DL #19: The First Days of School

  • Authors
  • Deborah Taub, Ph.D.
  • Elizabeth Reyes, Ph.D.
  • Jessica Bowman, Ph.D

Preparing for the 2020-21 school year is a perfect contradiction: both the same and different from past years. The structures and practices teachers have always used to start the school year are just as important as ever. At the same time, the processes and flexibility needed may feel very different than in past years. Similar to one of the 5C Process principles, the need to create classroom norms and rules, build relationships, and develop routines remains the same even if the learning environment changes. After checking out ideas and strategies to help before school begins, look here for some ideas, tools, and scripts to help get your inclusive classroom started on the first few days of school.

First Days of School Checklist

  • Setting class norms
  • Involving students who use Augmentive and Alternative Communication (AAC)
  • Supporting student relationships
  • Ideas for initial student relationship-building
  • Ideas for ongoing relationship-building
  • Basic guidance on accessibility

Teachers help set themselves, other educators, and families for success by beginning with an outlined plan for the first days of school. These steps also reduce anxiety because everyone feels like the “ground has firmed up” to some degree when there is a plan in place.

The First Day of School

Setting Class Norms

Consider building whole class norms that allow for continuity between online and in-person delivery. For instance, The Center for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) has a resource on Creating a PBIS Behavior Teaching Matrix for Remote Instruction that focuses on “safety, respect, and responsibility” These three big ideas could easily be the framework for both online and in-person delivery with specific differences explained. Here is an example of how to pivot norms across learning delivery .

How to Involve Students Who Use or Are Learning AAC

Consider sharing a picture, video, or describing a situation while you are making class norms. For instance, “Jose and Maddie both want to talk to the teacher. The teacher can’t hear them both at the same time. What should our class rule be when two people want to talk at the same time?”

Make sure students who use AAC have some key core and fringe words available to them. Check out Project Core for some ideas. Core words such as “help”, “good”, “play”, “stop”, “I”, “you”, “want” can be used to create class norms such as “play good”, “I help you. You help I”.

“Good” can be used to vote for a norm. “Stop” can be used to vote against a norm.

Collaborate with a speech-language pathologist and the family to identify and add new words.

Have class Core Boards posted for everyone to use (on the classroom wall, on each student’s desk, shared on the screen during online meetings, sent home for every student so they can all model using it during class, etc.).

Full post on the ICI webpub system at the TIES Center