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?

I have taught adults most my life, this tactic of absolute silence for adults and/or high schoolers would be insulting and condescending.  For older students, expectations such as come in and get ready, put up their phones, get out a Chromebooks, etc.  are reasonable.  These examples seem to be all geared for younger groups.  

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1. The relationship between tone and expectations are that they both set the standard. Tone will be how you demonstrate the matter and expectation is the probable outcome that is desired to happen. Both will need to work together to get the point across, I believe. 

2. Applying Mr. Romagnolo's distinction in my class would be to demonstrate consistancy and communication. If I set the tone and expectation for them and months down the road I allow the rules to bend then you allow the students to run the classroom. I have to practice consistancy and communication with them so that they understand that these rules will not change. 

3. If a positive tone wasn't set on the first day then it is more than okay to discuss that with your students. If I felt unsure about how my students took it then I would ask what their perspective was. It's okay to mess up and make mistakes and it's okay to share them (in this regard of course). I think showing that vulnerability with the student's will create a better friendship and trust with them. Not only that, I want the classroom to feel like a safe space, mistakes are okay - just have to figure out how to learn from them and how to press forward. Maybe the next day in class this looks like, "Hey guys, I am sorry if I didn't explain this well yesterday. This is how I really meant to share this with you......... Does this make more sense for everyone?" 

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I believe that the tone along with the expectations assists in controlling your classroom, as mentioned if you allow the students to come in from day one and do what they wish then you will be fighting the discipline game all you long because the student won't respect your words. Each educator must develop their own style, however they must take control at the onset to ensure that each student is able to learn the curriculum distraction-free.


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Mr. Romagnolo is very clear and concise with his expectations.  His tone shows that these expectations are not a joke.  Students know to take what he says seriously, because he is giving his instructions in a "no nonsense" matter.  

I like what Mr. Romagnolo says about student expectations being "what you allow them to do."  By having expectations that have been formed like this, you are setting your students up to succeed, not to fail.  As a teacher, it is our responsibility to establish structure within the classroom so that students know how he or she is to operate.

In a perfect world, a positive tone would be set on the first day.  However, we all know that this is not guaranteed.  That being said, if a positive tone were to have been missed, I think it is important to assert that tone as quickly and as effectively as you are able.

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I agree with Mr. Romagnolo's methods here & I have heard this same method from other teachers. It is crucial to set the expectations for your students, follow through, and set the tone for the year. If students realize on day one that you take your work seriously and you will not tolerate them doing any less than working in there classroom then I believe you will have far less issues arise.

For my class, I believe I would implement his method of lining the kids up outside of the classroom and establishing ground rules before ever walking into the room. I believe it captures the student's attention, cutting down on lost time in the classroom.


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  • [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


TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration