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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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August 2014 – Welcome Back to School!

FEATURED Resources: From Chaos to Community: Your classroom CAN be a fun, safe, and effective environment for both you and your students!

It’s that time of year, when as a teacher, you admittedly get a little bit of the “back to school blues” (so much for sleeping past 6:00 AM and eating lunch in more than 15 minutes), mixed with nervous excitement and anticipation of the 25 (or 30…or 40…) students who will be staring at you in a few days.

To ensure you have a great year, use the Consortium’s activities for building a self-managing, respectful and tolerant community in your classroom, where students not only enjoy learning, but where high performance is guaranteed.

Preparation: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin

Preparation involves the physical space of the classroom, all of the items held within the classroom, the structures and procedures you will use to organize your classroom, the curriculum you will teach, and yourself. The more you can consider and plan before school begins, the better off you will be. According to Harry and Rosemary Wong, “Studies have shown that effective teachers had the classroom ready.  They prevented problems by implementing a plan at the beginning of the school year.  This plan:

  • Used time as effectively as possible
  • Implemented group strategies with high levels of involvement and low levels of misbehavior
  • Chose lesson formats and academic tasks conducive to high student involvement
  • Communicated clear procedures of participation

Because effective teachers had the classroom ready, they were able to prevent many misbehaviors from occurring. [They subsequently incur] far less stress in having to deal with behavior problems and are able to leave each day feeling happy, accomplished, and proud.” (First Days of School, Harry Wong & Rosemary Wong)

Don’t worry if you don’t have every bulletin board covered with bright covered paper. That’s not really the point. The point is to get organized and ready for those young folks heading your way, because if they smell disorganization, they’ll eat you up.  Check out the Consortium’s Preparing the Classroom Community for its Citizens for a check list that will help you think about important classroom considerations.

Establish and Teach Procedures

Consider all of the things students will do in class and in school.  To ensure order and productivity, let students know the procedure beforehand by explaining it, modeling, rehearsing, and reinforcing the procedure.  Never assume students already know how to do something. If you hear yourself saying something like, “Oh, PUH-LEESE…these are 8th graders. They certainly know how to line up quietly in the hall and walk orderly to lunch,” smack yourself on the hand. Assume they don’t know anything until you teach them.

From the first moment your students arrive outside your door, you should be establishing and teaching procedures. Any gap where you don’t teach students what to do is a gap they will fill by doing whatever they think they should do, or whatever they want to do. It’s likely this won’t match up with your expectations, so teach them.

Teaching some procedures will be simple and quick; others will take more time and require detail, but don’t make anything more complicated than it needs to be.  Keep in mind that while all procedures need to be taught, not all procedures need to be taught at very beginning of school. Just ensure students are taught the procedure before being required to participate in it.  (For example, if you head to the computer lab for the first time during the second month of school, make sure to teach them the expected procedures a few days before heading to the lab.)  Most importantly, when teaching procedures, do so in a professional way, letting students know they are developing the mature qualities of serious students.  If you resort to teaching procedures as a “drill sergeant,” students will feel belittled and grow resentful.

Some serious advice: Whatever you do, don’t use the first 15 minutes you ever spend with your new class taking attendance or passing out textbooks. The most important day of school is that very first day, in particular, those very first minutes. You want to use this time to make a great first impression and set the expectation that your classroom is equally a place of work and respect. Somehow, calling out “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” while kids wiggle around in their desks from boredom doesn’t really convey all that.

For specific activities on teaching procedures, check out the following resources:

Overview – Establishing and Teaching Procedures:

Teaching Group Work Expectations with “Tear It Up!” will discuss the attributes of successful group work and be introduced to classroom expectations and procedures for working in groups. Students will observe both positive and negative examples of students working in groups and reflect upon what they witnessed. Students will then begin to practice group work procedures and expectations by participating in a non-verbal, cooperative learning activity. Finally, students will reflect on what they learned, what they did well with in regards to working in groups, and what they can improve upon for next time.

