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8 Ways to Make Week One of the New School Year a Success

Start as you mean to go on with Sophie Bartlett’s simple advice for getting off on the right foot this term...

  • 8 Ways to Make Week One of the New School Year a Success

1 | Start with a blank slate

Your class’s previous teacher knows them well – make sure you acknowledge, and use, the information they’ve passed on to you about each child. However, try to filter what is necessary and what isn’t. While one teacher may have found a child ‘difficult’, starting the year with that in mind is setting the relationship up to fail. Begin with a blank slate and form your own opinions – some children may surprise you!

2 | Vote for a class read

You may already have a book in mind based on your first topic. If so, consider using it the following term (when the children will already have the knowledge of the topic to benefit their understanding of the text – see Doug Lemov’s theory regarding embedding non-fiction) and instead, allow the class to choose their first text. Teacher Ashley Booth’s (@mrboothY6) ‘World Cup of Books’ idea is great for this: pupils browse a selection of texts and vote in various knockout rounds until a winner has been chosen.

3 | Set expectations

In the last few weeks of summer term – when there are about 57 off-timetable activities going on – you may have let a few things slide (if not, you’re a hero!). The first day back is the perfect time to remind the children (and yourself!) of how high your expectations are for behaviour, work ethic and presentation. Ask the children to copy a few sentences out in their neatest handwriting at the start of their book to refer back to throughout the year.

4 | Share your timetable

The first thing my class does each morning is check the day’s timetable.In order to get them organised from the start, share your weekly schedule on the first day back. It’s also useful to let children know any key dates coming up – parents may already be aware, but children like to know too.

5 | Chat to every child

There are always children who monopolise your attention throughout the day, whether that’s for the right or wrong reasons. When it gets to lunchtime, check your register and see who you haven’t yet spoken to in the morning. Make a concerted effort to chat to them in the afternoon.

6 | Escape the classroom

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to have any laborious marking to do on the first day, so there is no excuse to stay in the confines of your classroom. Socialising with other staff is especially important if you are in a new school or have new team members this year. Ask how people’s days are going, offer support and take a break from the classroom – first days are always full of positivity and it’s great to share it!

7 | Befriend your TA

I don’t think any teacher would disagree that our TAs are absolutely invaluable. If you are working with someone new this year, begin forging a positive relationship with them on day one. Don’t just use them for photocopying and admin. Instead, show the children that you’re a team, and include them in activities. If you’re new to the school, or even the phase, use their knowledge of individual children to your advantage.

8 | Make a seating plan

Start as you mean to go on and put children in set places from the get-go. Personally, I like a mixed ability seating plan. Last year I showed a random name selector on the board and this picked the order the children sat in. This ensured there was no unconscious bias in choosing where anyone sat and whether they were next to their friends or not. I told pupils that they were old enough to prove to me that they can be trusted to work sensibly. If not, I would move them. The children loved it and we redo it every half term.

Sophie Bartlett is a Y5/6 teacher in an English primary school. Find her at missiebee1.wordpress.com and on Twitter at @_missiebee.

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