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

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

From Disillusionment to Rejuvenation: Bridging the Gap with Self-Care

You go out of your way to give that one kid in your homeroom an individualized behavior tracker and a pep talk every morning to set him up for success. You positively narrate, give wait time, and strive for 100%. You feel like things are finally starting to gel in your room.

All of a sudden, the days are shorter and darker, and routines you thought were solid in your classroom start to feel like they just aren’t working the way they were in October. Read more

We’re TchAUSL! How Can We Help You?

TchAUSL-mockupsThis year is our sixth school year with TchAUSL and I’m as pumped as ever to share exciting new practices from across our network to help you become the teacher that you want to be. TchAUSL was created to help our coaches capture and comment on practice, but I think we’ve grown into a place where every teacher can learn and grow.

What does our site have to offer you?

Our App Makes It Easy to Record, Share and Annotate Your Practice

We designed the site and our Tch Recorder app with an eye on making it simple to capture and share your practice. With just a few steps, you can record instruction, upload it to our invitation-only site, share it with others in a group or keep it private in your workspace. TchAUSL also allows annotation of video with timestamping to draw attention to specific points of your instruction. Want to learn more? This short clip will get you started and you can pick it up here if you have an Apple device or here if you’re an Android user. Read more

Special EDition: Leading Your Professional Learning

One of my resolutions for 2015 is to continue to improve my professional practice.  As an educator, I know how important it is to stay on top of the latest news, tools, and research related to my field. But I often find myself thinking that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to join a PLC, attend a conference, or read the latest issue of Exceptional Children. So what else can I do?

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Introduction the Next Generation Science Standards: 4 Things to Know

Happy 2015! It’s that time again–time to make your New Year’s resolutions. If you are a K-12 teacher and have not yet familiarized yourself with the new science standards then this blog’s for you! To help you get acquainted with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), here are 4 things to know…

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Special EDition: SPE Cyber Monday “Deals” You Need Right Now

If you’re like me, you skipped Black Friday because you ate too much and it was cold and late and you figured that if you just wait until Monday, you can score that thing you’re so obsessed with from the comfort of your own warm home (or classroom!).  While I’m not going to advertise today’s deals at the Gap or Best Buy, I will share my list of a few incredible online “deals” that educators should access right now to help meet the needs of your diverse learners.

BookshareBookshare – Can’t say enough about this free resource that makes reading accessible for all.  Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), Bookshare is the world’s largest accessible online library for people with print disabilities.  It is free for all qualified U.S. students (visual impairment, physical disability or severe learning disability) and features over 300,000 titles, including newspapers, k-12 textbooks, and popular fiction and non-fiction. Teachers can sign students up for an individual membership or they can serve as the student’s sponsor.

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Summer Reading and Resource List: Get a Head Start on Planning with these 8 Science Recommendations

With the school year coming to a close, it’s time to start making your summer plans! Sure, you probably have plans to head to the beach, travel, and partake in TONS  of outdoor activities–especially after the winter we’ve had to endure, here, in Chiberia!

Of course, you’ll also set aside time to do some reading and think about your how you’d like to run your classroom during the next school year….right?? We wanted to send you off on summer break armed with the best readings and resources to help you get a head start on your planning.

Check out these 8 awesome, free, and teacher-approved resources (click on the links in red)…

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DIY #7 Top Ten Coach Approved Ways to Get Smarter over the Summer

It’s that time of the year again!  You know the time of year when you’re answer to the question, “When does school get out?” is a very detailed, “25 days, 6 hours, 13 minutes and 46 seconds.”coachapproved-angled

Summer can’t get here fast enough and we know why, too:

  • You want to dust off the stack of professional books on your nightstand and read them without falling asleep
  • You want to visit the Chicago museums and plan a purpose-driven field trip for your class
  • You want to finally read some of the young adult fiction from your classroom library so you can start recommending more than that one Walter Dean Meyers’ book to your students
  • You want to bring one of the multi-step math word problems you taught your students to a party and watch your friends struggle to solve it.

Well, we have the right list of resources for you today: Here is an AUSL Coach approved list of the top ten ways you can get smarter over the summer!

1. Stock Up on Classroom Books

Get a group and a van and head out to the next Scholastic Customer Appreciation Warehouse sales and score books at prices up to 80% off.  Or head over to one of the coolest bookstores in Chicago called Open Books.  It has books but it offers so much more!

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Special EDition: Who’s Who in the CTR’s SPE Resident Cohort?

AUSL’s Chicago Teacher Residency (CTR) program is about to witness its first class of graduates in Special Education.  This small but mighty cohort of 11 residents will be the first to receive a master’s degree in Special Education and be fully endorsed as Learning Behavior Specialists.  All of these residents have spent the past nine months observing, planning, teaching, and learning alongside a mentor teacher and coach in an elementary Special Education classroom in one of AUSL’s training academies.

So on the heels of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought it was fitting to feature this group of future AUSL Special Educators and get to know them a little better as we explore Who’s Who…

Back Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Front Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

Top Row: Brittany Anderson, Christine Roche, John Devine, Celia Davenport, Shannon Conroy, Nathan Rosiejka. Bottom Row: Agata Sidorkiewicz, Jean Wilkinson, Jessica Kimbrough, Sally Tabatsalis, Chris Roeloffs.

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