It’s upon us . . . BACK TO SCHOOL. (I just uttered those three little words that begin to haunt our dreams in mid to late August). As we face “climbing that mountain” again, the first week begins to quickly fall into place. I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t switch up my game too much as it’s all about practicing routines, establishing expectations, and reviewing procedures. Although this B2S focus is critical, it can get terribly dry . . . actually it can be quite drool-inducing after you have been in the biz for awhile. Over the years, I have attempted to spice it up a bit. By making rules and expectations lessons more interactive and kid-friendly, I have found that student engagement increases (thus implanting what I am dishing out a bit better). In addition, as a teacher, I am actually excited to review something for the umpteenth time because it is fun and different. Yep . . . classroom rules can be fun!
GET ‘EM INVOLVED
My school of thought here is to get your new crew actively involved in learning your rules and expectations. Instead of just talking about the rules, act them out. Better yet, have THEM act those rules out. This can be as wild or straightforward as you like. I tend to lean toward the outlandish side, but this can be molded to fit your style. Here are just a few ideas . . .
- Turn your carpet area into a stage of sorts. Invite actors to come up and act out a rule correctly and/or incorrectly. The rest of the crew gets to guess which rule the actor is following or breaking.
- Take photos of your kids following and/or not following specific classroom/school rules. Print these out 8×10 style to reference and review during carpet time or your morning meeting.
- Break out the iPhone and create manners/rules commercials. Film them separately, use iMovie to edit together, or add some flair to these using one of the countless apps out there.
TOSS IN A SONG/CHANT/RAP
If you follow me, you know I love a good tune when it comes to teaching something. Not only does it help stick your lesson in your kiddos’ brains, but it also adds a great element of fun! Well, the same goes for reviewing those classroom rules and procedures. It’s a sure fire way to keep their attention and get the smiles flowing right off the bat.
With this said, you can run with this in many ways. First, you might want to make up a chant for your rules. Think of it like a poem set to a simple beat. OR . . . if you need a little more foundation, you can always use a familiar tune (I’m a Little Teapot, Three Blind Mice, etc.) and re-work the words to fit your expectations or rules. I was lucky enough to skip both of these steps. I just so happen to have a very talented daddy who whipped up a tune for me a few years ago that covered all of my back to school expectations in a positive manner. I don’t stop at the song . . . I am sure you have guessed this by now. Just as I said above, I turn my kids into rock stars and let them get involved . . . hence, increasing buy- in and overall engagement.
A METHOD TO THE MADNESS:
There is a method to this madness. I act like a buffoon first. (What does such a buffoon look like you ask? Well . . . I wear big plastic sunglasses, toss a HUGE linker chain necklace, snag a toy microphone, and put a hat on backward.) In my opinion, you want to create that safe atmosphere and set the stage first. In essence, I am showing them how to walk that funny line, while still being under control. This is also a stellar time to start to teach your babes how to laugh at themselves. (If you act dippy and giggle about it . . . most will follow suit rather quickly. ) After I have modeled the moves, I pick those kids who I know will be able to handle it. Look for those students who already know you or who you already know are outgoing. You can spot them pretty quickly. These are usually the babes to volunteer. Once this layer gets involved, those who “weren’t quite sure” will typically jump in. If you follow this simple system . . . you will catch most if not all of them as the year progresses. (((GRIN))) I tend to sing the rules song twice a day . . . trading out kids with each new round. They actually beg to do it and it’s a no-brainer for the first week.
Interested in trying such a tactic with your rules/procedures review this year? Well, I have a whole pack that is perfect for primary. I worked closely with Ron Brown from Intelli-Tunes to help package some wonderful songs that teach routines, rules, manners, and procedures. We’re talking everything from lining up to classroom rules. You can listen to a little sample below and check it out in more detail HERE.
Each song in this pack comes with a class book option as well as printable lyrics (stellar tracking practice BTW). Classroom songs are perfect for quick brain breaks and they teach a thing or two as well! #winwin
A back to school anchor chart that outlines rules is usually automatic, but if you are in 2nd or 3rd grade, why not have them help you create it? You may already be doing this and I am just behind the times (that’s what a decade in K and 1st will do to you). However, I had to bring it up as I have always longed to do this with a new batch of sweeties. I love those amazing Post-it creations that you see all over Pinterest. It would be so cool to have your kids come up with scenarios that fit and/or don’t fit. It might look a little like this . . .
Or, if you have younger kids who might not have the writing skills locked in place yet, why not turn your anchor chart into a shared writing experience? You can have Post-its that are pre-loaded with the missing words in each of your classroom rules and/or procedures. If this is too easy for your age level, have students grab a “smelly” and write the words directly on your anchor chart (you may or may not choose to use a word bank). It might look something sorta like this . . .
The follow-ups with this are endless. Think group games, independent sorts, relay races, beat the teacher-type activities, and timed trials. I guess what I am trying to say is just think outside of the box. Rule review can be so much more than “stand and deliver.” AND . . . if we make it a tad more fun (emotional), our students are more likely to make connections, pay attention, and shove what we are offering into their LONG-TERM memory banks!
ADD A LITTLE CRAFT
Crafts are fun. Crafts increase engagement. Crafts make great student-created bulletin boards. With this said, why not create a craft that reinforces rules and such this year? I like to tack on a little creative ditty for a few different expectations every year.
First off, bad manners in the lunchroom is one of my BIGGEST pet peeves. So many kids come in our doors lacking proper manners these days (gosh, I sound old . . . but, I can’t help it). Therefore, manners must be explicitly taught. After dishin’ out what I expect from my kiddos in the cafeteria, we follow up with a fun craft/write to reinforce what we just learned. Yep . . . we “BOX UP” our good lunchroom ideas and create a wonderful student-created bulletin board. (These look especially amazing on a classroom sky wire!) We also take this a step further and write to our cafeteria workers after we get a few weeks of school tucked under our belts. What can I say? Kindness really counts these days in my book. Check out this on point Back To School Lunchbox Craft here.
Another one of my focuses during this first week or two is playground safety. Heaven knows I want my new littles to make good choices when they are out running wild without me. And, nothing frosts my cookie more than an unruly pick-up line after the recess bell.
Well, knowing that this is how I feel, I always directly teach recess expectations and rules. I like to run with a little recess craft after we have chatted about all of those high-level choices to be made out on the blacktop, on that big equipment, and out in the field. It consists of a simple pledge and some abstract art. The kids get a kick out of it . . . for some reason, the kiddos always think its sooo cool to “sign” their name on the dotted line. Oh, and you can bet that I have a tune to go with this set of expectations as well (thanks dad). We sing along with this wonderful recess song off and on for the first few weeks of school.
It only takes a few minutes here and there to tackle recess safety. It slips oh so nicely into the afternoon mix. Our littles get so tired – a little reinforcement craft often proves to be just the ticket after lunch. The best news . . . SLIDING INTO A SUPER RECESS is a freebie in my shop. I had to offer up something stickin’ with my usual ramblings today 🙂
Alright, there you have it. A post dedicated to making classroom rule review FUN. Thanks for taking the time to visit. I will be back again soon to spew some more primary teaching goodness.