Classroom management on the first day of school

Bam Radio on classroom management and setting expectations on day one

Setting expectations is an important part of classroom management and today’s discussion comes on the heels of my participation in the recent Bam Radio show, “Your Classroom Management Plan: Setting Expectations from Day One.” Take a minute to listen to the interview by clicking the links above or hit the play button in the bottom of the box below…

Classroom Management vs. Behavior Management

It is easy to confuse the term “classroom management” with “behavior management.” In today’s Bam Radio discussion, Harry Wong says “One of the most misused words in American education is ‘classroom management.’ You say that to most teachers and they think it has to do with behavior management.” “Classroom management is how you run and manage a classroom with procedures so that the students know what to do, when to do it, and how they can do it so that they can learn and succeed.”

In the early childhood classroom, we can look at classroom management as a plan for what procedures our students will follow throughout each day as well as what the teacher’s role is in helping our students have a successful experience each day. Let’s break this down a little further…

Have a Plan

Successful classroom management starts with a plan. For example, Wong says that every single day you should plan to greet your students at the door and let them know they are welcome into the classroom. Nick Romagnolo goes on to say that your plan needs to include not only what procedures your students will follow but also when and how those procedures will be taught to the children.

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

In our classroom the children are greeted at the door then reminded every day to put their things in their cubby then come back and put their name on our attendance chart and then go and sit down on the carpet to join us for our morning circletime. This is an example of four classroom procedures that we do every single day and we start teaching this process on our very first day of preschool…

  1. Teacher greets children at the door.
  2. Children are taught and then reminded to put backpacks and coats in cubbies.
  3. Children are taught and then reminded to put their names up on the attendance chart.
  4. Children are taught and then reminded to come and sit down on the carpet to join the group for morning circletime.

In my classroom, there is a simple circletime procedure too. The children are asked to sit down on the edges of our carpet. This simple procedure helps my students learn to recognize that there are lots of us that need to see and participate. Sitting on the edge of the carpet may not at first glance seem like it is a “procedure” but it actually is. It is a classroom management procedure that helps my students build respect for each other and helps to remove some of the battles that can come up when a large group of children all sit down together. Starting off the school year by sitting on the edges of the carpet helps our students begin the school year with more successful circletime experience…

Announcing the helper of the day and inviting the helper to come up front so we can learn about our helper.

Once the children have all come to join us for morning circletime, we then choose our “Helper of the Day” and invite our helper to take a look outside and tell us what they think the weather is like today which often leads into a short discussion about the day’s weather. Again, we now have introduced two more procedures that our classroom will follow everyday and we begin these procedures on our very first day too…

  1. Announcing the helper of the day and inviting the helper to come up front so we can learn about our helper.
  2. Inviting the helper of the day to tell us about the weather then complete our weather symbol chart for the day.

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

The procedures that help us start our day provide the information that our students need so they will know what is expected of them when they come into the classroom. As the children get into the morning routine of putting backpacks away and joining in for morning circletime, they begin to glide through each of these procedures with ease and confidence and it takes away any confusion as to what will happen when they walk into the classroom each and every morning. Oh, it can still seem chaotic and noisy but if you look closely you will see our students knowing what to do and how to do it and doing it with confidence no matter how noisy they are in the process…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Be Consistent

Wong indicates that the most important part of classroom management is consistency and goes on to say that the greatest gift we can give kids is for them to come to a classroom that is predictable and consistent.  Romagnolo shares that when kids come into the classroom and know what to do and how to do it, you are ultimately establishing a classroom that is truly student led and student centered. In other words, when a teacher provides consistency in classroom procedures starting from day one, the children ultimately become more self-sufficient and competent in all areas of the classroom.

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Our snack time procedure is a great example of providing a consistent routine that ultimately leads to a classroom that is student-led and student-centered.  Right from the start, we show children where, when and how to wash their hands before heading over to the snack table. We teach the children how to get their own napkin, cup, and a spoon if needed…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Then over the next few weeks, we begin showing the children how to serve their own snack and to pour their own juice. Eventually, the entire snack time process is led by the students. We set the groundwork for success so that they can be independent and self-sufficient in the process of serving their own snack (like this gummy worm dirt snack!)…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Behind the scenes, there is also classroom management planning going on by the teachers too. We have our snack cabinet all set up and organized right from day one to make snack time run smoothly. In our snack cabinet there are cups, napkins, baskets all set up and ready to go so we aren’t running around trying to find the things we already know that we will need everyday. Having an organized space and plan in place behind the scenes helps snack time to run smoothly so that the children aren’t waiting for us to find things but instead are able to move smoothly into the snack time process…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Time to Master

Romagnolo reminds us that it takes time to learn something new so to keep in mind that as you start your plan from the first day of school, it will take time for your students to fully remember and follow your classroom procedures. He recommends that you have your plan in place then start your plan on the very first day of school then build on your plan over the next few months of school by teaching, practicing, and reminding your students of your procedures over a period of time…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Our paint drying shelf is a good example of what Romagnolo is talking about here. Each child is taught how to put their paintings or wet art into their own paint shelf when finished. It may seem like a simple classroom management procedure but it takes time for teaching, practice, and reminding our students that when they are finished with their artwork, they need to put their artwork in their drying shelf so it can dry instead of just leaving it on the table or accidentally putting wet artwork in their cubby or backpack…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Setting the Tone

Wong says that consistency in procedures/classroom management is the most important aspect of getting your students off to the right start in school. Wong says consistency sends the message to your students that your classroom is safe, loving, predictable, and a place that they can succeed.

