You want to be prepared for your new class in September.
Give your class the wrong impression on Day One, and it’s hard to recover.
That means planning ahead – now.
Step 1: transition day
Most schools have a transition day (or lesson) in July, where classes get to meet their new teacher.
This is a priceless opportunity to gather evidence about your future class.
The key things find out are:
- which combinations of children are good for each other?
- which combinations of students are bad for each other?
Here’s a simple, but brilliantly effective, way of finding out good/bad seating arrangements for your students (you absolutely don’t want to get this wrong in September).
On transition day, set out the tables as they will be in autumn. When the children come in, ask them to sit wherever they choose, with whomever they want.
Now, either you (or a teaching assistant), mark where every child sat on a furniture plan. Run your introductory lesson as normal – you’ll probably want to focus on routines and expectations, and to answer any questions your students have about next year.
At the end of the day, put the seating plan somewhere safe. Put it in a frame and hang it in front of your desk as a reminder: because it is the worst seating plan you could possibly use.
It will do two things:
- tell you which pupils should, under no circumstances, be sitting next to each other – because they impact poorly on each other’s behaviour as a group
- identify friendship groups for those more sensitive children – who will positively benefit from sitting next to their friends
Step 2: learn from their current teacher’s experience
Don’t reinvent the wheel or make avoidable mistakes in September.
That means talking to your class’s current teacher – as soon as possible.
The following questions will tell you everything you need to know:
- What motivates the class as a whole? (So you can filter any rewards/consequences systems through their interests, increasing their motivation and improving behaviour from day one)
- What reward systems has the teacher tried? Were they effective? Why did they work (or not work)?
- What kind of task do the class respond well to? (For instance, do they work better on open-ended, creative tasks? Or do they work better on structured activities?)
- Do they work well socially, in groups or in pairs? Or are they better working individually?
- What kinds of successful strategies has the teacher used to support children with special needs? (And what should you avoid at all costs?)
- Who are the key parents on the playground? (Rightly or wrongly, some parents have more influence than others – ignore this at your peril. Find out who these are, and what strategies their teacher used win them over.)
- Which parents are more challenging – and what kind of responses were most effective?
(Parental support is vital, and needs to be actively managed. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out our article ‘Three Steps to Building Parental Support‘).
Finally, get the teacher to highlight what they believe to be good/bad combinations of children. Are there any important friendship groups that should not be separated? Who should you avoid sitting together?
If the teacher’s list agrees with your own observations, you know you’re on the right track.
Your next step is to put together a seating plan for September, while all this information is still fresh in your mind.
Remember, when it comes to classroom management, two of your biggest weapons of influence are how you lay out your furniture and where you sit your students.
So it pays to plan ahead now.
When putting together your seating plan, refer to your notes from transition day:
- support children who impact on each other badly, by sitting them away from each other (preferably on different tables)
- support more sensitive children, by placing them next to their friends
You now have all the information you need to hit the ground running in September – from ideas for adapting whole class systems, providing individual support for SEN students, the best seating plan possible, to managing parental perceptions and expectations.