by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
Effective from the Start
Writing the Plan in My Head
“I knew I needed procedures to manage my classroom, but I wasn’t sure how to teach them. When you showed the example PowerPoints I began writing mine in my head, and as soon as the inservice ended, I worked for the rest of the day until I had it and my room perfected.”
On August 2009, we presented a pre-school presentation to the teachers and administrators of the Dyersburg City School District in Tennessee. A month later we received an email from Amanda Brooks, a first year teacher. She wrote:
“I am in the middle of my second week of school, and I couldn’t ask for a better beginning to my career. I would not have imagined my first year running so smoothly, but having procedures in place early on helped me to just focus on teaching and enjoying my career, instead of worrying about behavior issues.”
As a first year teacher, Amanda was able to implement procedures and establish routines in her classroom to great success. She says, “The first day went like clockwork. I had my students pre-grouped, and before they walked in I asked them to look at the chart on the door to find their color group.
“I had a bellringer on the board, and seat work on every desk.
“I cannot tell you how much time this saved me. Students worked at their seat while I greeted the rest of my students as they walked in.
The first day of school went absolutely flawless.”
Amanda used a PowerPoint presentation to introduce her classroom procedures. After each slide, the class stopped and practiced each new procedure. Her repeated practice paid off as the procedures quickly become routines for the students. Without any prompting, the students knew what to do and followed procedures in a responsible manner.
“I never raised my voice or made threats. I simply laid out each procedure clearly on their level, and then modeled and practiced it. It took one day for me to set up a routine that will help my class be successful the rest of the year."
“We also practiced our out-of-class procedures and this gave new students a tour of the school. We even worked on our cafeteria routine, and while we looked a little crazy to the rest of the school sitting down for lunch at 9 a.m. our cafeteria transitions have been flawless thanks to that little bit of extra practice.”
Amanda ended her first day of school with an “I Can’t Funeral.”
“This is a stolen treasure that has worked wonders for my class. During my years of college I had to bring in a classroom method that I wanted to use in my class. While browsing the Internet I came upon a true jewel,” she said.
The I Can’t Funeral started with every student thinking of one thing they either did not feel successful in last year, or that often made them think, “I can’t do that.” They each wrote their “I Can’t” on an index card. Then, while playing very sad music, they placed the card in a “funeral box” and said their farewells to their “I Can’ts.” They buried the “I Can’t” funeral box in Amanda’s car trunk.
Amanda informed her students they were burying the words “I Can’t,” and wouldn’t be seeing them again. They would dig up the funeral box at the end of the school year and celebrate how they had conquered their “I Can’ts.”
Amanda said, “The students really enjoyed this, and I assured them each thing they couldn’t do or felt unsure about would be mastered during the school year. It was an awesome day.”
In January Amanda sent a note saying, “My students often ask when we are going to resurrect our ‘I Can’ts!’ . . . I often hear students saying they just conquered their ‘I can’t’ and we high five.”
Making a Difference . . . Beyond the Classroom
Amanda is so driven to make a difference that her passion has rubbed off onto her students.
In her January update, Amanda shared with us her most recent class project— raising money for the Haiti relief efforts.
This year, the class motto was, Be the change you wish to see in the world
This prompted her students to ask if they could do something to help the people of Haiti. In the end, they organized a school wide bake sale for the Red Cross.
Amanda wrote, “I arrived at the bake sale 15 minutes early to set up and found, out of my 23 students, 18 were already there waiting. My class has become more like a family, and I am so fortunate to have such an amazing group.”
Amanda and her class set a goal to raise $100 for the relief efforts. Not only did they meet their goal, they exceeded their expectations, raising $500!
Even more importantly, Amanda and her students found and embodied the true meaning of their class motto: They were the change they wanted to see in the world.
End of the Year Reflections
At the end of the year, Amanda shared some reflections on her first year of teaching. She called her list “Some of My Most Valuable Lessons.” In this, she details the procedures, methods, and ideas that she found most useful in her first year in the classroom. These include:
Give each student a job.
Learn to be a good listener.
Have signals to take care of the small stuff.
Create a mailbox.
Smile and laugh.
Say Thank You/Give certificates.
Hold an “I Can’t Funeral.”
Come up with a class motto or quote.
Tell them why they are learning.
It is a true mark of her success that Amanda was able to reflect on her work and use it to plan for the next year.
Click here to read “Some of My Most Valuable Lessons.”
Effective and Successful Her First Year
What happened to the funeral box? It really was anticlimactic because many of the students had already conquered their “I Can’ts” and those who forgot what they wrote, looked at their “I Can’ts” and said, “Of course. I did it!”
Amanda realized that as a young, new teacher procedures immediately set up a great learning environment for her students. They eliminated unnecessary questions that interrupt the day, and also made classroom management much easier.
She says, “My advice to all new teachers or even teachers who have been teaching for years is to go over, practice, and be consistent with procedures and it will completely transform your class."
Amanda counts herself lucky to be a teacher. She looks at it as an opportunity to really shape her children’s love of learning: “If I give children a hunger for learning that will carry on throughout their lives then they are more likely to continue their education, and not just tolerate school but love it.”
What better way than to allow Amanda to close her first year of teaching with what she shared with us.
“My first year has ended, and I am so thankful for that first day of school when I began practicing our procedures. It allowed me to be everything I wanted to be as a teacher and create an environment where students could just learn.
“Having a procedure for everything is now a permanent fixture in my classroom. Teaching and procedures go hand in hand, because having procedures in place allows learning to happen without ever being interrupted.
I never had to waste time repeating what they should be doing, or reprimanding them for bad behavior.
I simply taught and enjoyed my students.”
A Vision of Success
You don’t need to be an extraordinary teacher on your first day. You don’t even need to be extraordinary ever in your career. You just need to be effective and do what all the other effective teachers are doing—building a solid foundation of procedures in the classroom so they can teach and the students can learn.
The new school year is here. Think about your classroom and how it needs to be organized for your success and the students’ success. Then start writing down procedures to make it happen. Amanda had a vision of what her success looked like. And she did not stop perfecting her procedures until she felt she was ready to implement them.
We wish Amanda and all of the teachers ready to take the hearts and minds of children into their care an awesome first day of school.
a printable version of this article click
The techniques of effective teachers are replicable. Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong's columns feature effective teachers and administrators and their techniques for enhancing student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with a abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.
For over 20 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for teachers.net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.
About Harry & Rosemary Wong...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.
Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award. She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.
Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education.
Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Today, Rosemary speaks along with Harry. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.
How They Develop Effective Teachers...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.
Their new audio CD set, How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacher, was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis. Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom. In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!
This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.Learn how to
Begin the school year with a plan
Start class immediately
Have a well-organized and structured classroom
Reduce discipline problems
Have students who are engaged and working
Teach procedures and responsibility
Maximize classroom instructional time
Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
Use rubrics to assess for student learning
Deal with at-risk students
Improve student learning and achievement
The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.6 million copies have been sold. It is used in 116 countries, 2,027 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The new, fourth edition includes:
An additional chapter on procedures
A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
A new chapter for administrators on implementation
Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.
They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience. The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.
This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers. Details for the classroom management course can be seen at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one
of his many presentations. He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life. In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.
When the book, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at www.EffectiveTeaching.com or www.HarryWong.com.
Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.