This is what I love about this time of year. The rather fuzzy, yet thoughtfully planned, classroom vision I established in the summer now comes into clearer focus as my students and I settle into our routines.
I also know from experience that during these first months of school, my primary focus must be on cultivating a positive, mutually supportive classroom culture rooted in clear expectations. As I teach these expectations, routines, and procedures to my students, I find it extremely helpful to make visuals, so I can post them in my classroom and reference them all year long.
Here are a handful of inspirational visual ideas that you can create now, teach and practice with students. The best part about these is you can use them all throughout the year. Let’s get started.
1. Class syllabus
When my instructional coach asked me to make a syllabus for my sixth grade history class, I remember thinking that it wasn’t a good use of my time. “A syllabus is for college students, not middle schoolers,” I thought. Plus, I had lesson plans to make, a behavior system to finesse, and individualized goals to set.
Creating a syllabus, however, actually helped me to clarify my classroom vision, which then made it easier for me to share this vision with students and parents.
A syllabus helps in keeping us all on the same page for the entire year.
2. Presentation template that outlines the instructional flow of the class
One of my teacher friends, whom I admire greatly, uses this strategy: She creates slides for each portion of her lesson cycle and uses it as a template each day. This way, she’s not reinventing the wheel each day, but plugging in relevant graphics, questions, and key ideas to reflect the daily objective.
Create a classroom presentation in Piktochart.
3. Note taking template
We know how important it is to teach students good study habits like note taking. So, providing them with a template at the beginning of the year will help them practice the right way (read: the way we as the classroom teachers think is best).
4. Class Binder Or Notebook Expectations
Do you want your students to keep their work in a binder or notebook, organized in a specific way? Should they turn it in to you at predetermined intervals and store them in a certain location? If so, you can create a visual that communicates these expectations to students that encompasses layout, rubric for grading, and instructions for how to take care of it. Then, post it in a strategic location for reference.
5. Data Tracking System
Whether our schools formally requires data tracking or not, we know tracking student performance helps hold us and our students accountable.
Here are a couple of examples of visuals you can make and use for whole class data tracking, and for individual student tracking as well. I particularly like this whole-class tracker because you can edit it and use it to track mastery on standards, tests and quizzes, behavior expectations, and classroom goals.
6. Classroom Library and Materials Check-out
Anytime students are borrowing materials from the classroom (books, science equipment, or other classroom resources), it’s important to establish and share your expectations.
Whether it’s appropriate to check out materials, how you will keep track of who has what materials, by when they should be returned, how you will ensure they are treated appropriately – expectations for all should be communicated in advance. Create a visual with these instructions, and post it where the materials are stored.
See an example here.
7. Incentive Plan
When students are working towards a goal (behavioral, academic, or other), it often helps to have an incentive plan to keep them motivated. For example, when I set reading growth goals with my students, I also share with them the ways we will celebrate as they meet their goals whether it’s positive letters home, recognition from the principal.
This all helps to reinforce their hard work. Once you establish an incentive plan, create a visual reminder to keep students invested in the goal.
8. Steps And Strategies for Skills Students Need All Year Long
In any classroom, there are strategies we teach students that they can use almost daily. These encompass how to break down word problems in math, reading strategies like using context clues, making an inference, asking questions of the text, and so on. Turn these high-leverage strategies into visuals so students can build the habit of using them.
9. Morning Routine And Beginning Of Class
Especially in self-contained classrooms, this routine sets the tone for the rest of the day. When we set clear expectations for the morning: How students will greet the teacher, where they will sit, where they store their backpack and materials, what they will work on while other students trickle in, and what their volume level should be — we put our students on the path to a productive day.
10. Transitioning From Recess, Lunch, Extracurriculars
I put these in a separate category because I find I need a different procedure when kids are coming to my classroom after any unstructured time, whether it’s recess, lunch hour, or from an extracurricular activity. This transition is really important to setting the tone for the rest of the class time.
11. Assigning And Collecting Homework
Whatever your opinion is about homework, if you decide to assign it, you need to have a procedure in place for collecting it and holding students accountable to it.
12. Dismissal And End Of The Day
The last minutes of a school day can often feel the most frenzied, but the last thing we want is to end our instructional day feeling overwhelmed, disorganized, and exhausted.
Establishing a classroom dismissal routine help ensure that we end the day on a positive note with our students, and with our classrooms restored to order, so we can all be prepared for the next day.
Get started in Piktochart!
If you want to start trying out some of these ideas in Piktochart, we have a few templates you can begin with – from infographics to presentations. Click here to get started