September 19th, 2013

First Year of Teaching Survival Skills – Establishing Guidelines and Structures

Megan Scherer, Ed.M., PLS 3rd Learning Director of Course Development

Starting your first year of teaching can be one of the most exciting and overwhelming points of your career. Designing your first lesson plans, sending out welcome letters to students and meeting new colleagues are the first steps to a year of success. However, establishing classroom guidelines and structures with your students will go a long way toward setting the tone for a positive culture for learning. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:

Create Classroom Guidelines with Your Students.

Regardless of the age of your students, classroom guidelines and parameters should be created the first few weeks of school. In doing so, students will have a clear understanding of expected conduct to maximize learning opportunities.

  • You should create a list of no more than five guidelines that exhibit positive, observable behaviors instead of negative ones. For example, “Listen when others are speaking.”
  • You can then discuss specific examples of what this guideline means and would look like in the classroom.
  • Writing guidelines with your students places additional responsibility on them and promotes a community of learners within your classroom.
  • Display your guidelines in a visible space where your students can see and review them regularly.

Arrange Seats According to Learning Styles.

The students in your classroom will most likely have an array of learning styles. You will learn more about your students and discover their learning styles over time. Creating a seating arrangement that accommodates to each style will promote effective learning as their needs are met.

Here are some tips to create seating structures for each style:

  • Kinesthetic Learners: Arrange students in a space where they can move freely when necessary.
  • Tactual Learners: Place these students in a space where they can see, touch, and move to experience learning.
  • Auditory Learners: These students often thrive when they are seated front and center of the classroom. Positioning these learners here enables them to listen and absorb instruction more effectively.
  • Visual Learners: Place these students in a space where they can see and hear everything. Creating diagrams and graphics to portray concepts and knowledge will assist in contextualizing new knowledge. Hang or display anchor charts, concept maps, and graphic organizers in places where they can easily be references and reviewed.

Don’t be afraid to turn to seasoned colleagues for insight on what works in their classrooms. And keep in mind that professional development and professional learning community opportunities, as well as mentoring, can also help you make the transition from a successful student of education to an educator successfully reaching students.

Are you a first-year teacher with a question for the NYLearns team? What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you during your first year of teaching? Share it with us below – and don’t forget to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be sharing even more tips and advice!


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