most important factor in improved student learning is with an effective
teacher. Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong
feature effective teachers and administrators and what they do to
enhance student learning. The columns provide specific strategies
and activities that you can download and use. An archive of
past articles can be found at the end of every column.
strategies and activities are all based on the teachings and works
of Harry and Rosemary Wong and they are happy to share with the
profession the work of effective teachers. If you have an
effective strategy or technique that works, please share this by
sending it to [email protected].
The Wongs will consider it for sharing in future Effective Teaching
About Harry and Rosemary
and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco
and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary
is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as
the school media coordinator and student activity director.
Wong has been awarded the Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the
Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology
Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. He was
recently selected as one of the most admired people in the world
of education by readers of Instructor magazine. Rosemary
was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has
been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year
Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today.
He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense,
user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level
a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Because
he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited
his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for teachers.net
so that more people can hear their message.
About Their Work...
Harry and Rosemary
Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials
they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company,
of which Rosemary is the CEO. They have dedicated their lives
to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the
lives of teachers and students.
Their latest contribution
to helping teachers succeed is an eLearning course, Classroom
Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong. The
course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.
The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized
Classroom Management Action Plan.
This Action Plan is
similar to the organized and structured plan used by all successful
teachers. Details for the classroom management course can
be seen at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
The Wongs have written
The First Days of School, the best-selling
book ever in education. Over 3 million copies have been sold.
The third edition
of The First Days of School includes an
added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD,
Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to
those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective
The Wongs have also
produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher,
winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the
past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International
Film and Video Festival.
They have released
a new set of CDs with Harry Wong LIVE, called How
to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one of
his many presentations. He is the most sought after speaker
in education and his presentations are legendary.
When the book, video
series, CD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the
most effective staff training tool for developing effective teachers.
Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to
implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged
to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train,
Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about
these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website
The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never
Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
$23.96 from Amazon.com More
The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong
Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators,
Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas,
Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith
Clueless may be the best way to explain the plight of many neophyte teachers. It conjures up an image of a person sitting at life's crossroads with a suitcase full of information, but no idea how to use it. Their bags are brimming with a five- or six- or seven-step lesson plan, boxes of activities, the state performance appraisal instrument, five interpretations of educational foundations, nine theories of child development, conflicting advice from a plethora of educational specialists, and a collection of buzzwords and current educational fads. But they have no clue as to what to do in the first days and weeks of school.
I do not remember this teacher's name, but had it not been for her, I never would have made it this far. Bless her! Something happened to me before the first day of school when I began teaching 26 years ago in Los Angeles.
I was standing in the teacher's lounge when this experienced teacher came to me and said, "You don't know how to start, eh?"
I said, "How can you tell?" If you can only start my class for me and get them rolling I'll be able to carry on."
No one had taught me how to start the first day of school.
Portland, Oregon (from The First Days of School, page 15)
A First Day of School Action Plan
Imagine starting the first day of school with a specific action plan. So often we hear from people who tell us that their college classes in education offered nothing practical, concrete, or applicable. This was not the case with Sarah Jones, who we talked about in our September, 2001, column http://teachers.net/wong/SEP01/
At Western Kentucky University, where Sarah Jones was a student, they help their preservice teachers "get it all together" just before they go out to teach. As part of her classroom management class Sarah Jones prepared a First Day of School Action Plan. This one-inch thick binder proved to be a Godsend as she began her teaching career.
This is what her Action Plan contained.
Table of Contents
Time Frame For Components of Plan
Lesson Plans & Activities
"Places To Go!"
"Cultures Camp Out"
First Day of School Activities
Books To Use During The First Days of School
Preparation of Classroom Before The First Day of School
Be Prepared Sheet
Cooperative Classroom Dry-Erase Board
Student Contract For Classroom Materials
"Our Class Fits Like A Puzzle" Bulletin Board
Classroom Door Decoration
"Brag About Me Board" Bulletin Board
All About Me" Bulletin Board
Collaboration With Students & Parents
Letter to Students
Open House Activities
Substitute Teacher Handbook
New Student Folder
Homework Tip List
"Any Beautiful Collectible" Wish List
Rules, Consequences, Rewards
First Day of School Schedule
General Daily Schedule
Maintaining A Learning Climate
Reasons for the Management Plan
Rules, Consequences, Rewards
First Morning Greeting & Seating Arrangement
"Duty Wheel"- Student Jobs
Intervention Plan Packet
Form Used to Create a Socio-Gram
Notes of Encouragement
"Special News About A Very Special Student" Certificate
"Super Job-Way To Go-Great Day" Letter Form
IX. Documentation & Evaluation
Documentation of Student Work
Contract For Learning Centers
Parent Calls & Conference
"Welcoming Phone Call" Planning Sheet
"Welcoming Phone Call (to parents of potential problem students)" Planning Sheet
"Positive Phone Call Form"
Parent Conferences Outline
Sarah Jones' First Day of School Action Plan has been shared with you so that you can develop your own Action Plan. With such a plan she was so effective that a parent shared:
I loved volunteering in Ms. Jones' classroom because this gave me an opportunity to see how well organized she was and how well behaved were the students. She had her policies, daily assignments, and classroom procedures posted. Her conduct was extremely professional, from how she dressed, to how she communicated with the parents. My daughter was truly blessed by having such a wonderful teacher.