Teaching Discussion Expectations ensure successful and respectful student discussions, it is important that students are first taught procedures for appropriately conversing. In this activity, students will explore, develop, and practice effective ways to hold small group and class discussions.

Establish Clear Expectations for Classroom Behavior Inclusive of Student Input
In order to create a safe and effective classroom community, firm expectations must be established starting on the very first day of school that are followed and reinforced each day. As David Schimmel notes in Collaborative Rule-Making and Citizenship Education, “Collaborative rule-making promotes mutual respect, cooperation, self-discipline and personal responsibility while also providing the structure and security students need.” Lay the foundation of positive expectations, soliciting student input and providing time to teach, model, practice, and reflect on these expectations.

Providing time for this during the first day and weeks of school is a deal breaker…a complete and total non-negotiable. But, don’t freak out. Investing ample time during the first days of school to do this, even if it means not starting your official curriculum for a few class periods, will pay off throughout the year. (It will really will. We promise.) You will earn MORE time for teaching since you won’t be stopping and starting lessons a few months into school to address behavior problems. Since you spent the time to lay the appropriate foundation of what is acceptable in your classroom community early on, students will hold themselves and each other accountable, providing you with more time to teach, not to mention, less headaches.

Here are some specific activities to get you started establishing and practicing expectations in your classroom:

The Ideal Classroom Community Member: Establishing Expectations for Classroom Behavior:
In order to create a safe and effective classroom community, firm expectations must be established that are followed and reinforced each day. In this activity, the foundation for a respectful classroom community will be set as students are introduced to predetermined classroom expectations and are given the opportunity to explore and add to them. Through the creation of an “ideal classroom community member” brainstorm, students will feel more responsibility to follow expectations they themselves have shared in detailing. The process of establishing expectations for classroom behavior must begin on the first day of school, with revisiting and reflection of such throughout the first weeks of school and beyond.

Respect or Disrespect?:
In this activity, students will continue to explore and add to the classroom expectations, gaining the understanding that part of being a responsible member of a community is being respectful and handling conflicts in an appropriate way.  Through role-plays and discussion, students will examine specific behaviors and choices as they relate to respect in school and develop an understanding of how each individual’s actions determine the climate of a classroom.

Maintain a Positive Classroom Environment
Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious. ~Bill Meyer
As you work to lay the foundation of and build upon a classroom community, infusing positivity into the classroom atmosphere can increase each student’s sense of belonging, as well as motivate them to follow community expectations and work to excel at the academic tasks at hand. Here are a few simple ways to easily ensure your classroom is a place where students enjoy learning:

Say “Hey” Your Way!: “When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” ~Toni Morrison
Middle school students enter our classrooms with a wide range of backgrounds, needs, and feelings. Ultimately, each of them strives to be recognized for who they are. By greeting each individual student at the door each day as they enter class, teachers demonstrate a respectful, professional, and welcoming nature that adds to the foundation of a classroom community.

Positively Positive:

Check out these quick and easy strategies for infusing a bit of “happy” into your classroom:

Managing the Middle School Classroom:
 “When annoyed, count to 10 before you speak; If very annoyed, count to 100.” Thomas Jefferson

Even when you’ve thought of everything, there are still going to be days when potentially disruptive situations occur in your classroom. The ways in which we respond to a disruptive behavior often determines whether the situation escalates or not. Teachers should be aware of the fine balancing act required when dealing with a student who is off-task. You never want to let a student stop instruction or disrupt the productivity of the entire class, but you also don’t want to let an off-task behavior go unaddressed – particularly in the beginning of the school year. Read about various techniques for diffusing disruptive behavior or situations here:

***For additional activities, go to the Consortium’s Database of K-12 Resources at Enter the “Activities” section of the database and click on “Classroom Management/Setting Expectations.” You can also access activities for building character, addressing bullying, increasing tolerance, etc. by searching “Character Education & Conflict Resolution.”

All in all, while you are looking out for your students, we at the Consortium are looking out for you. And that is the spirit in which these activities were designed. If implemented in an effective way, they can make your life as a teacher less stressful, more productive, and (dare we say) easier.  Feel free to contact Christie Norris at with questions about these activities and strategies, or if you need assistance addressing a particular issue in your classroom. And may the 2013-2014 school year be your very best yet!

 News Updates

1. NC teachers gather to learn government matters
By: Janae Frazier

Teachers from across North Carolina gathered Monday in New Hanover county for a local government seminar.

About 20 teachers are taking part in the workshops being held at the New Hanover County Executive Development Center. The workshops look at the role of government in North Carolina and explore pedagogical strategies for teaching their students about how the local government works.

Teachers will meet with local government officials and visit county and city departments.

Program director Paul Bonnici said this program will help teachers better understand local government so that they can better teach their students. He also said the seminars are for teachers to network and share classroom ideas.

The seminar is being held from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Monday and 9 a.m.- 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The North Carolina Civic Education Consortium is hosting the event with the North Carolina City and County Management Association.

The NC Civic Education Consortium is a program operated by UNC Chapel Hill’s Program in the Humanities and Human Values. The program offers things such as free trainings and summer institutes, lesson plans, and customized trainings for schools and districts.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

This story originally appeared on WECT’s website on July 28, 2014.  It was updated on August 01, 2014.

2. The CEC is Now Taking Curriculum Requests!
Is there a particular topic for which you would like to request a lesson plan? The Consortium is working on adding to its Database of K-12 Resources and is taking requests! If there is a topic you find difficult to teach or make interesting for your students, or a topic for which you feel resources are lacking, let us know! Contact Christie Norris at and share details of what you’d like us to develop.

Current Opportunities

1. K-12 Teachers: Join us for From Talking to Talkin’ Tar Heel and receive a $75 stipend!
Saturday, September 27; 1 PM – 5 PM at the NC Museum of History, Raleigh

Do you know what a “dingbatter” is? If someone tells you a poster on your classroom wall is a little “sigogglin,” what do they mean? Join the UNC Program in the Humanities to find out how language and dialect provide a fascinating way to understand North Carolina’s rich and diverse cultural heritage at From Talking to Talkin’ Tar Heel, to be held at the North Carolina Museum of History on September 27, 1 PM – 5 PM. Based on the newly published book Talkin’ Tar Heel: How our voices tell the story of North Carolina by Walt Wolfram and Jeffrey Reaser, this seminar will explore the origins of human language, dialect diversity, and why North Carolinians speak the way(s) they do. Every attendee will receive a free copy of Talkin’ Tar Heel, allowing them to directly experience the rich regional, cultural, and ethnic language practices of the past, present, and future in North Cackalacky. Come and learn directly from the author how and why the language and dialect traditions of the Tar Heel State should be embraced and celebrated along with other cultural and historical traditions. And stay tuned for more: the NC Civic Education Consortium is currently creating a curriculum for the book Talkin’ Tar Heel, which will be available in winter 2014!

In addition to the free book, K-12 teachers can register for this seminar for a discounted tuition price of $30 (50% off regular tuition). After attending the seminar, teachers will then receive a $75 stipend!

Teachers are also invited to come early and spend time in the Museum’s fascinating exhibit, The Story of North Carolina, where more than 14,000 years of the state’s history unfold through fascinating artifacts, multimedia presentations, dioramas, and hands-on interactive components.

To register, visit the following link:

Make sure to select the $30 tuition option to attend at a discount. Paperwork will be provided to you at the event to receive your $75 stipend.

