the answers to an introductory speech. Whatever the assignment, one that is not quite typical may work best for this time. [While they are writing their homework, you can already begin to look at the seating chart and to learn students’ names.]
Once you have established your rules and your reputation for following them, the next year and the next will be easier. Your skills will increase and your reputation for doing what you say that you will, will spread.
The following are classroom rules that I have found useful and effective. However, teachers should design rules that fit their priorities and personalities, and they should also keep in mind school policies and procedures.
1. Classroom standards begin upon entering the room- not when the bell rings. The class is responsible to know and follow the standards of behavior set forth in the student handbook including the policy regarding tardiness to class.
2. Actions that disrupt the educational process such as belittling others and speaking out of turn are not acceptable behavior. [EMPHASIZE]
3. Students are to bring notebook, pen, pencil, and paper to class each day.
4. All class assignments are to be done in ink unless the class is otherwise instructed. Trim edges from spiral notebooks.
5. One grade will be deducted for each day an assignment is late.
6. Assignments are due the morning of an excused absence such as a field trip, athletic event, etc. when the student leaves from school.
7. Absences can affect the grades- even if the absence is excused. Make up missed work promptly.
8. Students falling behind in their studies may be structured. [Placed in a Study Hall]
9. Extra credit work may be given when all other assignments are completed on time.
10. Students needing extra help are encouraged to come in promptly and get it. (One to one writing help is quite effective.)
11. Save all notes until the end of class. Save all papers at least until the nearest card marking is completed.
12. Bring a paperback book to class to read when you finish the assigned work before the others.
Again, when new students come in after the class rules have been given, hand them a copy of the rules and ask them to copy them into their notebook and show you when they have done so, and have them return the printed copy to you. Make a note in your grade book that they have seen and copied the rules. This action may be very important to you. Often, students with discipline problems transfer in later in the year, and one of their first defenses when they don’t follow instructions is that they didn’t know or weren’t told, the rules. [Note, certainly not all students who arrive late in the school year will be problems, but a significant percentage will require some further efforts.]