How do you establish a safe and welcoming classroom climate at the same time you teach your rules, procedures, and daily routines for your students? The beginning of the year is such a stressful time (I feel like I talk nonstop ALL DAY that first week) because we are modeling the behaviors we want students to follow for the entire year and also trying to reinforce the positive behaviors we are observing. Here is one of my favorite ways to engage students in creating a welcoming classroom climate at the beginning of the year: we write a promise to each other!
In the past years I have called this a pledge, a mission statement, classroom rules, our motto…I am going with promise this year! All kids have schema about a promise! We begin by having a serious :) discussion about why we are at school and the responsibilities of the students and the teachers. While working in cooperative groups, I give students the opportunity to talk about what will make our classroom a fun place for all students to feel safe, smart, and special. Yes, I use the three “S” words when explaining it to them! What does a special group of students look like when they are walking in the hallway? What does a smart group of readers look like when it is independent reading time? How can each student feel safe every day as they come to school to learn and have fun? Each group shares their ideas about what a welcoming classroom climate looks and sounds like by role playing, presenting an illustration, or just talking about what they came up with as a group.
I then read several short stories with the same theme-demonstrate good character and follow through on your promises! One of my favorites, especially since I love Dr. Seuss, is Horton Hatches the Egg. In this heart-warming book, an elephant named Horton is tricked by Mayzie, a lazy bird, into sitting on her nest while she is resting on a sunny beach. But because Horton gave his word to Mayzie he faithfully sits on the precious egg through a thunderstorm, sleet, and snow! He remains faithful even when he is ridiculed by friends and when hunters aim their rifles at his heart. Horton faithfully repeats the mantra, “I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful one hundred percent!”
After reading, discussing, and working together, I finally introduce the promise posters. As you can see, I made them much cuter over the summer! I would describe these as our “rules” to families at Curriculum Night.
Speaking of promises…