May 2024
Vol 21 No 5

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About Effective Teaching

The most important factor in improved student learning is with an effective teacher.  Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong feature effective teachers and administrators and what they do to enhance student learning.  The columns provide specific strategies and activities that you can download and use.  An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column.

These strategies and activities are all based on the teachings and works of Harry and Rosemary Wong and they are happy to share with the profession the work of effective teachers.  If you have an effective strategy or technique that works, please share this by sending it to The Wongs will consider it for sharing in future Effective Teaching columns.

About Harry and 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 Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal.  He was recently selected as one of the most admired people in the world of education by 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.

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.

Nearly a million teachers worldwide have heard his message.  Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.  They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

Their latest contribution to helping teachers succeed is an 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 successful teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education.  Over 3 million copies have been sold.

The third edition of The First Days of School includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

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 have released a new set of CDs with Harry Wong LIVE, called How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one of his many presentations.  He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, CD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing 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 or

Best Sellers

The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
$23.96 from
More information


The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
More information


Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong
eLearning course for individual use, CEUs available Preview the course and order at $124.95 (Group discounts available.)


How to Improve Student Achievement
Hear Harry Wong Live! in this 2 CD set
More information


New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$24.05 from
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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

$12.57 from
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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
by Roland Sawyer Barth

$13.30 from
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A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

$17.95 from
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Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith

$24.50 from
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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
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If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

$13.96 from
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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

August 2000

There is Only One First Day of School

Melissa Pantoja's first year as a teacher (see June and July columns) was so rewarding and such a learning experience that she said, "I'm so excited about what I've learned in my first year of teaching. Next year will be a great opportunity for me to make adjustments in my classroom management and to use procedures that I have found to be successful. I have so many ideas and I am eager to use them."

A New Start Every Year

Just as Melissa Pantoja can't wait to start another school year with ideas she learned from her last year, Lee Gray says, "There is something inherently special about our profession that allows us to close out a previous academic year and plan for a new beginning-a sort of annual renewal, if you will."

That's the beauty of teaching; we get to start all over again each year. You can't do this if you are a meteorologist or a salesperson. When school starts this fall, or whenever, if you are on a year round school, you will get a new group of students. You can do anything you want with them. The effective teacher starts with a plan, a better and more reflective plan than the previous year. The ineffective teacher does the same thing year after year, which is why Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results."

The First Day of School

Douglas Brooks was teaching at the University of Texas-Arlington when he wrote an article, "The First Day of School," for Educational Leadership in 1985. He said that most all new teachers start their teaching career without having received any instruction on what to do the first day of school as well as never having seen a first day of school as a student teacher. That's like asking a pilot to fly a plane without having received any instruction on how to take off with a plane nor having ever seen a runway at an airport. The analogy is not so far-fetched when you see how many novice teachers begin their first day of school.

The first day of school is the most important day of the school year. There is only one first day of school and what you do can determine your success or failure for the entire year. On this day the students form their first impression of you. People in marketing know that you have seven seconds to create a positive impression.

The uninformed novice teacher thinks that starting with a fun activity forms a positive impression. Douglas Brooks wrote in 1985 that he video taped some teachers on their first day of school and discovered that those teachers who started with a fun activity spent the rest of the school year chasing after the students. Whereas, those teachers who spent some time during the first couple of days organizing the class so that everyone knew how the class was structured and managed had far fewer discipline problems and had students who were involved with learning.

In the same way that Melissa Pantoja started her class correctly on the first day of school, Judie Gustafson, a high school teacher, did likewise. Her plan can be found on page 172 in our book, The First Days of School.

Seven Things Students Want to Know

Douglas Brooks says that students want to know seven things on the first day of school, thus, effective teachers plan their first day of school accordingly. The seven things students want to know on the first day of school are

  1. Am I in the right room? For many students, who come from dysfunctional families or challenging neighborhoods, school can be a safe and consistent haven. Help the students to look forward to coming to school by providing hall guides, signs, and welcome messages on the most important day of the school year. The First Days of School states that we celebrate the wrong day at school, which is graduation day. Many students never see their graduation day and this may be because we never start them off correctly.

    Teachers should be standing at the door, helping anyone who needs help. A sign should be on the door as well as the chalkboard of the classroom with the teacher's name and other welcoming and supporting information.

    Check every registration card to be sure that the correct student is coming into your classroom. Otherwise, help the student to quickly get to the correct room.

  2. Where am I supposed to sit? You have two choices, open seating or assigned seating. When the students enter the classroom of an effective teacher, they all know where to stand, sit, or be. Thus, when you greet your students at the door on the first day of school, you might want to assign the seating for that day immediately. This can be done in many different ways and suggestions are made in the book, The First Days of School, or the video series, The Effective Teacher.

    The hallmark of effective teachers is that they listen to their students. A sixth grade student in Las Vegas said, "I like having assigned seating on the first day of school. Sometimes you walk into a class where you barely know anyone. Having assigned seats may not put you close to your friends, but at least you won't feel like a loser because no one wants to sit next to you."

    If you want to make a good impression, invite your students to take an assigned seat, much like a gracious host or hostess would invite you in to sit-and offer you something to drink.

  3. What are the rules in this classroom? Every student knows that he or she is to behave. They are just waiting for the discipline plan to be revealed so that they know the limits on the classroom. Effective teachers have a hard copy of a discipline plan ready for explanation. Every student gets a copy, a copy should be sent home, a large copy needs to be posted on the classroom wall, and extra copies are made available as new students enter throughout the school year.

    If you do not have a plan, you are planning to fail. Have a plan and work the plan. For help with a discipline plan, read chapters 18 and 19 in The First Days of School, access, or read Cooperative Discipline by Linda Albert.

  4. What will I be doing this year? Effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures, whereas ineffective teachers discipline the students with threats and punishments. The key word to understand is "procedures." Procedures have to do with teaching students what to do in the classroom, such as what to do if the teacher wants the class's attention, what to do upon entering the classroom, and how to make entries in a journal.

    Effective teachers spend the first two weeks of school teaching students how to be responsible for their behavior and their learning. Students want to succeed and they want to be taught how to do things, but they can only succeed if they are shown the procedure for how to do things.

    Procedures will be explained in more detail next month (or read unit C in The First Days of School).

  5. How will I be graded? Although it is perfectly understandable that students want to know about their grade, the effective teacher is much more concerned with getting the students to complete the assignments and passing the tests. Grades are the after-effect of the assignment and the test.

    Effective teachers do not grade using the "curve." In an effective classroom, the students earn their own grade based on their mastery of the learning criteria. It would be best to wait until day 2 or 3 to explain this concept to your students or better yet, when you give them their first assignment. We will discuss the assignment, test, and grading in subsequent months (or read unit D in The First Days of School).

  6. Who is the teacher as a person? Many teachers take a small section of a bulletin board and create a "personality bulletin board," which contains a collage of personal items about the teacher, such as pictures and objects about the teacher's life, work, and family. If you are a K-1 teacher, you may find this more effectively done by placing objects about yourself in a bag and pulling the objects out one at a time and discussing each-a teacher's own show and tell.

    We've had our students bring objects about themselves to be posted on a personality bulletin board showing the students' work and their achievement. Using this technique the message is made clear that every person in the classroom is important.

  7. Will the teacher treat me as a human being? Everyone wants to be treated with respect, dignity, and love, whether that person is a teacher, administrator, or student. You have seven seconds to create that perception beginning with
    • how you treat yourself with respect, dignity, and love,
    • how you greet your students at the door,
    • how you dress,
    • what signs are posted in your classroom,
    • the message on the chalkboard,
    • the obviousness that you are organized and ready, and
    • that you are in control of the learning environment for the classroom.
    The ineffective teacher is more concerned with doing "my thing" and can't wait to start with a fun activity so that he or she can be the student's friend or pal. The students are not looking for fun. They are looking for security, consistency, respect, dignity, and care and you can convey that message on the first day of school by conveying how well you are organized. Your classroom management skill will tell the students if the class will be exciting or boring, whether they will learn or fail, and if you will light or blow out their candle.
Please Share With Us

Your kindness in sharing your first day of school organization or script with us will be most appreciated. It can be E-mailed to us or sent to us at Harry K. Wong Publications, 943 North Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA 94043.

We wish all of you a very successful start to a new school year. We truly believe that you can be a very effective teacher. This is because, each of you are

  • destined for accomplishment,
  • engineered for success, and
  • endowed with seeds of greatness.

Use the resources available to you to make this year your best ever year of teaching.

For a printable version of this article click here.

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