Instructional Strategies for the beginning of the year

Successful teachers stress the importance of getting right to work and filling the first day with exciting academic activities. You'll want to engage students in a variety of different kinds of activities, so they'll find work interesting and won't feel the urge to create trouble. The more lively, interactive, and challenging the activities, the less likely you'll have discipline problems. Here are some frequently mentioned first-day suggestions.

1. Include at least one academic task that enables ALL students to succeed. It's important to get off on the right foot, with every student in your class knowing that he or she will be able to achieve in your class.

2. Include at least one academic task that will challenge your top students. This will keep these students involved, and should help other students stretch - and achieve at higher levels.

3. Begin reading an exciting book to the class. Let students know that you'll be reading additional installments on a regular basis.

4. Begin a science project alluding to future "hands-on" activities. Students who are doing, rather than simply listening, will have fun learning, look forward to new activities - and stay out of trouble!

5. Make work relevant. Make sure students know how the work will help them in their "real lives." Prepare a brief rationale for why students should invest effort in learning basic math, spelling, and writing skills. Present this rationale in various forms just before introducing a unit of work.

6. Begin a portfolio file of monthly writing samples, self-portraits, and other drawings. Portfolios let students chart their own progress, which can be a big incentive for them to stay interested and keep working hard.

7. Be sure students take home something new they learned that would be of interest to their parents or friends. Seeing some immediate, tangible results of their work can be a big motivator for students.

8. Spend some time "hyping" future instructional units. Students who are looking forward to a new project are less likely to create problems in your classroom.

In a nutshell, when you use creative instructional strategies, your students will have less time and energy to get into trouble. When you stay on your toes, you'll keep them on theirs, too. And the sooner you get started, the better.

From The Discipline Checklist by Ken Kosier. Copyright 1998, the National Education Association.