Every new school year comes with relationship building, routines, defining spaces in our room, and little rituals that we all use to make our classes unique and great for every learner in our communities.
Of course, without needing to go into too much detail, this year is unlike any other and comes with more things to add to our routines. If you are teaching face to face, you will be working on hygiene routines, and if you are teaching remotely you will need to work on norms to be in a virtual class. No matter how we start the school year, we all need to work on making sure that every single student is feeling safe, validated, and extra loved.
I suggest you explore the Responsive Classroom website because it has a wonderful amount of articles and resources that are helpful for the first weeks of school, ideas to build relationships and routines in your classes, and so on. Something that I love about Responsive Classroom (RC) is how it always focuses on phrasing everything with a positive tone and in a simple way for students to understand. Students’ voices are very important in RC, and that’s why teachers who use RC create classroom norms and agreements with their students.
I know many language teachers are eager to start the school year in the target language right away. I have to say that was my approach for many years, but I no longer start my classes in Spanish. This is partly because the school where I teach emphasizes that it’s better to take the time to slow down and work on relationships first to get to know our students and for them to get to know a little about me, too. I truly value this approach and see it as an “investment” in my relationship with my students, rather than a “waste of time,” and as a result, the school year goes smoothly. I can’t say it makes it perfect, but the ride is certainly more pleasant and more connected.
You might want to read these posts where I share tips for the first days of school:
- An Idea for the First Day
- Tips for First-Year Teachers
- Classroom Management in an Elementary Spanish Class
- My First Day Back to School
Quick Tip for Starting the Year Off with Distance Teaching
When teaching students online, it comes in handy to have some visuals to help your students figure out what you are asking for. In my experience with online teaching in the spring, I didn’t really have to invest time in relationships, but just to continue to grow them, based on seeds I had planted in person earlier that year. In another sense, though, teaching remotely felt like starting from zero because I needed to add more to the skills that were based on in-person teaching and learning. I found myself drawing quick pictures to remind my students to stay muted or unmute themselves if I couldn’t do it. There were times when I needed to see all my students on camera and to have them raise their hands to participate. This school year feels like the opposite. I will start teaching remotely and am arranging my teaching to account for this, but I have to work extra hard to build relationships, that’s why is so important to start with a kind of short presentation where children can know a little bit about you and find ways to connect with them.
Visuals are key when teaching a language so students can make connections faster, and for that reason, I have prepared this set of cards that you can use with your students. In this case, you will need the physical cards as a quick visual way for your students to understand what you are asking them. That should help during your lessons to remind your students or let them know what they need to do. Click here to download and print them for your classes!
Last but not least, stop by Profe Valentina’s blog to read how she introduces classroom norms to her students.
You might like these resources on Teachers Pay Teachers: