Back To School Ideas:
The September Google Hangout!
(Tuesday Sept 3rd)

This September, back to school ideas will be the theme of our Google Hangout. Back to school stress need not be problem for you if you are clear on how best to set your classes up right at the start of the year.


Your first lesson with each new class therefore is vital, if you want to reap the benefits of a proactive stance on classroom management throughout the year. I write about my preferred method of setting each new class that I teach in my book, 'The Behavior Blueprint'.

How do Google Hangouts work?

Its simple. If you do not have one already, the only requirement is a Google e-mail address, which is free to set up. Then create a very basic Google+ profile for yourself. Once you have done this, simply fill in the form at the bottom of this page and I will send you detailed instructions and a link so that you can decide if you would like to appear on screen in the hangout itself or simply watch it live on YouTube and add your comments as we go.

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'New Class: First Lesson'

To get you in the mood, I am adding a summary of a discussion thread that I began here  on the excellent Times Educational Supplement Behavior Forum, with the above title: 



Teaching Strategies for Classroom Discipline:

First lessons. We all know they set the tone for your year

A mate of mine recently told me that it took him at least five years to get his first lesson right as he couldn't quite 'get the right balance between fun and menace'.

Doing some NQT training in Sept and realizing just how how true it is that if you get the balance wrong, then you become 'the fun teacher that no-one wants to listen to, or if you are too menacing that the kids will just want to take you on and you create unnecessary battles.

How do you communicate your expectations to the kids? Do you use a classroom contract and if so, how much input do you let the kids have without giving away your authority?

Do you line them up? Use a seating plan? How much of the lesson do you spend on introductory stuff before you get into the lesson proper?

I've got some ideas but would love some more, particularly if you have any thoughts on the above dilemma.


How do I communicate my expectations to the kids?

I tell them my two, non-negotiable rules are 'Be Polite' and 'Work Hard'. (I think I stole them from a film, but can't remember which!) Those two rules go into the middle of a spider diagram and then we talk about what I might be looking for or not looking for that meets these rules and I write those round the edge. I find this works as I give the rules, but they think about what the rules mean and effectively agree by giving examples and no-one has ever objected.

In secondary I just got on with the lesson and they picked up the rules as we went along. It was in the days before pupil voice and contracts and all that were seen as mainstream rather than weird and wacky.

Do I line them up?

Not now I'm primary, but I did in middle and secondary.

Use a seating plan?

For literacy and numeracy lessons, yes for all else they choose. I do say that if they consistently make poor choices then I will have to choose for them. Few children ever do. (In middle and secondary I let them choose for the first week while I got to know them and then sat them in ability groups.)

How much of the lesson do I  spend on introductory stuff before you get into the lesson proper?

About an hour or so now, then a few mins at the start of every 'first lesson'. In secondary about 5-10 mins.


I'm going along this line this time round. Last year I was more wishy washy and wanted the pupils to help formulate the class rules. This year I'm telling them what they are!!!

I like minnie's idea of then asking them what they look like in practice. I hope it will give them enough ownership but remind them that I am in charge!

Oh, I'm also going to have a seating plan in place from the outset. Again, last year I let them sit where they wanted for the first couple of days. This time round, expectations and routine are going to be much more explicit.


How do I communicate my expectations to the kids?

 Listen, you little wiseacre: I'm smart, you're dumb; I'm big, you're little; I'm right, you're wrong, and there's nothing you can do about it.

 ...and stop smiling.  You're not here to enjoy yourselves.


My first lesson (primary) is all about behaviour and rules.  And I start out as strict as I will be from then on.  We talk about rules and they suggest things that are examples of the rules not working.  We discuss the sanctions system and the visual reminder that I have as part of my behaviour display.  We discuss rewards too.  We talk about good sitting and good listening (picture prompts for the wall from twinkl - to be backed up with photos of the children doing the same thing to add to a wall display by the carpet area).

 We talk about where everything is that they may need on a regular basis and when it is appropriate to go and get them.  (It drives me mad when children get up to get something when I am talking to the class for example, and I don't allow it).  I tell them where to keep their things and where they should put their water bottles and pencil cases - both banned from being on tables this year due to fiddling and spillage issues.  Also, it drives me mad when children are slurping from their bottles constantly, then need to ask for the toilet half way through the lesson as a result.  I also make a little time for a question and answer session 

 It takes a lot more than just the first lesson to get behaviour right.  I also put time aside in small chunks to practice and practice how to come into the classroom, how to line up, how to walk to the hall, how to stand in the hall and leave enough space by them so they aren't squashed when the line sits down, how to line up for a fire drill as we have one in the first few days and I usually have at least one child in tears when the loud alarm goes off.... the list goes on, but the practice pays off.

I agree with the practising bit, especially if you have year 1 children and year 3 as those years can mean a lot of transition and changes. The year 1's often have to get used to asking for the toilet or they just leave.


How do I communicate your expectations to the kids?

We have a set of school rules on display in every room.  I talk through these and explain what they mean in my room

Do I use a classroom contract and if so, how much input do you let the kids have without giving away your authority?


Do I line them up?  Yes

Use a seating plan? Yes 

How much of the lesson do I spend on introductory stuff before I get into the lesson proper?

About half to three quarters.  Your priority in the first lesson is sussing them out, getting them seated where you want them and setting the tone.  Actually, that is my priority for the first 3 lessons really.  Dive straight into the curriculum and spend the rest of the year playing catch-up with your expectations I find.  Get them answering a questionnaire about themselves, who to call when they have been good etc... Have a gooooood looooong look at how they interact with each other.  You will never again be able to recapture this moment.


 start every year with one lesson per year group where I get the kids to write my own classroom expectations into the front of their book... it takes a whole lesson because I explain the reasoning behind them all and ask them to join in.

My expectations range from the tedious 'always write in a blue or black pen' to 'don't be a sheep'. Of course I ask what sheep do and get a classroom full of bleating children to which I respond... exactly ... don't make stupid noises in my class...and go on to talk about how stupid sheep are in just copying the sheep in front of them. I've only once had a kid tell me they shit everywhere... to which I responded by telling him not to do that in class and to mind his mouth in future. The point being I try to keep things pretty light hearted while telling them what I expect of them. I also tell them to always have a go at tasks set, explaining that getting stuff wrong is okay... their arms don't fall off if they get the answer wrong and we usually learn most from our mistakes.

 The most important expectation takes some explaining though. 'Always be responsible for your own actions and not the actions of others.' I take time to explain that in general if I ask them to stop throwing paper or something like that then if they just say sorry and stop, the worst that will happen is that I'm going to ask them to pick it all up at the end of the lesson. But if they do that horrid thing and start telling me they didn't do it... well now they're telling me a lie and that's serious... that's informing the head of year and writing incident slips and all that. I point out that I've been standing in a classroom a lot longer than they have and pretty much always have a good idea what's going on.. so when they say, 'it wasn't me' when I know it was... it's a bit like they just called me stupid. And I don't like being called stupid. I then go on to explain that I don't want them to tell me about the behaviour of others because... well it's none of their business. I'm the one in charge of behaviour management in the room not them. I might have decided that Tommy is dropping equipment out of the window because he wants attention... I might have decided that I'm not going to give him that attention but make him collect all the items at the and of the lesson... I don't need them to tell me. I also don't want a class full of snitches telling me that Jenny isn't doing her work. I might know something about Jenny that they don't know... her father might be in hospital or her dog might have died that morning... I might be giving her some space and the last thing she needs is you telling tales on her.

I think every teacher needs to develop their own set of classroom expectations... if these are useful in any way you're welcome to borrow them... but I think setting the tone is very important. I never ask my kids to contribute to the overall rules because my last one is that I'm the boss... the buck stops with me so I get to say what happens in my room, if they have a problem with that they're welcome to discuss any problems or issues at the end of a lesson but I'm not going to argue with a child in the middle of a lesson, wasting the learning time of others. In different lessons I might ask them to come up with a set of guidelines for group work or for having a class discussion which helps them feel a part of the process and makes them think about why we ask them to work in a certain way.

I'd talk to the NQTs about tone of voice and body language... tell them to watch super nanny for ideas on that one! And tell them never to say please when asking a student to do something.... always tell them what to do and say thank you before they do it... the psychology of thanking them because you assume they will do as asked is very powerful.


Oh music to my ears.....fab stuff, pretty much what I do too. Particularly the bit about 'this is my class - my rules'. I don't do the 'what would you like to see in here?' bit. If you're 14, I don't much care what you would like to see happen. I'll tell you what's going to happen. And then you can't say you haven't been warned. Or you didn't understand what the rules were. Like you I never, ever argue with a kid in the midst of a lesson - a brisk 'see me at break. I'll discuss it then if it's important to you' is the most they'll get. Occasionally when I've had a kid tell me, 'so and so did this' I've responded with, 'Goodness me - how have I ever survived 20 years in teaching without YOU to help me?' It tends to shut them up. The other thing I do is put them in a seating plan, boy/girl alphabetically to start with. It helps me learn names, makes it unlikely they are sitting with all their mates, and makes the point that this is my territory. I'll maybe shift them later when I know them all.

I always reinforce the school charter which tells the kids what we expect of them and when they should expect of us in return. Consequently, if I am late to class on my duty day, I ALWAYS apologise and explain why I am late. If I haven't been able to mark their books because of whatever reason, again, I always apologise and explain. To me, that is common curtsey.

In the dark ages when I trained, we were always told that you can lighten up on classroom control but you can't tighten up. That first lesson sets the standard for the whole year. I've always been firm but fair, I hope. Yes, a seating plan is a definite for me. If you get it wrong, there's no problem as it can be altered. Line up? Definitely! You MUST have order at the beginning.

I expect to spend half to three quarters of the lesson setting the scene but that scene is ALWAYS my room, my rules! It has to be. One can be 'human' without being seen as a pushover. My room is not a democracy-it can't be.


Makes sense.  I agree better strict to start with, get to know your class, build up a relationship and then you can relax, but it is possible to put the brakes back on. High mobility can mean that the need to reinforce rules.

I like the fact that you reinforce the school charter. Every teacher is not an island and having consistent rules across the school definitely helps children and other teachers.

You sound like a great teacher who lets respect go both ways.