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

After our snack time is over, the children know that this is the time when they are to spend a little time reading a book. Sometimes, one of the teachers will sit with a child or a group of children and read but most of the time, this is when the children know they are to choose a book and a space to go and read on their own…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

From a classroom management perspective, this time allows one of the teachers to clean up the snack time tables and get organized for the next part of the day while the other teacher is providing reminders, guidance, or support for the reading experience. In other words, there are different purposes for implementing this classroom procedure into this part of our day.

  1. To make the transition from snack time to the next part of our day go smoothly.
  2. To encourage our students to spend time reading alone or with one another.

However, it is extremely important to keep in mind the needs of the children first when planning any procedure in your classroom and to be consistent with the process. In order for this part of our day to be successful, the children need for us to give them consistent time invested in teaching them, reminding them, and supporting their read-alone efforts right from the very first day so that the read-alone experience will be a positive part of their day…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Building Community

In the process of teaching, practicing, and reminding young children about the procedures in your classroom, Nancy Flanigan emphasizes that in the midst of it all, it is important to understand that establishing positive relationships and building community starting from day one is an integral part of student success…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

What I am sharing with you today are just a few of the simple procedures we have in place right from the first day of school to help our students ultimately be independent thinkers and doers..

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Planning for classroom management shouldn’t be about controlling every step your students do all throughout the day. Instead classroom management is about consistently giving children the tools and guidance they need to ultimately be independent, self-sufficient, and successful participants in the overall community of their classroom experience…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool

Classroom Management focus

So while you are thinking through your classroom procedures, Nancy’s emphasis on building community and concern for one another should be what drives every decision you make. Don’t get focused on making procedures that are just for the sake of making procedures. Instead, focus on planning procedures that lead your students towards feeling confident, in control, connected to each other, and feeling that they are a valued member of your community right from the very first day they enter your classroom…

Classroom management: Setting expectations on day one by Teach Preschool


Available on Amazon

By |2017-03-29T11:42:42+00:00August 18th, 2013|

About the Author:

Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. has been working and teaching in the field of early childhood education for over 30 years. Deborah currently owns and teaches in her own part-time, private preschool called The Children’s Studio. Deborah’s deep passion for teaching and working with young children is documented and then graciously shared with millions of readers around the world through her blog and other social networking communities. Deborah believes that young children learn best through play and exploration and embraces this belief in all that she does in her own classroom so that she can effectively and passionately share rewarding, real- life, tried-and-true practices with other teachers, parents, and leaders across the field of early childhood education.


  1. Catherine Vaki August 19, 2013 at 10:40 am - Reply

    Deborah hi, I would like to look at the book on motor skills both gross and fine. Could you show it ? Thank you!

  2. Sharon August 19, 2013 at 11:37 am - Reply

    I look forward to your posts every day! It is so easy to apply them in the child care center as well! Thank you for giving such good guidance!

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      I am so happy to know that Sharon! Thanks for taking the time to leave me such a sweet comment 🙂

  3. Sherry August 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much. Always enjoy your posts, but this was great. I love Harry Wong materials, but they are usually geared to older kids and classrooms .Your applications are wonderful.

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 19, 2013 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      Yes, much of what he had to say in the interview was primarily talking about highschool but once I really went back to listen to his suggestions, I realized that it could be applied to early childhood education too! So fun to be able to find connections like that!

  4. Cassandra August 19, 2013 at 3:00 pm - Reply

    I love your juice pitchers! I’ve been looking for a pitcher that is big enough for my class but small enough for the children to be able to handle on their own. I love the smaller spout… seems like it would help eliminate spills 🙂 Where did you get them?

  5. MIRIAM FERNANDEZ BORASO August 19, 2013 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    hello! thanks for sharing & reminding!
    what can I do when a child doesn’t want to sit in the circle time?
    have a school year full of happiness, love & fun! thnaks a lot1

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. August 19, 2013 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      Hi Miriam,
      I get this question often and you will really have to find a way to reach that child and invite him to be a part of your community of learners. We do this right from day one because I believe that when the children see that I believe that starting together is something I believe in and am excited to talk with them and hear about their morning and give them an extra hello and hug AND I make it a time that they enjoy and find engaging, then it soon becomes just what we do and want to do rather than what we have to do.

  6. Bonnie August 19, 2013 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    You are an amazing educator and author, I so enjoy reading your articles and look forward to purchasing your book. I too am very interested to know where you purchased your juice pitchers, they are perfect for little ones to pour their own juice. I really appreciate the classroom management article, it is a great review for me to use in my own preschool classroom. Thanks again.

  7. Camp Giraffe Preschool August 26, 2013 at 2:11 am - Reply

    For teachers it is very important to manage its class with best efficiency along with good preplan management of each and every things so that all students will take interest in attending class and learn more & more

  8. Leslie crocker September 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm - Reply

    I interested in joining the postcard project. Will you be doing that this year

    • Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. September 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Leslie,
      Check back on Tuesday Morning for this year’s postcard exchange announcement!

  9. Barbara September 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    I agree, Deborah. Being consistent and letting children know your expectations from the get-go are vital. My kiddos come in and put their backpack in their cubby then are to go wash their hands (before touching anything in the classroom), turn over their owl card (I have a pocket chart that has an empty nest on one side with their name on it and an owl in the nest on the other side), sign-in (if they choose to), then they can begin their Exploration time in the classroom. I always tell the parents at the beginning, your child may want to do these things in a different order, but it will be like swimming against the flow.

  10. louise August 31, 2017 at 9:45 pm - Reply


Leave A Comment

This site uses 'cookies' to give you the best, most relevant experience. Using the website means you're OK with this. Ok