Going back to the classroom in January can be exciting, and many teachers look forward to aspects of returning. But reteaching classroom procedures after breaks is probably not at the top of that list.
I have a few ideas to share to help ease the anxiety, overwhelm, or even dread you might feel about reteaching classroom routines upon returning to school in January.
How many of you have felt shocked by the behaviors of some of your students upon returning in January? I know for me, there were times I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was as if my students hadn’t stepped into a classroom before. It was as if classroom procedures never existed!
Being out of the school routine for two weeks or more can make the transition back hard for students (and teachers, too!). Instead of waiting for problems to occur, you can be proactive about re-establishing norms the first week back in January.
Before we jump into my ideas, I want to share a little something extra. One thing that made the first week back after a long break more fun for me was preparing Positive Growth Mindset Sticky Notes to hand out to my students when I saw them trying their best in those first weeks back to school! Whether they were performing a classroom procedure correctly or trying to their best on a difficult assignment, giving them a sticky note with a positive message brought joy to me and my students. They make a great pick-me-up!
Here are five creative ways you can review expectations and practice classroom procedures with your students to have a smoother transition into the routine of a new semester:
Have Your Students Reteach Key Classroom Procedures
Take some time to jot down 4-5 routines that are important to revisit the first week back to school.
On the first day back to class, put your students into groups and give them a routine they will be responsible for reteaching. Give them 30 minutes or so to complete the following:
Create an anchor chart for the classroom procedure that includes the following:
- Looks like/sounds like
- This routine is…. This routine is not…
- Why it is important?
- How will it help them this second semester?
Prepare a demonstration of the classroom procedure. Your students might:
- Perform a skit
- Model the right way and then model the wrong way
- Give an example of the positive impact of following the routine and a negative consequence of not following the routine
Decide how/when you want your students to present to the class. It might be:
- At the start of each day
- RIGHT before that routine needs to be executed
- All on the first day (like a presentation marathon)
Having a follow-up discussion is just as important as reteaching the classroom procedures. Make sure you give time and space for students to discuss what they’ve learned, share their experiences, and reflect on the expectations.
Introduce a New Class Plant or Pet
I’ve done this with my class, and it was so successful! I was so impressed.
I introduced my students to our classroom plant “Fred,” the newest class member, and asked them what Fred needed to know to be successful in our classroom. You guys, my 4th graders loved it! They instantly responded with suggestions and advice.
Their reactions surprised me! They took it very seriously and shared so many classroom procedures with Fred:
- They talked about how to line up correctly.
- They made sure Fred knew when and how to pack up at the end of the day.
- They even told him about some call responses we used in class.
- I asked them to help Fred understand expectations for independent reading, going out to recess, lining up for lunch, etc.
So instead of reviewing classroom procedures for the sake of the students, they were doing it for Fred’s benefit. And that made it more enjoyable for everyone!
Conduct A Gallery Walk
This activity can take a bit more time and does require some prep work on your end, but it is an excellent inquiry-based approach to re-establishing classroom procedures.
To prepare for this activity:
- Decide on 4-5 routines you want to reteach/practice.
- Snap a picture of your students doing the activity correctly/incorrectly. You can candidly capture these situations or stage them.
- Standing in line correctly/incorrectly
- Messy vs. clean desk
- Returning books correctly/incorrectly
- Print off the pictures and attach them to large pieces of chart paper.
- Title each chart paper with classroom procedures (Example: How To Line Up for Lunch)
For the gallery walk, students will visit each piece of chart paper to reflect on the image of the routine. You’ll want to encourage students to write down a reminder, expectation, behavior, or something they notice in the photo connected to the title (routine).
If your students aren’t familiar with a gallery walk, you may need to establish expectations with them first:
- How long to spend at each photo
- Writing down new/original ideas
- If collaboration is allowed or not
Once students have completed the gallery walk, you can use the posters with all your student’s comments to reteach the routine the next time it comes up in your classroom!
3-2-1 Classroom Procedures
If you haven’t listened to my podcast episode on Exit Tickets, please check it out! If you listen to this episode you can get another idea for how to use the 3-2-1 strategy.
3-2-1 is an exit ticket framework that can be used for so many things! Like reteaching classroom procedures:
- Ask three students to share important things to remember with a specific routine.
- Allow two students to ask questions about the routine. The questions should be for clarification on the classroom procedure. Like, “Do we line up in number order every time we leave the room or only for specials?”
- You should give one reminder of WHY the routine is important. For example, This will help us transition quickly to gym, which means you’ll get more time to learn with coach.
This is a quick activity you can do before every routine the first week back to class, and any time your students need a refresher on a classroom procedure.
Use A Little Reverse Psychology
It’s best if you have a little fun with this one! This strategy worked better with specific groups of students than others, so feel it out and decide if it’s best for you and your students.
This first week back in January, let your students know you usually spend the entire first week practicing routines, but you think this group is special, and they only need to spend some of that time practicing procedures.
You might say, “I think this group can get away with just practicing a day or two.”
After the first day of practicing classroom procedures, in whichever way works best for you, it’ll be important to remind them every day after with little sayings like:
- Let’s see if we can make it another day without practicing lining up for recess!
- Wow. We won’t need to practice gathering on the carpet after today.
- How many days can we go without talking about expectations during independent reading?
These are essentially like phrases of affirmations! You are gently reminding your students they know classroom procedures and can meet expectations.
If there is a time your students need practice with a routine, avoid punishing them. Instead, celebrate the fact that they made it four days or a week without needing to practice the routine. Then take the time to practice with them as a whole class.
A helpful resource for this way of reteaching procedures would be my Independent Reading Bookmarks as a subtle reminder when you start to notice student’s not meeting expectations during independent reading time! They serve as a great reminder of all the skills students should be focusing on. You could create similar bookmarks or anchor charts to help your students remember other classroom procedures and expectations.
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Independent Reading Bookmarks
Do you need an easy way to hold your students accountable during independent reading? These bookmarks will help! Each day students can set their daily reading goal and use the bookmark to show you what they will focus on during independent reading… They also serve as a great reminder of all the skills students should be focusing on.
I hope some of these ideas will remove some of the stress or worry that comes with heading back to the classroom in January. These ideas are meant to make you feel more empowered to help your students fall back into classroom routines and set the tone for the rest of the year.
Think about your next steps…
If you are ready to start planning ways to be more intentional about the reading response activities you use in your classroom, you can…
- Download my free Independent Reading Bookmarks to use as a supportive resource as you reteach classroom procedures, like expectations during independent reading, the first week back to school in January!
- Check out Episode 106: Simple Classroom Management Hacks for the Seasonal Changes with Dr. Lori Friesen to help you prepare for the disruptions holidays and other exciting events can cause in the classroom!
- Join us inside The Stellar Teacher Reading Membership, where you will get access to a resource library filled with reading and writing resources including graphic organizers, writing about reading, and more.