The First Six Weeks of School

Strategies for Teachers

by Paula Denton , Roxann Kriete

Number of pages: 232

Publisher: Center for Responsive Schools, Inc.

BBB Library: Education

ISBN: 9781892989048

About the Authors

Paula Denton : She has an MEd from Antioch New England Graduate School and


Roxann Kriete : Roxann Kriete taught at both the elementary and secondary levels during


Editorial Review

Learn how to structure the first six weeks of school to lay the groundwork for a productive year of learning. Discover how taking the time to build a solid foundation in the early weeks of school can pay off all year long in increased student motivation, cooperation, responsibility, and self-control.

Book Reviews

"The First Six Weeks of Schoolhas lots to offer teachers -- whether they are looking for a gentle refresher course or a structured plan for those first 30 days. Authors Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete provide day-by-day lessons, including many games and activities, for teachers in the primary (K-2), middle (3-4), and upper (5-6) elementary grades." Education World

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Wisdom to Share

Students need to function autonomously without constant adult control or direct supervision. Autonomy in a school setting means governing oneself with an awareness of the needs of the community.

It is critical that children have a clear understanding of our expectations and boundaries from the moment they enter the classroom.

Teaching proactively is essential during these early days. Teachers must discuss and model new routines and experiences and let students practice them before they are actually performed.

All of the teaching and practicing must occur in a rich and meaningful context. Much of the content of the first week’s curriculum focuses upon and grows from the children themselves.

The first week is a time to help children see their school as a place where they belong and where they know and can meet expectations. They need to feel comfortable and supported, excited and challenged.

Morning Meeting is a twenty- to thirty-minute daily routine used to begin the school day in elementary and middle school classrooms.

As the children are working, the role of the teacher is to observe, to reinforce the discoveries, to notice the positive social interactions and the care of materials, and to remind and direct when children forget.

Children are more apt to understand and respect rules they help make, and it’s important that everyone has a voice and say in the construction of what it means to be a safe, caring, and respectful community.

Enlisting children in the process of generating rules is an essential part of the work of the first six weeks of school.

Children are more apt to understand and respect rules they help make, and it’s important that everyone has a voice and say in the construction of what it means to be a safe, caring, and respectful community.

Activity time prepares the children for future choice times and gives them more practice working independently with classroom materials and with classmates.

Teachers provide children with positive guidelines and a vision of a classroom in which care, respect, and responsibility matter. The children’s individual hopes and dreams are then incorporated into this vision, and the classroom rules grow directly from the children’s hopes and dreams.

The second week of school is indeed a week when the challenge is to get all members of the class “into the current where we could move in a good direction together.”

Rather than scheduling separate times to teach children how to follow the rules, we plan activities – from games and group initiatives to math and spelling lessons – which will provide opportunities to apply the rules.

In the second week, we introduce academic choice times (activity time in younger grades) and launch the first thematic study of the year.

Group initiatives are a kind of game that presents the group as a whole with a problem to solve. The solution can be reached only with everyone’s participation.

Group initiatives help children develop skills in cooperation and collaboration, while also providing the sort of intense experience that breaks down barriers between people and builds friendships.

Children learn best when they are given choices about what they’re learning and plenty of opportunities to explore, to make decisions, to take risks, and to make mistakes.

One way to give children more choice in their learning and to allow them to work at their own pace and level of ability is through a structure called academic choice, in which children choose their learning activity within a range of choices structured by the teacher.

All of the class rules will inevitably fall into one of three categories: Care for others, care for ourselves, and care for our environment.

Quiet time is a time when students work quietly by themselves. Scheduled right after the active and social times of recess and lunch, it provides some balance in the rhythm of the school day and releases children from the demands of interaction with others.

Since guided discoveries are based upon eliciting the children’s own knowledge, ideas, and modeling rather than just delivering the teacher’s, they work very well with fifth- and sixth-graders.

In the third week, we provide more room for students to make choices and try out their independence, encouraging internalization of the rules and expectations that were so clearly defined and articulated in the first two weeks.

Logical consequences is a way of responding to misbehaviour that is respectful of the children and helps them take responsibility for their actions so they can fix their mistakes and know what to do next time, without feeling bad.

Reparations give children the opportunity to face and fix their mistakes. If a child spills a drink, the child cleans up the mess.

When students show that they aren’t ready to handle the level of responsibility a situation demands, it is a logical consequence that we restructure the situation at least temporarily, taking back more control, until it is time for the children to try again.

Time away from the group is used when a child is not able to cooperate and is being disruptive to the group. The teacher separates the child from the activity temporarily until the child is ready to participate in a positive way.

A child who has hurt another child has to think of an action that will help the hurt child feel better.

Before teaching the steps of conflict resolution, teach students to deliver emotion-laden information as I-statements, using the formula “When you ___, I feel ___, because ____, so what I would like is _____.”

Early weeks of each year offer particular opportunities and challenges. Fulfilling those opportunities and meeting those challenges require energy, creativity, deliberation, and careful planning.

Most children, most of the time, can and will be resourceful, kind, and cooperative when led by adults who believe in their capacities and give them plenty of opportunities to learn and practice in the early weeks of the school year.