Classroom Management Series Pt. 1: Back to School Routines

Happy New Year, folks! I am sad Christmas is over. We had a blast in Breckenridge. My parents took all 4 girls + Cody on our first ever “White Christmas.” We left Christmas Day, met Cody in Denver, then drove the treacherous drive over to Breckenridge for a week of winter fun. We laughed, we played games, we skied, we ATE, and we had lots of quality family time. You can read all about our trip here!

I don’t know about you, but we head back to work tomorrow. I really would be fine with it if I didn’t have to wake up so dad-gum early. Luckily, we have two days of PD and then two days with our kiddos before the weekend.

I figure that you, like me, are ready to hit the ground running when we return to school. Especially you teachers in testing grades. Lots of pressure in the coming months.

I am a huge believer in a well managed and organized classroom. Without either of these, students are less likely to stay focused and teachers are a lot more likely to lose their cool.

Over the next month I will be sharing a post each Tuesday in a “Classroom Management” Series. Each week I will talk about a specific area of classroom management. My hope is that you are able to find some ideas and feel encouraged in what you are already doing.

In the coming weeks I will share about specific student routines, classroom jobs, and my classroom economic system. But, I am getting ahead of myself! This week I will be talking about back to school routines, classroom rules/expectations, and classroom meetings.

Let’s not waste anymore time…Here we go!

Classroom Meetings

I will start our first day back with a class meeting. In our meeting, we form a circle on the ground and take turns sharing about our feelings. Sounds cliche…I know. But the kids love it! And so do I. A typical class meeting includes a quick share about how you are feeling that day and then we will discuss some type or classroom issue, brainstorm rewards, etc.

This picture is of a Class Meeting from Mustard Seed Teaching. Here my friend Courtney is conducting a meeting with her 5th grade kids. I love their post about the importance of building community through class meetings.

This class meeting will focus on our holiday break. I will have students share their high and low from the break. We will also read some kind of fun picture book just to get us back into the swing of things. Class meetings are supposed to be a “no pressure” kind of thing so I don’t generally like to have any kind of academic lessons during our meetings.

Back to School Routines

After our class meeting, we will transition into a fun activity that gets the kids up and moving. Cause…HELLO! We have been sleeping in till 9:00 am the past two weeks and now we have to be functioning AND learning by 8:00.

I treat the first days back to school after Christmas break just like the first day of school. Especially for my little 2nd graders- routines, expectations, and transitions slip their brain over the 2 week break. However, since they are familiar with my expectations, a day or two of review should be just fine! This year it’s kind of nice because our students come back on Thursday so we have two days that are kind of useless  great for review of expectations, stations, and routines.

At the beginning of each school year I do a classroom scavenger hunt around our room to learn where key places are. We talk about our classroom jobs, where our backpacks go, where we turn in our Take Home Folders, how we handle the pencil sharpener, where we turn in papers, etc.

I plan on doing that again when we get back from break. This group has been especially tricky and I noticed that we forgot a lot of our routines towards the end of last semester, so we will review those when we go back on Thursday.

I use this fun little scavenger hunt printable to help guide the kids with what we are looking for. This year I incorporated technology in it by having students take pictures with the iPad of each of the items they find.

The students work with their teammates (the 3-5 students that sit at their table). Each student is given a different job. I usually plan for 4 jobs- scribe (writer), quiet captain (keep those kids quiet so I don’t have to!), iPad manger (takes pics, also keeps kids from fighting), team liaison (only one who can come and ask me questions).

I give them 10-15 minutes to hunt the room for the various items and then we come back together and walk through each of the items on the list. Some are really simple like “here is where you turn in your papers when you are done” DONE! Some take more time like explaining how our classroom jobs work.

Click here to download your copy of the scavenger hunt freebie.

Reviewing Expectations

I have never been a big fan of the word “rules.” I feel like sometimes teachers can get carried away with rules and next thing you know, you have 15 rules listed on your wall. It can be overwhelming to kids and a lot to keep up with.

I prefer to use the term expectations. This way kids know what I expect of them and it also gives me more flexibility in holding kids accountable for their actions. For example, I might forget to include “No kicking another student in the privates” (yes, this has happened) on my list of rules. But it does fall under my expectation of “keep your body parts away from others.” More generic, you see?

After doing our classroom scavenger hunt we will join on the carpet to review our expectations. I like to do a Social Contract with my students at the beginning of each year. I pose 1 question at a time and the students work as a team to generate ideas. Then we share them and I write them on our class Social Contract. I, and all of my students, sign our contract.

All I have to do when we get back from break is pull these signs down and review the things we discussed. Super easy!

classroom anchor chart listing classroom expectations

I will review expectations for specific things as we encounter them throughout the day. For example, when it is time to line up to go to specials, we will review how to get into a line and what I expect when I see students in line. I will reward HEAVILY these first few days back. Whether it is with verbal praise, Buchtien Bucks (more on that in a few weeks), or our school wide coupons.

Bright classroom anchor chart listing expectations for walking in a straight line

When it is time for Literacy Stations, I will call all students to the carpet to review expectations for 1-3 of the stations. Then we will practice just those. After practicing them for a few minutes, I will call students back to carpet to evaluate how they think they did at the stations.

We will repeat this process for as long as we need to. Some classes before need a quick 10 minute review of all the stations and then they are ready to go. This class will need a more broken down review of individual stations, practice, evaluate, repeat. It is really whatever works best for you and your students.

Whatever you do, review expectations intensely this first week back. My mom always said “It’s easier to start out hard and then ease up than to start out easy and then try to put the hammer down.” #TRUTH!

I am a tough love kind of teacher and I don’t go easy on my kids. I can be very strict but I have found that my students usually value the tough love because they know who is in charge but that I love them dearly and want what’s best for them.

There you have it! What are some of your classroom routines and expectations that you review in the first few days back from a break? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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To check out the other posts in my Classroom Management Series, click the links below.

Classroom Management Series Pt. 2- Student Routines

Classroom Management Series Pt. 3- Lesson Planning 

Classroom Management Series Pt. 4- Classroom Jobs

Until next time,

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