First of all, I always have each student’s name in as many places as possible in our classroom. This lets students know that they are really a part of your class, and you have made everything ready for them.
I ask my students to find their desk name plates, put on their name tags that I have placed next to their name plates, and see how many other places they can find their names in our classroom. While they do this, I greet each student with something unique: “I like that smile you are wearing! Wow, you are walking in so quietly! I am so glad you are here today! You look like you’re ready for a great day!”, etc. If a student has already put on his or her name tag, I use his or her name as I comment.
My goal is to create a safe and caring environment for my students. I try to never use the word “no”. When a student responds to a question, and it is not correct, I always try to value that student’s answer, respond with a positive, understanding comment and then guide that student to a better response. My students quickly learn that when one student offers a response, the others don’t shoot up their hands again in an effort to supply the correct answer, because they know that I will guide that first student to a better response.
I use phrases like: “I think I know why you said that… It’s because…. That was good thinking, but what about….Yes, that is a possibility, and what if…Hmmm I never thought of it that way… I like your thinking, now how about….” In rare instances when I can’t get a better response, I will ask that student to call upon another student in our class. I have found that this approach creates a classroom of risk takers who aren’t afraid to take a chance and answer a question.
When students feel like they are part of a community, they become much better learners!
I have created materials for you to use to help you establish a community of friends: back to school songs/poems with colored clipart and black and white clipart, desk name plates on which you can type your students’ names or a version where you can print the names yourself, a wide variety of labels for items such as mailboxes, homework folders, journals, etc., sets of illustrated graphing questions with several illustrated responses for each question, “How Am I Working?” Work Cards and more that you can find in my shop.
Good work habits are another important thing to establish during the first part of the school year… Old habits are hard to break, so encourage students to try their best right from the start. Here is a set of My Work Cards so students can alert you when they have a problem. You’ll also know who is working fine…