Maria Silva, parent of Laura Silva
The effective teacher plans, then plans some more, and finally over plans. This is no different from a pilot who has a flight plan, a coach who has a game plan, and a businessperson who has a business plan. The ineffective teacher goes from day to day, wondering what to teach the next day, often looking for busy work to keep the students quiet and docile.
On the first day of school, Sarah Jones states her expectations.
Academic Expectations (Sarah Jones)
I can promise that I will provide the best school year ever to every student.
My academic expectations of my class are simple and straight forward. I expect every student to try their best and do their best work. I expect each of my students to make great strides in their academic success during the school year. Every student has the right and the potential to be successful.
On the first day of school, Christine Neilson, who teaches at Holy Name of Jesus Middle School in Indialantic, Florida, communicates her expectations to her students and parents in the following manner.
Academic Expectations (Christine M. Neilson)
One item that I found to so helpful during this current school year is that when I sent out letters to parents this year advising them of our expectations for their students, I sent two copies - one for the parent to keep and one to send back signed, to me. I added a space for an email address and 149 out of 150 students have a parent with an email address! I keep all on file and email parents rather than calling. The response time so much quicker and parents seem to enjoy this type of correspondence.
Las Vegas Wants You To Have a Great Beginning
Clark County, Nevada, where Las Vegas is located, is the fastest growing school district in America. They hire some 1500 new teachers each year. Their website is www.ccsd.net/jobs if you might be interested in looking for a job opportunity here. The Clark County Schools have an induction program.
Remember the difference between an induction program and mentoring. As important as is a mentor, that's all a mentor is -- a buddy or support person. An induction program is an organized, sustained, multiyear process with many activities designed to help you succeed. One facet of the Clark County Induction Program is how they begin with a Welcome Center. The center is staffed with people who will help you find housing, arrange for telephone and utility service, introduce you to important people who can answer your questions, and even have socials for you to meet people from your home area or academic area.
There will be workshops, mentors, and monthly newsletters. Each new teacher is given a big binder of materials, called Great Beginnings, to help you succeed. Just think how much more likely it is that you will succeed if you had An Action Plan from your university, coupled with an Induction Program with materials and people supplied by a school district to help you succeed.
Before you begin your first day of school, the people in the Clark County Induction Program will teach you how to do the following:
Top Dozen To-Do Before School Starts
Plan seating assignments (i.e. random, numbered, alphabetical).
Determine essential procedures for a smooth-running classroom.
Gather lots of teambuilding activities to be used early during the year.
Post your discipline plan, including rules and consequences.
Identify a location in your classroom to post your daily agenda.
Create a daily routine for the first five minutes of class.
Anticipate and prepare all supplies needed (dry erase markers, corridor passes, stapler, etc.).
Organize and prepare your classroom so it is ready for learning.
Think of ways to learn your student's names quickly (i.e. mnemonics, pictures, etc.).
Introduce yourself to the teachers next door and across the hail.
Commit to connecting with each student on a daily basis (eye contact, greetings, acknowledgements, quick notes, high fives).
Building on the Clark County School District's new teacher induction program, Bridget Phillips, has her own induction program at her school. In the past six years she has had a zero attrition rate. To find out about her induction program, please go to our column of January 2002 http://teachers.net/wong/JAN02/.
Signing Bonus or Success?
Would you rather have up to $5000 or the knowledge and skills that you need to succeed as a teacher?
In April, 2002, an article appeared in the Times Picayune, the local newspaper of New Orleans. It said that the New Orleans school district was looking for business donations of $5000 to $2500, which they would match to use as signing bonuses for teachers, with a condition to stay for three years. The help these teachers would receive would be some evening classes. Yes, evening classes.
What good is an extra $2000 to $3000 if you leave teaching after one to three years, which is typical of nearly all new teachers. You've wasted three years of your life -- for $2000? You've also wasted years of preparation and tens of thousands of dollars invested in your education. Add on the nagging thought of your self-worth and the image that you failed at something. Your success at what you do with your life is far more important than some signing bonus. Therefore, it is much more important when you go for an interview, ask the interviewer if the district has a new teacher induction program.
The research has shown that those teachers who are part of a district's induction program are far more likely to succeed and stay in teaching, than those who are just "thrown" into a room to teach.
Set High Expectations On The First Day
There is no beginning too small.
What To Do On The First Day of School
Use an opening assignment
Teach organizational skills
Learn students' names
Plan your first day down to the minute
The most important thing a teacher can provide a classroom the first week of school is security or consistency (See page 85, The First Days of School). Students do not want nor do they learn well in a disorganized environment. If the furniture is movable, align all the desks on the first day and continue to have them aligned until you change the room arrangement.
A well-organized, uncluttered, and attractive room gives a professional and authoritative image that students respect. It is essential that you have your room ready and inviting before the students come on the first day of school.
Have a bulletin board ready with schedules, rules, procedures, preview of what is to come, a bulletin board area with pictures and information about you, and a big welcome sign that says you are glad they are here in school.
Seen posted on a door
We're a class who Enjoys working and Learning together. We Care for One another and Make sure Everyone feels important.
Walter Douglas School
Wear clothing that is neat and pressed. As you are dressed, so shall you be perceived. And as you are perceived, so shall you be treated.
Stand when you speak. Speak in short, clear sentences or phrases. The most effective teachers have a firm, but soft voice. When you speak softly, the class responds by speaking softly to hear you.
On the first days of school, do not be afraid to begin many of your sentences with, "You will... (See page 111, The First Days of School)" The first days of school are critical. Your mission on the first few days is to establish student routines and classroom procedures.
When emphasizing, do not point your finger. It's an accusatory signal and resembles a gun. Watch David letterman make a point. He uses his palm.
If you have very young students, place their name on their coat hooks, desks, and cubbyholes. This is a message that you are organized and that you expect them to use the same hook, desk, or cubbyhole every day. Many students like the security of this routine, because many have a great deal of chaos at home.
Set up your own seating plan beforehand, as this helps you to get to know your students fast. Address your students by name as fast as possible. This is not only a friendly gesture, but prevents misbehaving when the students believe, "Oh, oh, I better behave. She knows who I am."
Have your first "bellwork" assignment ready. Make it doable because you want your students to have a sense of accomplishment. Students who fail early will create problems in the classroom by sending out a message of frustrations.
Go to school earlier than normal, even an hour will go by quickly. Use the extra time to double-check everything, making sure that your first day's script (http://teachers.net/wong/JUN00/) is ready. Then, spend a few minutes relaxing, smiling, and self-talking yourself into high expectations for the year. Tell yourself:
I will establish classroom management procedures from the beginning.
I will convey that this class will be business-like, with a firm, competent, and warm teacher.
I will establish work habits in my students first and worry about content later. "You seemingly waste time at the beginning to gain time at the end" (See page 193, The First Days of School).
Be just outside the door when the students arrive. This establishes authority and also conveys that you consider them important enough to be waiting to greet them. If young children are to line up before entering, insist on a straight line. If you pick up your class from another area, don't say: "Follow me" or "Come on." Rather, introduce yourself and then right there indicate what procedure you want followed as they walk to your room (See page 109, The First Days of School).
Do not allow the students to enter the room until you have determined that they are ready to enter a room of academic achievement. This establishes that you are the authority who knows how to conduct a classroom. This tells them that it's your classroom and their classroom, not an area they are going to annex or occupy.
When you talk to your students, refrain from finger pointing, using a frantic voice, and constant jabbering as this will cause the students to imitate your behavior.
When the line is ready, praise them before you welcome them in.
Set High Standards For Yourself
Set high standards for yourself if you want a highly productive environment. There is nothing more damaging than a teacher with low expectations, sloppy dress, disorganized assignments and lessons, and the lack of classroom procedures or routines. You must set high standards for yourself if you expect students to meet high expectations of achievement.
If you do not take responsibility for yourself, no one else will. It's that simple. You make a statement of dignity to yourself and the teaching profession when you acknowledge and accept that you make a difference.
Best wishes as you set forth to make a difference, which is what teaching is all about.
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