Friday, August 22, 2008

Rules, Rules and More Rules: Setting the Tone in a New Class

So, it's your first day of teaching in a school, either as a full-time teacher or as a supply teacher. You've heard the horror stories about how naughty kids in London can be. You're scared, but determined not to show it. You're in your head, telling yourself that you
can do this. You're a teacher, you can teach.

Well, before you do anything you need to set the tone for your first day with a new class. Here's a simple idea that will work in every classroom:
rules! Make your rules clear, kid-friendly and consistent. Go through the rules at the beginning of your day (or lesson) and refer back to them throughout the day. Put them up on the wall at the front of the class where everyone can see them.

The easiest thing to do is to type up the following 3 sets of rules. Add some visuals cues (a child raising their hand works well for rule #1), print each page, laminate them if you want to get fancy, and bring them with you to every new class you go.

Our Learning Rules:
We put our hands up for questions and answers and if we need the teacher.
We use 'partner' voices in the classroom.
If our teacher wants us to stop s/he will say "Un, Deux, Trois" (1, 2, 3)

Our Respect Rules:
We listen when others are speaking.
We respect other people and their belongings.
We use language suitable for the classroom.

Our Safety Rules:
We keep hands, feet & unkind words to ourselves.
If we need to leave the room, we ask the teacher for permission first.
We move around the classroom sensibly and use equipment safely.

You should notice that each of these rules is very specific and written in language that children understand. I use these rules for teaching years ("grades" in Canadian-speak) 1 through 9. It's very important that you follow your own rules, refer back to them, provide the children choices and be clear on your expectations. Be clear and consistent.

You will hopefully find a set of class rules in the classroom anyway, especially if you are supply teaching. The children should be aware of them, and ideally know them off by heart. But if it's your first day, bring your own. You can use the ones above or write your own. Just remember, be clear, use positive, kid-friendly language (ie "We raise our hands" is much better than "Don't shout out").

What rules do you use? Are there any others that you would recommend? Please share them in the comments section.

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Thanks for sharing your two pence!


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