Why You Need To Give Frequent Reminders The First Week Of School

Smart Classroom Management: Why You Need To Give Frequent Reminders The First Week Of School

“Hey, no talking during the lesson.”

“I said to walk!”

“Stop pushing in line.”

No, these aren’t the type of reminders I’m referring to.

In fact, they’re examples of what you should never do—first week of school or not—because they’re reminders given after misbehavior has already begun.

Which, if you’re a regular reader of SCM, then you know is a mistake.

The reason is that post-misbehavior reminders replace true accountability. They’re given instead of enforcing a consequence.

They’re no more than a veiled threat that results in more misbehavior, not less.

So what’s a good reminder?

Good reminders are those given before misbehavior has a chance to occur, and they should be used generously during the first week of school.

Here’s why:

1. Reminders eliminate misbehavior.

When you anticipate the possibility that misbehavior may come up—pushing while lining up, for example—and you give a quick reminder, then you all but eliminate the chances of it happening.

You remove the excuses, misunderstandings, and forgetfulness beforehand.

This very effectively makes misbehavior a hard choice for students rather than an impulsive act. It makes even minor misbehavior appear brazen and absurd, completely out of place within your calm, orderly classroom.

2. Reminders help groove success.

By subverting misbehavior in advance, you have far fewer interruptions. Thus, everything runs smoother and you’re able to begin grooving success and developing good habits.

This is critical in the beginning of the school year because success begets success.

It infects every little thing you do and will snowball as the weeks go by. It launches your students down the right path from day one, which is far easier to maintain than trying to scratch and claw your way there later in the year.

3. Reminders make you more consistent.

When you give pre-misbehavior reminders, you remove the awkwardness of enforcing consequences. Without any justification for them to lean on, you have the misbehaving student dead to rights.

They know they’ve transgressed the rules by choice. They know they deserve it. Thus, there isn’t anything for them to do or say or argue about other than accept the consequence.

Clarity, which reminders help provide, makes enforcing consequences easier and less stressful.

The Formula

In time, as your students prove they can perform routines, transitions, and activities without a hitch, you’ll give fewer and fewer reminders.

Your trust in them and their abilities will grow, and you’ll gradually shift more and more responsibility over to them with less input from you. It’s a formula for a mature, goal-driven class that gets things done.

That increasingly sees misbehavior as silly and beneath them. Yes, even your most challenging students.

But it starts with a simple reminder on the first day of school.

“Before I say ‘go,’ remember to line up quietly and keep your hands to yourself.”

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18 thoughts on “Why You Need To Give Frequent Reminders The First Week Of School”

  1. Hi,
    Could you include more examples of teacher dialogue to help “remind” teachers of what to say instead of what not to say? I need help in understanding.
    thanks. Dale

    • “In a minute, but not yet, we will be going out for a 3 minute break. Remember, this is how it looks and sounds: stay in the area by your classroom, speak in a normal voice tone (have a couple of students model that behavior); I’ll be out in the hall with my timer. When you hear the timer, please return to class, quickly and quietly.” Ready, please enjoy your 3 minute break.”

      In a minute, but not yet…..works beautifully for many prompts academically as well as behaviorally.

  2. I also would like more examples of how to give reminders and respond when a student breaks a classroom rule. I teach 7th and 8th graders. I have the high school additionof the classroom management plan, but I still struggle with how you tell a student they have broken a rule without embarrassing them in front of the class. It would really help me to see examples of specific words to say.

    • From Capturing Kids Hearts I found these 4 questions really help with focus. Use proximity to the student and a quieter voice so as to now embarrass and ask:
      1) What are you doing?
      2) What are you suppose to be doing?
      3) Are you doing it?
      4) What are you going to do about it?
      If you google the CKH 4 questions, you will find them in poster form which might help to post them in the beginning of the year and explain how they will be utilized in your classroom. I would recommend looking for CKH training or curriculum as it is an amazing help! And no – I don’t work for the company!

    • I am a high school chemistry teacher. Keep it simple and factual. As I interpret the HS plan book, your warning is simply to, “politely ask them to stop a particular rule-breaking behavior” or make lingering eye contact. My rules are posted up front and at the back of the room so at any time I am able to point to it for a student. We modeled the rules often the first 3 weeks last year. (block schedule so that is roughly 8 class periods).

      For example, my rule #5 is: Do not handle lab materials until teacher says Go.

      If a student were handling lab materials before I said Go I would walk to them and quietly say, “Sam, Rule #5 please stop handling the glassware now. Wait until I say Go.” If Sam breaks this rule again (or any other rule) in the same class he gets an after class conference per the HS plan.

      True confessions–the HS plan says to have up to 12-14 rules in the HS classroom but I found it impossible to keep track of that. So after doing the exercise to identify all possible misbehavior I want to curb, I wrote all possible rules and then I consolidated those into 7 rules that I am able to consistently enforce in my science classroom.
      My rules are:
      1. Come on time.
      2. Be on task.
      3. Raise your hand to speak during lessons (instruction).
      4. Respect your classmates and the teacher.
      5. Do not handle lab materials until the teacher says GO.
      6. Do not bring food, drinks or gum into class.
      7. Follow all class procedures.

      Also we have a school-wide rule of no personal cell phones out in class so that is not on my list but it would be if there was not the school rule.

  3. You can also use music as a cue to remind students of the procedure. For example, if it’s time for math instruction the teacher can play a chosen song (Mission Impossible was my choice while teaching 6th grade). At the beginning of the year, model what will happen when the music is played. Then have students practice what they will do when that music begins…I’ve made it into a contest between groups which keeps the fun factor! I used the NBC tones for labeling papers, Jeopardy theme song to prepare for a quiz and different songs for clean up. Makes my day smoother and students can’t argue with the music because everyone knows what each song is telling them to do!

  4. I just read your last book. I found it very interesting with tones of good advice.
    Could you give some example of consequence between the mildest (warning) and the extreme (detention with a message to parents)?
    Thank you very much

  5. Could you make a short video, without students, to show you explaining your rules, and then what you say or do when a rule is broken? Just have the video of yourself, and put up a slide that says student talks back, or student is rude to another student, or student is off task, etc. That would be helpful. You have good ideas, but most of your blog space is about what not to do rather than giving details about what to do.

  6. For those asking for examples, I always say things like this with my high schoolers:
    “So as you start to type your paper, remember that you are working silently and independently….”
    “Remember that as soon as you get into your group, you are working on the assignment and it needs to be done and turned in to the basket before the bell…”
    “We’re about to go to the library so remember that you are going to walk like young adults in the hall and respect the classes that are working hard as you walk by….”
    That way, I don’t wait for them to chat instead of work, get off task, or be loud in the halls instead of walking nicely. I “correct” the behavior before it has happened.

  7. For a few people above asking about examples: I like to preview with my middle school students what the ‘wrong ‘way is to make sure everyone is clear and reminded of expectations. I’ll say something like ‘We are going to move quickly into our small groups now. What would the wrong way to do this look like?’ And take a few examples, then ask ‘what’s the right way?’ After they’ve reminded themselves, I say ‘ok you’ve got this, now go!’ Cuts down on misbehavior drastically.

  8. Hello,

    I am an elementary music teacher who sees each class in the school (k-6th) twice a week for 45 minutes for one semester (I teach at 2 schools). Do you have any tips for implementing a SCM classroom when their home room teachers might be struggling with classroom management?

    Also, do you use a seating chart or let students choose their own seats (once? Each class?) I have experienced a lot of drama and resentment with seating charts. I did a search for this topic on your website, but didn’t find anything.


    • I suggest reading Michael Linsin’s book “Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE,” if you haven’t read it. It is relatively short and easy. He says that a specialist teacher can have a LEVEL of classroom management, but that it largely depends on the classroom management (or lack of management) of the classroom teacher (which is a large percentage of the teachers who are not consistent) since we specialist teachers don’t have the leverage of time with the students to develop the relationships that the classroom teachers have (and other factors). We do have SOME leverage with our subjects being intrinsically interesting, but good classroom management is more challenging for specialists, Michael Linsin explains.

      I may be biased, but I think that teaching music is especially challenging because it is the only subject whose main goal, most of the time, is to get the class to cooperate together as an ensemble (playing instruments, singing, dancing, playing music games, creating together) besides developing individual skills and knowledge.

      I can’t remember, but I think he advocates for assigned seating for specials classes. I always had assigned seats, and the students would sit every time in their assigned seats except for active games, dancing and movement activities, playing instruments, and small groups for creating, etc., and they usually could choose their locations for those. Occasionally, the students would ask me to change their assigned seats because their classroom teachers did it all of the time, but I asked them how often they changed seating in their classrooms. I then told them that if I lumped all of the time I had them in music class for the entire year into the amount of time their classroom teachers see them (taking out recess, lunch, specials times, etc.), I would only see them five school days all year. Sometimes I would change the seating charts at the semester, though.

      Yes, I found that it was challenging to change bad habits of the students in my music classes whose classroom teachers didn’t follow the rules of the school or even their own rules. (For example, students in some classes usually were allowed to blurt out without consequences against the stated rules of raising hands first in their own classes or other areas, but then the teachers yelled at the students often only after the class became chaotic.) I only saw the students once per week for forty minutes, and with so much time in between classes for the students to forget (even though singing the “Music Rules Song” was part of every opening music class routine), some students were resentful that I consistently enforced my rules because they thought it was silly or extreme since their classroom teachers (and even principal) didn’t enforce the rules. (BTW, we had to call rules “expectations”).

      One suggestion that Michael suggested to help classroom management and possible buy-in for the classroom teachers to encourage their classes’ behavior and participation was to have a contest among classes. Each class period, the class could earn, as a class, up to four points for behaviors, such as entering music properly, participating, being respectful (?) (I can’t remember–I am retired), and lining up to leave. At certain intervals, the specialist teacher would award a hand-made poster for “bragging rights” to the class that earned the most points. (I did the contest by grade level.) When I started the contest, there were some teachers who really liked it and became more encouraging and interested in how their class acted and reinforced the good behavior and participation.

  9. Michael,

    Need some advice in third grade. I have had a lot of success with your program, but I run into some things in the start of the year, especially the first couple days that even I’m confused. I teach procedures explicitly, modeling the correct and incorrect way. I find I’m giving too many behavior letters. I always get the class I want after a couple weeks and establish that control but feel in beginning I give out too many letters. I read you said we should barely be giving behavior letters. My class is well managed but I’m confused on the behavior letters. I will give a very explicit instruction and then one student will shout out right after, and I enforce like a referee. Much of the behaviors are curbed after a couple weeks but in the start of the year I do not know how to respond to such blatant violation of the rules. Maybe I teach the rules too casually and the students don’t believe what I say. I always arrive at a well managed class but believe I could be doing something slightly different the first couple weeks to have more impact.

    Any advice?

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