First Week Activities
Citation: Huitt, W. (1997). Classroom management: First week
activities. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta
State University. Retrieved [date], from
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The most important factor in classroom management is getting
off to a good start. In general, this means to develop and implement a classroom management
plan that will prevent problems from occurring.
A series of studies by researchers at the University of Texas (e.g., Emmer, Evertson
& Anderson, 1980; Evertson & Emmer, 1982) suggested that teachers who get off to a
good start in terms of classroom management generally have more orderly classrooms in
January as well as better student achievement. One of the most important activities during
the first week is to establish and teach classroom rules
(guidelines for appropriate and inappropriate behavior) and procedures (specific routines
for accomplishing daily activities).
A second guideline is to work with the whole class during the first two weeks to
establish group cohesiveness and solidarity. If groups are to be used, every student ought
to be engaged in the same activity.
A third guideline is to provide many opportunities for students to respond
appropriately. If you want students to write their names and the date on their papers in a
certain place, give several assignments each day where students will have to practice this
activity. Then provide corrective feedback to help students accomplish the task
A fourth guideline is to use a variety of activities during the first week or two in
order to capture student's attention. This should be relatively easy and enjoyable and
should probably engage students in reviewing previously learned material.
A fifth guideline is to keep track of each student's progress and insure, as much as is
possible, that each student is engaged and successful in learning activities. Any students
that seem to demonstrate an inability to keep up should be dealt with as quickly as
Another way to think about getting off to a good start is to think in
terms of how to increase student involvement in classroom activities. The perspective
discussed in the overview of the behavioral approach to classroom
management was to focus on how to increase time-on-task. However, since
Total allocated time = Time-on-task + Time-off-task
another perspective is to focus on how to decrease time-off-task.
In a review of research, Huitt, Caldwell, Traver & Graeber (1981)
found that student off-task or unengaged behaviors could be classified in one of five
categories: management/transition, socializing, discipline, unoccupied/observing, and out
of the room. The acronym of Ms. Duo can be used to help remember these
|Categories of Unengaged
Daily, routine classroom activities or "in-between" activities
- Distributing, setting up, or gathering equipment, supplies, materials, etc.
- Taking roll
- Students standing in line
- Students waiting for teacher's help
- Turning pages in book
- Listening to nonacademic directions
- Sharpening pencil
- Waiting for next activity to begin
- Cleaning up desk or room
Two or more persons are interacting socially
- Whispering nonacademic comment to neighbor
- Passing notes
- Watching someone else whispering
Adult is reprimanding a student, a student is being punished, or student is watching other
student being scolded
- One student is being scolded and other students are listening
- Head on desk as punishment
Sitting or standing alone, wandering about with no evident purpose or goal, watching other
people or unassigned activities, or playing with materials
- Staring out the window
- Aimlessly wandering around the room
- Watching another student do a different assignment
|Out of Room
Temporarily out of the room
|Gone to the
- principle's office
As Caldwell, Huitt & French (1981) worked in schools helping teachers improve
student engaged time, they found that two categories--management/transition and
unoccupied/observing--were used to classify almost 90% of the unengaged behaviors.
Management/transition occurred mainly when the teacher was working with the whole class;
unoccupied/observing occurred more often when students were involved in seatwork.
A larger than normal amount of socializing generally meant that the teacher was
involved in the social interaction process (e.g., discussing a recent sports activity or
the upcoming dance). When a larger than normal amount of discipline occurred it generally
was a result of a "cease and desist" classroom management strategy. That is, the
teacher waited until an inappropriate behavior occurred and then tried to stop it rather
than attempting to establish appropriate behavior in a proactive manner. A larger than
normal amount of out-of-the-room behavior usually meant that either the teacher was not
paying attention to the number and lengths of trips to the bathroom or some person outside
of the classroom was requesting students leave the classroom on a regular basis.
The following are research-based management strategies focused on the most
often occurring management problems in a classroom. Close attention to dealing with these
problems in a proactive manner will reduce time off-task, thereby increasing time on-task.
Notice that the management/transition category has four subcategories with suggestions for
Distributing, setting up, or gathering equipment, supplies, materials, or
Have materials and supplies ready
in advance of activities.
Use more routines and procedures to
handle daily business such as turning in completed work, noting student progress, and
Shorten transition times whenever
Plan specifically how to change activities.
Establish clear and consistent rules for
transitions; let students know exactly what is expected of them during transitions.
Provide clear starts and stops for
Alert students to upcoming
Economize movement. For example, have all
of the students in a small group move at the same time rather than calling them
Teach students classroom rules and
procedures as they are needed, with special emphasis on this area in the first weeks
of school. You may wish to rehearse procedures, use incentive systems to shape behavior,
or teach students to respond to specific signals, such as the bell or the teacher's call
Teach students the skills needed to
perform school work -- following directions, taking assignments off the board, finding
pages in the book, how to use programmed materials.
Listening to nonacademic directions
Waiting for teacher's help
Reduce the time students spend waiting for explanation
or feedback from the teacher with no other assigned task.
Give students alternate assignments to
complete when help is not immediately available.
Assign peer tutors.
Give each student a sign to raise for help,
perhaps using different colors for when the student does not understand or when he/she is
ready for work to be checked.
Use a sign-up sheet or the board for
students to indicate that they need assistance.
Minimize interruptions to
teacher-led activities. For example, students in small group may be waiting for the
teacher because those students doing independent seatwork interrupt. Establishing a rule
that no one is to interrupt the small group activities may decrease the
Waiting for the next activity to begin
Reduce the time during which students have no
available or assigned activity. These times may occur, for example, at the beginning
of class, or after a break such as lunch or recess when students take their seats but must
wait for the teacher to begin the class.
Since students often will take as much time
as is available to complete a task, set reasonable time limits and stick to them.
Also see other strategies listed under Discipline and Unoccupied/Observing)
State expectations clearly in
behavioral terms to let students know which behaviors are desired and which will not be
Monitor student behavior in the
classroom closely. Communicate awareness of what is going on by stopping misbehavior
before it spreads or becomes more serious. Be sure that reprimands are directed toward the
Give students specific feedback
indicating what the student should be doing, and/or what was undesirable about the
misbehavior. You may wish to provide this feedback in individual conferences with
Learn about and use behavioral modification
Set up a contract system to manage student
Reinforce good behavior rather than
Reinforce acceptable behaviors (e.g.,
paying attention, working, and volunteering) using highly descriptive and very specific
When students are disruptive, praise the
on-task behavior of another student nearby.
Give students non-verbal attention, a
privilege, or a concrete reward for desirable behavior.
Plan activities for young children (or
low-achieving students) so that the lesson is continuous and unlagging and so that
children are shielded from distractions. Lessons and activities that have "holding
power" and are paced by the teacher, in conjunction with teacher behaviors that
promote continuity, are associated with higher engagement rates.
Lessons in which students receive sequenced
"signals" primarily from a single, constant source (e.g., teacher
demonstrations, short recitations) have moderate involvement.
Move around the room regularly and
systematically, particularly during seatwork periods, checking each student
Teach students how to be engaged and
why engaged behaviors are important.
Use reinforcement techniques to teach
students "academic survival skills" such as following directions, attending to
the teacher, working independently, not looking around, and volunteering responses.
When a student is off-task, praise the
on-task behavior of another student nearby. Reminders to students to get back to work do
not seem to be effective.
Structure the physical environment
to facilitate learning.
Arrange desks and chairs so students are
facing or can easily face the point in the room where they must most often focus.
Use desks rather than tables.
Separate active or noisy areas such as
science or music from quieter ones such as writing or reading.
|Out of Room
Although no research studies have focused on this unengaged
category, the following commonsense strategies are suggested:
Reduce the number and length of trips to
the nurse, office, etc. For example, schedule nurse or office trips during subjects other
than basic skills subjects (reading, language arts, math), if possible.
Reduce the number and length of trips to
the bathroom. For example, allow only one student in the bathroom at a time. You might
wish to develop a card system to monitor this in which there are two cards by the door
(girls and boys) that can be turned to one side when someone goes to the bathroom and
flipped back when he/she returns.
- Caldwell, J., Huitt, W., & French, V. (1981). Research-based classroom modifications
for improving student engaged time. In D. Helms, A. Graeber, J. Caldwell, & W. Huitt
(Eds.). Leader's guide for student engaged time. Philadelphia: Research for Better
- Emmer, E., Evertson, C., and Anderson, L. (1980). Effective classroom management at the
beginning of the school year. Elementary School Journal, 80, 219-231.
- Evertson, C., & Emmer, E. (1982). Effective classroom management at the beginning of
the year in junior high classes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 485-498.
- Huitt, W., Caldwell, J., Traver, P., & Graeber, A. (1981). Collecting information on
student engaged time. In D. Helms, A. Graeber, J. Caldwell, & W. Huitt (Eds.).
guide for student engaged time. Philadelphia: Research for Better Schools, Inc.
Dr. William G. (Bill) Huitt
Dept. of Psychology, Counseling & Guidance
Valdosta State University
Valdosta, GA 31698-0001
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