Start the New Year Off Right in Your Classroom!

Image of an iPad, pencil, and paper with text that reads 5 Simple Tips for a Great New Year

Happy New Year!  I always like to start the new year with renewed energy and a positive outlook.  I am excited to get back into the classroom with my sweet students - I've missed them!  The school year is nearly half-way over (already??!) and I want to continue pushing my students to learn and grow to be their best!  I want to maintain a positive and safe classroom environment - the new year is a perfect time for a review of procedures and to introduce some new ideas!

Here are 5 things I plan to do to start the year off right:

1. It's the First School Day of the New Year!  You've been on break for a bit now, right?  So guess what? Your students (and YOU) are a bit out of the school routine.  While it's not actually the first day of school, try incorporating some fun activities to review procedures and expectations.  At the beginning of the year, I show a meme slideshow to go over procedures in my classroom.  My students love it! And the best part?  They remember the procedures! Search the internet for a couple of silly memes that will help you review your procedures.

2. Check IN! Now that I've had a nice relaxing break away from the classroom, I realize that I miss my students.  The first week back, I will make a point to have a personal conversation with each student to check in with them about their break and get a feel for how they are doing. Unfortunately, some of my students likely did not have a fun and relaxing break.  I want to welcome them back into the safe and structured classroom environment. I want to work to rebuild and maintain a connection with each student for the rest of the year.  I keep an actual checklist so that I can write down the date we chatted and what we talked about.  Showing that you really care about someone takes just a little bit of time but has huge and lasting benefits.

3. Be POSITIVE!  I plan on starting the new year with a fresh, positive attitude.  I will reward good behavior A LOT the first weeks back.  I will be giving out positive Class Dojo points and tying it to my Behavior Punch Cards. Negative behaviors will be addressed quietly and privately with students with gentle reminders in the classroom and a conversation at recess.  Here are my two favorite blog posts on my classroom management and its evolution:

Woo Hoo Wheel Behavior Management

Image of 4 Colorful Behavior Punch Cards and a silver hole puncher

Classroom Management Makeover

4. Build COMMUNITY!  Make it a fresh start and incorporate community and class-building activities. If you expect students to work together collaboratively you MUST teach them and show them how in fun ways. I do this by incorporating a morning meeting with each of my groups.  We get to know each other by sharing and learn to work together by playing games. The games can be quick and simple like "Would You Rather, "Two Truths and a Lie", or our Friday favorite, a Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament! We also discuss classroom issues and brainstorm ways to resolve them.  I dedicate at most ten minutes every day for our morning meeting and usually add a longer fifteen-minute session once a week or as needed. If the weather is nice, take it outside for a breath of fresh air! 

5. REFLECT!  Make the new year a great one by incorporating student reflections and goals. I always like to start the New Year by modeling to my students how to reflect on the previous year and what my hopes are for the new year.  I talk about what I'd like to do more of to be a better teacher and person. I also talk about what I'd like to less of.  I set New Year goals for myself based on my reflection.  I have created a digital New Year, New Goals resource so that my students can reflect and set goals for themselves.  Click on the image below to check out my digital resource:

I also have my students complete learning reflections and set learning goals for themselves each week.
My students reflect on their learning every Friday by writing about 3 things they learned during the week.  They then write about whether it was easy or challenging for them and why. My students keep a Digital Learning Reflections Journal with their data and goal-setting slides.  Teaching and modeling to students how to reflect on what and how they are learning is such a powerful way for students to really think about their thinking.  It also gives them opportunities to look back and set meaningful goals for themselves as they move forward in their learning.  You can easily do this by having students writing each week in a new or existing journal.  I have a print and digital Weekly Learning Reflection and Goal resource in my TPT store. Click on the image below to have a look:

Image of 2 iPads with Weekly Learning Reflection form and Weekly Learning Goal form

I hope you can use some of these ideas in your classroom in the upcoming weeks!  
What will you do to start the New Year off right?
Happy New Year!

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