Setting the Tone from Day One
Lesson Objective: Communicate clear expectations
All Grades / All Subjects / Expectations

Thought starters

  1. What is the relationship between tone and expectations?
  2. Mr. Romagnolo says, "Your expectations are what you allow them to do, not what you say." How could you apply this distinction in your own class?
  3. What could you do if a positive tone wasn't set on the first day?
setting tone for better class room activity
Recommended (0)
This is so true. I learned this the hard way early in my career. I do a few cues- like starting on time and standing at my podium. I also have the kids come up with our "norms" the first week. We agree to follow them as well as the consequences.- consistency is key!
Recommended (0)
I'm new to teaching, it's only been 3 months and I did not hold them to my standards. I communicated what i wanted but found it difficult to rein them in. Is there any way i can regain that control at the first day of school in January having allowed the rules to wane in September?
Recommended (0)
Hi Keisha, Congrats on starting your first year of teaching! Even for veteran teachers, it can be hard to communicate and stick to your expectations. I love how you're thinking about getting a fresh start in January and think that's the perfect plan. It's never too late to "restart" your classroom. The beautiful thing about teaching is that you always have a chance to try again and improve. When you come back in January, I would start off by coming up with and/or revisiting your classroom agreements or rules. Discuss what's been working, what hasn't been working, and collectively decide on new agreements/rules. Then comes the tricky part... stick to them. Try to build a regular time (or two or three) into your day or class to reflect on how the class is/is not following through on the agreements/rules. Decide how you will address both individual students who have difficulty and whole-class challenging moments. Stay consistent and always go back to those agreements/rules that you came up with with your class. You can do it! It doesn't have to be perfect (nothing ever is), but with your motivation & drive you can make great progress. Sending positive thoughts and well wishes for a wonderful new year! Lily
Recommended (3)
Always an important day....the very first one. Students need clear idea of what is expected in terms of behavior and performance. Subject matter for the first week of school for me has always been "rules and routines". By focusing on this first, the rest of the year usually goes much more smoothly. This was always something I made sure my student teachers and new teachers I mentored had a clear grasp. I agree with Lily Jones; it is never too late to restart the classroom if the need is there. Just remember to maintain the motto of "Firm, Fair and Consistent" and in applying "FFC", your students will respect your rules and you as their learning facilitator.
Recommended (2)


  • [00:00]
    Interviewer: Setting the tone from the very first day of school is the most important thing you can do

    Interviewer: Setting the tone from the very first day of school is the most important thing you can do as a teacher. The first thing that everyone needs to understand is that you are in charge of your classroom. The very best teachers—when you walk into their classroom—seems like the kids are totally in charge. They’re doing everything they wanna do all the time. That’s been set up by the teacher from the very first day of school.

    Okay. Can I have your attention, please?

    You have to set the tone before any child ever walks into your classroom.

    Welcome to the first day of Algebra I. When you walk into the room, you need to do so quietly and without talking. I’ll say that one more time. Quietly and without talking.

    When a kid walks into your classroom, they have to know what you expect, what you need them to do, and they need to be able to do it. Your expectations are what you allow them to do—not what you say, but what you allow them to do, so if you say, “Walk into the classroom quietly,” and they walk into the classroom and they’re quietly talking to each other, that’s what you expect them to do. Don’t go back later on and think, man, I wish they came in the classroom without talking at all. You didn’t expect that of them from the very first day of school.

    If I see someone talking—even a whisper, even a giggle—we’re gonna stop, we’re gonna come back out, and we’re gonna practice it and try it again.

    I’m telling them fro the start, and then I’m holding them to that. If they aren’t gonna do what I ask them to do, we’re going back out and we’re practicing, and we’re gonna do it over and over and over. I have had classes where I had to do it 15 times on the first day until they realized what my expectations were. Once they realized what they were, now I only have to do it twice or three times the next day, and then hopefully after that, we can only do it once.

    Okay. When you walk through this door, it’s time to work. All right. Let’s make it happen.

    When they walk in this classroom, it’s time to work.

    Clap once. Clap once. Clap once.

    We can goof around sometimes. We can have fun, but we’re gonna stop it whenever the teacher wants us to, and we’re gonna get back to work.

    Clap twice. Simple as that. Let’s get to work.

    But the key is get ‘em in, get ‘em in quickly, and set the expectation before the first class ever starts.

    Welcome to the first day of Algebra I.

    [End of audio]


Nick Romagnolo
Math / 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 / Coach



All Grades / All Subjects / Tch Tools

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, All Subjects, Class Culture

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12, ELA, Class Culture

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Students / Class Culture