The Art of an Effective Classroom Reset

How will you get students to listening position, like Lewis’ Ms. Cabrera, after the break? Read on to find out!

How will you get students to listening position, like Lewis’ Ms. Cabrera, after the break? Read on to find out!

Ah Spring … the time of year when flowers start to bloom, the sound of birds fill the warm air, the grass and leaves return and students begin to catch spring fever. Post-spring break can be the best of times and the worst of times for any teacher. To make sure you’re getting more good times than bad, an effective classroom reset is not optional, but imperative!

Resetting classroom expectations, norms and procedures following a vacation is highly important as it allows for you to reestablish and reaffirm your classroom culture. When done well, it can carry your class until the last school bell rings for the year. Re-establishing norms and expectations also establishes normalcy in the classroom. Harry and Rosemary Wong, authors of the popular resource for new teachers “The First Days of School” praise this goal of creating stability.  

One of the most important gifts we can give our students is to be consistent,” say the Wongs. “Students need to feel that someone is responsible for their environment—someone who not only sets limits but maintains them.”

As a 15-year educator, I’ve had the privilege of viewing instruction from a variety of different lenses: college tutor, diverse learners assistant, ELA teacher, framework specialist and now academic director/school-based coach. With all of these roles I’ve either assisted with or executed resets following short and long breaks of time. For the past three years, I have been coaching teachers around the importance of engaging in purposeful and meaningful resets. Through trial and error I have noticed some characteristics of effective classroom resets. In this space, I would like to share four of them with you.

png;base648895cbdf8910c4c2target1Step 1:  Be strategic: start with the end of the year in mind!

What do you need to do to ensure that the school year is completed successfully?   Know what you want to focus on and plan the day from start to finish before executing a reset. Take time to reflect on what’s working and what needs to be tightened up.  

How can you and the students enable the classroom to run more efficiently? What do you want your classroom to look like and sound like? Where do you need your students to go?

target1Step 2:  Stand Firm and Be Dogmatic!

Begin executing a reset the very moment the students enter the building. Paying close attention to every move that they make. The way that they line up. The voice level they use. Their interactions with others.  Be explicit and leave no room for students to infer the expected behavior. Think Strong Voice!

  • Give explicit directions paying close attention to voice movement and proximity.  Square up-Stand still – When giving directions, stop moving and doing other tasks. To convey the seriousness of your directions, turn with two feet and two shoulders and make direct eye contact with the student(s) to whom you are speaking. This clip from instructional coach Nick Romagnolo shows the simplicity (and importance!) of this method.
  • Command Attention: When the teacher needs students to listen, his or her words are the most important and should not compete for attention. Wait until there is no talking or rustling. Nothing continues until the teacher has everyone’s attention.
  • Require 100% every single time.  If not require students to do it again.
  • Accentuate the positive. Use positive narration to promote positive behaviors.

target1Step 3: Be collaborative: incorporate the students voices in the reset.

Your classroom should function like a well-oiled machine. A collective effort, all parts working together, ensures that the machine runs smooth and efficiently. And it will take everyone to ensure that the classroom runs smoothly.  

Your class should be a community where everyone plays an integral role to ensure everyone meets their intended goals and learning targets.  When students have an investment in the expectations and norms of the classroom, they are highly more likely to follow the classroom expectations as well as hold their peers accountable.  Additionally, this will allow the students to adopt the expectations and procedures you gave them as their own.  

target1Step 4:  Follow the plan!

Once you engage in a reset be consistent! Begin implementing the revised expectations and procedures immediately.  Say what you mean and mean what you say. When students see your consistency, they will follow suit.

At some point, everyone needs to refocus and reset.  Conducting a reset is a high leverage process that will ensure successful completion of the school year. Remember, it is never too late to start over as it is not how you start the race, but how you finish.

Part of being a great teacher is being reflective, responsive and flexible to the needs of your students.  If you are pragmatic, proactive and consistent, you will see improvement in your students. Remember students are like gardens they need cultivation for real change and growth to occur.

Are you still thirsty for more resources on building a better classroom culture after some time off? Check out these articles!

And be sure to add your suggestions for an effective reset in the comments below.

Have a relaxing break!


Regina is a Fifteen-year educator. During this Journey, she has worked in a multitude of roles to serve the students of Chicago. Regina currently serves as the Academic Director/School-based Coach for two AUSL schools. She specializes in the content area English Language Arts. She has previously taught at Vanderpoel Magnet school, Higgins Community Academy & John D. Shoop Academy of Math Science and Technology. Before working at AUSL Regina also served as a CPS Framework Specialist where she developed and delivered Professional development tied to the REACH framework for teaching. Regina holds an M.Ed as a Reading Specialist. and an M.Ed in School Leadership


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