For additional information or questions, contact Paul Bonnici at

2. The Program in the Humanities and Human Values Announces their Fall “Adventures in Ideas” Seminar Schedule
Register now to secure a spot in a general seminar offered by the Program in the Humanities. K-12 Teachers receive a 50% discount off tuition and a $75 travel stipend as a part of the Daisy Edmister Fund. Seminars are Friday evening and Saturday morning or all-day Saturday. Receive credit for 10 contact hours of continuing education. While these programs are designed for a general audience and do not include pedagogical training or lesson plans (unlike the Consortium’s teacher trainings, which include a combination of pedagogy, curriculum exploration and scholar lectures), these seminars are still an excellent way for teachers to expand their content knowledge in various topics.

Topics and dates are:

For more information about these opportunities and to register, visit or call 919-962-1544 or email

Register today to secure a seat!

3. The NC Museum of History Offers Travel Grants & Workshops for NC Public School Teachers.
Deadline: December 1, 2014.
The NC Museum of History announces that travel grants will be available to North Carolina public schools this fall to help cover part of transportation costs to the museum in Raleigh. Your North Carolina school may qualify. Title I public schools, Title VII American Indian schools, and other schools with a high percentage of low-income or at-risk students have priority. The travel grants are made possible by a $50,000 investment from Duke Energy through the Duke Energy Foundation and by a gift from the Museum of History Associates.

In addition to transportation grants, Duke Energy will award 100 tuition-free, online professional development workshops for classroom teachers. The museum offers eight different online courses throughout the year, and North Carolina educators can earn up to 40 contact hours of continuing education credits for each class completed. For details on class topics or to register for a workshop, click here.

To request an application for a travel grant, e-mail Kate Betka at or call 919-807-7984. Apply early. All applications must be received by Dec. 1, 2014.

For more information about the NC Museum of History, visit their website:

4. Student Filmmakers Needed for the Longleaf Film Festival
The inaugural Longleaf Film Festival will take place on May 2, 2015, at the Museum of History in Raleigh. This year’s festival is part of a yearlong celebration of North Carolina’s rich heritage in filmmaking, which includes, Starring North Carolina! — an exhibit of the places, people, and productions that have made North Carolina home to more than 3,000 screen events over the last 100 years — and a film series of North Carolina–related movies.

For more information, go to

5. North Carolina’s Role in the American Revolution
The North Carolina Society of the Cincinnati has produced a FREE, 20 minute video of North Carolina’s Role in the American Revolution. You may view it at the following link: .

If you have links to videos that you think are valuable for teaching the Social Studies Essential Standards, please send an email to Dr. Steve Masyada at

6. Reflections on Human Rights Abuses During Argentina’s Dirty War – A Panel Discussion with President Jimmy Carter

Friend of the CEC and UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor C.A. Tuggle joined former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and UNC Professor of Leadership and Public Policy Hodding Carter III for a panel discussion on human rights on July 16 at The Carter Center in Atlanta. The event, which is part of the “Conversations at The Carter Center” series, will focused on Argentina’s “Dirty War” during which tens of thousands of individuals were arrested, tortured and killed from 1976-1983. Tuggle will screened his documentary – “Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and the Search for Identity“ – which describes the efforts to track down the grandchildren missing as a result of the “war.” A discussion about human rights and featuring central figures in the film followed. The program was moderated by Dr. Jennifer McCoy, director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program.  The panel included:

  • Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter
  • C.A. Tuggle, UNC professor and producer of “Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and the Search for Identity”
  • Hodding Carter III, UNC professor and former U.S. assistant secretary of state for public affairs
  • Tex Harris, former U.S. Embassy officer in Argentina
  • Bob Cox, former editor of the English-language Buenos Aires Herald

The “Conversations at The Carter Center” series presents Carter Center experts, policy makers and special guests to discuss the issues that shape the world. Following discussions, panelists take questions from the audience.

A webcast of the entire program is available here:

The CEC has developed ready-to-implement curriculum about Argentina’s Dirty War for North Carolina Social Studies classrooms and a film viewing guide for general audiences:

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