Start the Year Intentionally

by | Jul 27, 2021 | Back to School, Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

I was given some advice years ago that I’ve never forgotten. 

This advice applies to any and all facets of working with children, both in education and in raising kids of your own.

Here it is:

Start your year the way you want it to end. 

We have to set clear expectations for our students so they know what we expect them to do. This way there is less confusion on their part and frustration on your part. 

Starting the year intentionally will help finish the year intentionally.

Why You Should Start The Year Intentionally

By starting your school year with intention, you set up your students to succeed! 

I can’t speak for all students, but I can say that most of my students would meet the expectations given to them when those expectations were fully understood and agreed upon at the beginning of the school year. 

By setting expectations and clear rules for your students, you create a safe and welcoming environment for your students to learn and grow.

How To Start The Year Intentionally 

1. Have Students Create A Classroom Constitution

Some teachers like to have students help create the classroom rules. If you don’t want to do that, you can have students help create a classroom constitution instead! 

A classroom constitution is a kind of creed; it dictates how the classroom will interact with each other, with you as the teacher, and with the content they learn. 

Having students take part in deciding these can help them take ownership of their classroom environment. 

You can give students varying levels of control over the constitution depending on the grade level you teach. (You might not want to take everything they say and write it down, but filter it all through your rules). 

When you have students participate in creating a classroom constitution, they will begin their year feeling heard and valued.

2. Ensure That Your Rules Are Clear, Consice, And Select

A HUGE part of starting your school year intentionally is having a clear set of classroom rules for your students to follow. 

It is vital that your rules are clear, concise, and select! 

Students shouldn’t have to look at a long list of confusing rules and wonder what they really mean. 

 Think of it like this: telephone numbers are broken into chunks of three or four numbers, because that is about how much people can retain in a chunk. Limiting rules to three or four simple yet global concepts will help students actually remember them.

With that in mind, make sure your rules are easily understood by your students (which means you may have to reword them when switching grade levels.)

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3. Leave Room For Student Feedback

Doesn’t everyone want to be heard? 

I know I do! 

When we leave room for students to give feedback on how they feel in the classroom, we set up a safe place for them to be honest. 

Maybe your feedback looks like a suggestion box, or maybe you have a notebook for students to give you feedback in. 

Whatever the case may be, leaving room for feedback is an easy way for your students to feel like they are doing more than just sitting in your room. 

4. Model, Model, Model

The keys to success are to build relationships with students and model, model, model. Every time you do something for the first time, model the expectations.

One year, I had a student that had a reputation as being a very difficult kid. I positioned her desk near mine, so I could frequently join in discussions her table had. I’ll never forget the time she was reflecting on why she had previously gotten into so much trouble. She simply stated, “I never knew you couldn’t do that in school.”

Modeling your expectations sets everyone up for success.

The Benefits of Intentionally Starting Your Year 

When you start your year off with a classroom constitution, clear rules, and room for feedback, and lots of modeling, you are giving your students a voice and tools for success. 

When people have a voice, they feel valued and cared for. Which leads to trust, hard work, and exceeding expectations. 

When people understand thoroughly what is expected of them, they are more likely to be successful – and to be willing to try something new, as their fear of failure is reduced.

Start this school year with intentionality and see how your students behave differently than other classes you’ve had!

Do you have questions about starting your year intentionally? Email me! 

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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