The way that students enter the classroom determines almost everything else that happens after.
It Starts on the Yard–Pick Them Up On Time
For elementary teachers who pick up their students up from the yard, it’s important that teachers arrive immediately or soon after the bell rings. In between yard supervision and the teacher’s arrival, it’s the wild wild west out there. Students are no longer involved in a structured activity and many problems occur in those three minutes that teachers are late. If Tommy punches Jimmy in the line before you get there, then Jimmy is not going to be in the mood to comprehend the math lesson that’s happening first thing when you return to classroom.
I Walk the Line
It’s important to me that my class walks in a line.
I do spend time practicing how to do this at the beginning of the year and at other times when the class seems to have forgotten. It’s very important to me that the class doesn’t leave big spaces in between students in our line and that students face forward as we walk. However, I stopped requiring that students walk exactly one behind the other when the line is in motion once I realized how uncomfortable it is to do. The next time you’re in line at the movie theater, notice whether you walk exactly behind the person in front of you or whether you move slightly to one side.
I stopped requiring that students be absolutely silent on the way to the room but do ask that once we reach the steps their conversation stops and they be ready to listen to my directions. Similarly, on the way to the library, students can talk to each other on the yard but once we reach the library building, it needs to be quiet. If you’re at the movies, notice that you talk to the people you’re with while you walk in a line but once you reach the usher, you’ll stop talking and listen to his directions.
If students are not quiet when they’re entering the room or are not in a line as they enter the room the same behavior will continue through the lesson i.e. there will be talking and disorder.
Good Morning, Shalom, Aloha
I used to think that saying good morning was silly and a waste of time. Then I read somewhere that saying good morning may be the only time a child talks to an adult all day. For students who are behavior problems, our “good morning” may be our only positive interaction all day. It’s also like the reset button on a computer, letting students know that even if they had a bad day yesterday, today is a new ballgame.
I usually say something to students as they enter the room in addition to “Good Morning” like “Nice shirt.” or “Did you see the Dodger game?” By standing at the door and noticing who has Spongebob on their back pack, I learn about what interests the students and sometimes take their ten seconds in the spotlight at the door to tell me something about themselves like “my cousin is visiting” or “I saw a good movie.” When do we ever get a chance to just talk to our students like they’re people?
I also teach my students, who are second graders, not to rush past me but to slow down for just a second and look me in the eye and say good morning back. So that I don’t get bored, I also tend to mix it up and use “Good morning” and “Hello” in different languages. Students pick these up too. It’s amusing to hear them say shalom or kanichiwa and keeps us smiling.
Have Something For Them To Do
In my room students come in, take out their homework and get started on their daily language practice. The daily language practice reviews some important skills that students need. However, I would say that what students do when they come into the room isn’t as important as the fact that they have something to do when they come in so that they get right to work. While students do their work I spot check the homework on their desks and it shows me quickly who is still having trouble with a concept. We then review the daily language practice. Not all students finish the daily practice at the beginning of the year but they get faster as the year goes on. Other teachers use a daily journal prompt or a word problem if it’s about to be math time.
The whole thing takes no more than about fifteen minutes at the end of which all class business is done for the day and we’re ready to start full-steam ahead with the core curriculum curriculum. By the time students come to the carpet, every student has already been acknowledged by their teacher, they’re focused, and they’ve completed some review of important grammar skills.