Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The First Days of School

The weeks are flying towards the first day of school. Every year as those hectic first days approach I find time to pull out my worn and bookmarked copy of The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. I have the older edition of the book, pictured below, from 1998, while the current fourth edition from 2009 no doubt has more updated pictures and cultural references (and an accompanying DVD).

Regardless of where you are in your teaching career, you will find valuable tips and common sense reminders about best practices for the beginning of the school year. I have bought and lent this book to everyone from first year teachers to veterans returning to the classroom to colleagues looking to start the year off right. So many of the hints and reminders in this book make me sit back and think, "Of course!" and remind me of all the little things that can make a big difference in the classroom.

Some Favorite Highlights from The First Days of School

Chapter 12: How to Have Your Classroom Ready

Before the school year starts, I always come back to the comprehensive checklists in this chapter. I love the methodical nature behind each list from prepare the floor space to prepare the student area to prepare the wall space, bookcases, and more. I enjoy starting off each year with this challenge to rethink and reconsider my classroom space.

Chapter 13: How to Introduce Yourself to Your Class

I love the example introductory speech included at the end of this chapter. I teach at a smaller school, so I have already had lots of opportunities to get to know and interact with my future students from previous years, but I forget that they may not always know a lot about me as a person or as a teacher or about what our year together is going to be like. I get so excited about jumping into the "doing" of the beginning of the school year that I always use this chapter as reminder of how best to start the "knowing" before the "doing." I appreciate the reminder to think forward, to get students excited about and interested in the year ahead, and to start building our community right from the get-go.

Chapter 20: How to Have Students Follow Classroom Procedures

I have learned that procedures are the secret engine running behind any successful classroom. Helping my students know what to expect and how to proceed through our day together is always a strong focus of the beginning of the year. Procedures keep our classroom running smoothly and help us all feel comfortable knowing what is expected for any given time or activity. The ideas and examples in this chapter also challenge me to rethink and reaffirm or change what I have done in the past.

Case in point: yea or nay to keeping small pencil sharpeners at each table. Pros: keeps kids from getting up constantly to sharpen or get new pencils and eliminates the 'broken pencil' excuse for not working. Cons: incessant and unnecessary sharpening of pencils and the increased likelihood of impromptu pencil sharpener explosions of pencil shavings. A first days of school conundrum.

Book Recommendation for Back to School: The First Days of School by Harry and Rosemary Wong | The Logonauts

Ready for Your First Days of School?

How do you prepare for the first days of school? Have another favorite book or resource to recommend? Share your thought in the comments below!

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