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

Why Can’t Math Be Fun? Tips to Shift Mindsets and Push Motivation

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But there’s more to it. As I reflect on the successful math teachers I’ve coached and observed, a trend emerges:When students are perceived to genuinely enjoy math, it has more to do with the classroom environment and culture of learning that the teacher has established than with the actual math.  

This more nuanced view on “fun” raises several questions. What role does the learning environment have on students’ attitudes towards math?  How much does the lack of motivation or knowledge or even the teachers’ approach to instruction contribute to classrooms where students’ engagement is perceived as lacking in effort, participation and persistence?

To some extent, all of these things are important. So let’s chat about all of them! Read more

Halfway There! It’s a Great Time to Reset Your Classroom Environment

Congratulations! You made it to the halfway point of the school year!

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It's a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Mr. Myers from Howe School of Excellence greets a student before class starts. It’s a small routines like this that contribute to a caring and productive classroom environment.

Athletic coaches will often use this halftime opportunity to look back at the first half and give advice for how to improve coming out of the locker room. As a teacher going back into the classroom for a new semester, there are so many aspects where I could coach someone who is looking to flip a bad first half. 

How do you get the most out of this new semester? I have found that focusing on building a better classroom environment is the one area which enjoys the most benefit from the least amount of effort.

It’s so important to build positive trusting relationships with your students, and it’s even a component in the Chicago Framework for Teaching. Domain 2a is specifically about creating an environment of respect and rapport in the classroom.

So how does a new teacher go about building these positive, trusting relationships?   Read more

Out of Bulletin Board Ideas? Build a Domain Wall!

bulletin-boardWe all create bulletin boards for our classrooms and hallways, and we are all aware that they serve a variety of purposes, from highlighting student work, as an end of unit/module showcase, to that one board you create every year that never changes. You intend to mix it up, and yet, somehow it never happens. It gets to the point neither you, nor your students, even see that board anymore, and it ends up taking up valuable classroom wall space that could be used in a much more meaningful way.

It’s time to change up this practice by replacing the bulletin board with a Domain Wall.

You may be thinking, “But I love my Autumnal Poetry board, so why should I scrap my tried and true bulletin boards of years past?” Read more

Special EDition: Behavior Junction, What’s your Function?

The AUSL Diverse Learning Professional Development Series is up and running! The October session, Understanding + Developing High Quality IEPs, was held on October 15 at Phillips High School. Participants attended one of three sessions focused on different aspects of the IEP. Click on the sessions below to access the presentation deck and related materials shared at each session.

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.43.28 PMThe next DL PD, Changing Challenging Behaviors: Conducting FBAs, will be offered on both November 19 and December 3 from 4:30-6:30pm at Phillips Academy High School. Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) is based on the understanding that all behavior is a form of communication and serves a function. Conducting an FBA is the process of collecting and analyzing data on unwanted behaviors to determine the purpose or function of the behavior. This is the first step toward developing interventions to teach and reinforce more positive behaviors.

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Spring [Your Science Instruction] Forward: 5 Steps to Implementing MBI

Model-Based Inquiry (MBI) is an engaging, NGSS-aligned, research-based approach to scienceinstruction (Windschitl, Thompson, & Braaten, 2008).

There are 5 steps to implementing MBI:

  1. Plan your instructional units around meaningful real world phenomena
  2. Elicit and work from students initial ideas
  3. Engage students in ongoing and in-depth sense making
  4. Provide students with opportunities to revisit and revise their thinking
  5. Have students apply their learning to a new, related phenomenon

In the following video, we introduce you to Model-Based Inquiry and provide you with a peek into what it looks like in action (in our very own AUSL classrooms). After you watch the video, scroll down to read more about the 5 steps to implementing MBI, as well as 3 tips for improving your teaching practice immediately. Enjoy!

Welcome to MBI


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Special EDition: Reigniting the Co-Teaching Flame

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Video Playlist: Reviewing 5 Essential Strategies

As a mentor and later a mentor resident coach, I often saw my residents and (yes) my mentors forget the basics of management and instruction as the school year progressed. Burnout has a lot to do with this lapse and since we are so close to a well-deserved break, I am betting that many of these essential strategies have slipped your mind and your practice.

Let’s get your classroom and your mojo back by taking a little time to review…



It’s never too late to reteach and reinforce 100%. This short clip shows a simple structure for giving your students directions by delivering them from one consistent spot in your classroom.

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Bird is the WORD? Word Walls: Operational vs. Interactive

Bird is the word

Disclaimer: This is NOT a blog post intended to freak you out because you don’t have your word walls up nor does it have anything to do with the fact that a certain test that will remain nameless is upon us.  This blog is intended for the sole purpose of ensuring that your classroom is set up DAILY for students to succeed in mathematics by building their vocabulary through discussion and use of visual models.  The timing of this post is purely coincidental.  Finally, the bird is the word.

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Classroom D.I.Y. #5: The 4 R’s for a Successful Re-Entry from Winter Break

welcomebackWinter break is over.

For most of you, because you got some time to unplug, relax and enjoy yourself, you are feeling something called rejuvenation.  It might seem a little foreign but trust me, it’s real – take advantage of it! This is always a good resource as you return to one of the hardest professional gigs out there.

Chances are you are also feeling something we coaches call “the pit.”  The pit is that mishmash of emotions that sits in a ball at the bottom of your stomach and makes you feel excited and a little queasy at the same time.

In order to help you regulate the pit and capitalize on your rejuvenation, here is some well-tested and highly effective advice from Shondele Gillens, one of our senior coaches: Read more