Create Positive Learning Environment at Beginning of School Year

Whether a novice or a veteran, teachers often feel anxious to begin a new school year. This is because teachers know how instrumental the first few days of school are in establishing student expectations, classroom procedures and an academically nurturing atmosphere. Teachers must begin school fully prepared, armed with tools and techniques to start a successful school year. Here are some tips to keep in mind while teachers prepare for the first day of school.

Establish Student Expectations and Procedures

Teachers who establish clear student expectations early in the school year are preparing their students for success and ensuring a well-run classroom. No matter what grade level they are in, students should understand that they are expected to rise to the occasion and succeed in their classes. Teachers can explain that they will provide students will the knowledge and academic tools to be successful but that it is up to the students individually to use these tools and actively engage in their own learning. Teachers should brainstorm, reflect on the previous school year, and create their own list of student expectations. Here are a few to consider.


  • All students will maintain their binders and notebooks in an organized fashion.
  • Students are responsible for writing down and completing their homework assignments each night.
  • All students should expect success and come to class mentally and physically prepared to learn.
  • Students are required to bring a notebook, textbook and pen or pencil to class each day.
  • It is the student’s responsibility to complete make-up work immediately following an absence.

Once a list has been created, it should be pared down to an essential list of three to six expectations, depending on the students’ grade level. Then, teachers should ask themselves what specific procedures they can develop in class to help students meet these expectations. These procedures should be clarified in a separate policies and procedures document that is written by the teacher and addressed to students and their parents.

Create a Positive Atmosphere in the Classroom

Since students thrive on routine, one effective way teachers can create a positive atmosphere is by establishing routines with which students can become familiar from the first week of school. Daily routines allow students to prepare in advance and develop an academic rhythm for their learning. These routines can be as simple as a task-specific “bell ringer” – an activity designed for students to complete independently during the first five to ten minutes of class. Other routines include the way in which students interact.

Teachers should consider providing ample opportunities for students to work cooperatively. Gone are the days of constant teacher-led instruction. If students can expect that they will be researching a unit-related question in small groups every Friday, or that they will complete paired reading and discussion for the first half of class twice per week, they will grow more engaged in their learning. Helping students take charge of their own learning through active participation will inspire students to perform. When students feel they are positively contributing to the class, they feel a vested interested in what they are learning.

As teachers prepare materials for the first week of school, they should start by envisioning their ideal classroom – including how they would prefer for students to act, how they would engage with their material, and the overall feeling that would be created in the classroom. Imagining specific desired outcomes is the first step in creating a positive learning environment. Teachers can then identify student expectations and classroom procedures that will help make this vision a reality in the new school year.

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