Re-Establishing Classroom Norms: January Favorite

Love the new year and especially the fact that in a school academic year one gets two new years: the beginning of the academic year and following a break after 1st of January. On both occasions schools and teachers have the opportunity to review expectations and re-establish classroom norms.

Recently a friend who joined the teaching ranks after a successful career in finance asked me about some ‘tricks’ for classroom management. She has just started a long term substitute position in a under-privileged small school district south of Los Angeles. Before giving her suggestions I first asked her if the middle school have any common practices that might need revisiting since she was considered an outsider by the students and ‘fresh meat’ to take advantage of. Unfortunately the school did not seem to have such practices in place. They do have common practices for what her class is suppose to include around reading and math intervention but the behavior expectations I guess are up to the individual teacher making it a bit more challenging for a long term sub starting in Dec.

Nonetheless I believe that re-establishing norms in January is good practice for all including adult learners all the way to pre-school students.

To do this I would dedicate the first lesson back in January to the following activities after you have established class norms:

Class Norms Activity:

1) Ask students to write down on a piece of paper what makes a class feel safe and inviting to learn?

2) Ask students to share their lists with a student sitting next to them- and combine the list- circling the overlaps

3) These pairs then join another pair and review the list again.  Circling the similar things once again.

4) Each group shares out one idea at a time that is new and a student scribe writes these down on the board.

5) After all the ideas are shared as students if there is anything on the list that can not be upheld or is not do-able.  Discuss.

6) With consensus identify the agreed terms of class norms.

Next for setting 2023 goals:

  • Ask the students what are they proud of from 2022- let them write or draw it out.  
  • Then ask them what is one thing that really bothered them about 2022?  Have them write this down on a scrap piece of paper- then ask them to throw it away.  (This is a Jewish new year’s practice called Tashlit- getting rid of the bad, or the cumbersome and having a fresh start.)
  • Next have them set one goal- what do they want to get accomplished in 2023 or what is one habit they want to improve?  Have them write this on a piece of paper with their names on it and then put it up on the bulletin board.  

Key is the follow through- every week check in with students to see how they are doing with their goals.  Consistently work with the students to follow through on the class norms.

One last suggestion for both setting classroom norms and goal setting is to keep it simple and manageable. Do not get caught with a list of consequences; instead focus on actions that lead towards success and achievement.

Published by marasimmons

A passionate educator turned world traveler embarking on a nomadic lifestyle with my family. Learning to appreciate a life where we have the privilege of choosing our destiny and embracing it.

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