Why It's Important to Welcome Your Students to Class
You know it's polite to hold the door for other people, but did you know it’s also the secret to successfully managing your classroom?
Research from the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis has shown that greeting your students each day can lead to an increase in student engagement, and many teachers have also found that classroom greetings can lead to better behavior, a more positive classroom atmosphere, and a sense of community among students.
Greeting and welcoming your students on the first day of school (and as they enter your classroom for the rest of year) is more than just a friendly gesture—it’s the perfect way to practice preventative discipline and build a positive classroom culture where students are engaged, focused, and friendly. Check out these eight reasons that show why welcoming your students each day is the perfect way to set up your classroom for success.
1. It's a great way to learn names and faces
The first few weeks of school can be a little nerve-racking as you attempt to learn each of your student’s name as quickly as you can. For the first week of school, try to stand outside your classroom and greet each of your students individually with a warm greeting, an elbow bump, or even just a smile. Introduce yourself, ask students to share their names with you, and then welcome them into your classroom. This practice will help you put a name with a face in no time and will also help your students feel welcome in your classroom.
2. It saves time
Once you get into the routine of greeting your students at the door or when they join an online meeting, you’ll be surprised at how effective instruction given as they prepare for class can be. In an in-person environment, reminding your students of their daily expectations as they walk into the room while engaging in such activities hanging up their backpacks and getting out their homework can help you make the most use out of your time. In a virtual environment, setting aside a few minutes at the top of class to chat as students join the session allows you to remind participants to gather all the materials they will need for the day within reach, replenish water bottles, do a quick stretch, and prepare to focus so you can minimize disruptions during class. Your students will be ready to start at the same time you are, and you won’t need to waste class time repeating instructions over and over as your students get settled. They’ll know what to do before they even get to their seats or join virtually, and by the time you assume your teaching position, your students will be ready to begin class.
3. It helps set the focus on learning
Meeting your students at the door also has the added benefit of helping both you and your students set the focus to learning (or, in your case, teaching) as soon as you enter the classroom. Even if you are in the middle of a hectic week, the physical action of walking to the door, focusing on each of your students, saying hellos, and giving out instructions will help you be mindful and center yourself on the day’s lesson.
4. It starts off class on the right foot
Everyone has heard the adage of how a smile can turn someone’s whole day around, and because you’ll typically have no way of knowing how your students’ day has been before they walk into your classroom, it never hurts to throw a smile their way. Positive interactions with your students—both verbal, such as giving them a compliment or asking how they are doing, and nonverbal, like giving them a high five or a thumbs-up as they walk in—can help put everyone in a good mood and make them feel more at ease in the classroom. Even if students have been having a bad morning, a welcoming smile may be just what they need to help put their minds at ease, rather than having to carry any of their negative feelings all the way to their desks.
5. It helps foster a sense of community
In addition to you greeting your students, you could also encourage them to greet each other as they enter the classroom. This is an especially popular practice for younger grades, as it’s a great way to teach students manners, confidence, and respect for one another. Over time, as your students get to know each other, they will feel more comfortable working together and staying focused and engaged in class, and the classroom will feel more like a community.
6. It helps you gauge students’ emotional states before they enter the classroom
Once you’ve gotten to know your students, greeting them before the start of each class is a great way to get a good read on how they might be feeling before they enter the classroom, and it gives you a chance to reach out if you notice any off behavior. For example, you might notice that Donovan, who is usually chipper, mumbled his “good morning” and seemed a little distracted as he walked into class. Now that you’ve had the opportunity to note his change in behavior, you can take moment either before or during class to discreetly follow up with him and ask him how he’s feeling. You might discover that he woke up late and had to skip breakfast or that his family pet is sick. After you know what’s going on, you can grab Donovan a granola bar or let him know that you’re always available to chat if he feels upset, and you can continue with your regularly scheduled class, keeping in mind that Donovan might not be up to reading aloud today.
7. It’s a great time to practice preventative discipline
Preventative discipline involves setting up classroom procedures and rules as a preventative measure before any misbehavior occurs. One method of preventative discipline involves delivering pre-corrective statements, or statements that highlight correct behavior you would like students to exhibit, as you greet students in the morning. Let’s say that, in yesterday’s class, you had to remind Emily several times not to talk to her neighbor during your lesson. Without bringing up yesterday’s misbehavior with her, you can remind Emily as she walks into the room that today is a good day for listening during class.
Behavior narration is another excellent technique to use while your students are filing into the classroom. Praising and recognizing students who are engaging in the appropriate behavior that you want other students to engage in too is a simple classroom-management tool you can use to make sure that the vibe stays positive, and you aren’t making any students feel singled out as they walk into the classroom. Instead, you are highlighting the kind of behavior you want to see your class model, and by engaging with your students as they walk in, they are more likely to be receptive to your instructions.
8. It’s a good opportunity for some casual formative assessment
This is an especially nifty way to shake up your regular morning greeting if you have an assessment or exam approaching. Before class, prepare a few formative assessment questions to ask your students as they come into the room. It’s a nice way to squeeze in a quick review of materials and gauge what topics you might want to brush over during the first few moments of class.
Greeting your students as they enter your classroom each day is a great way to not only set the tone but also indicate to your students that you are alert, engaged, and excited to see them. When you greet your students at the door with a smile, you are letting them know that you are present and ready to teach and that you expect them to be present and ready to learn.
Looking for more classroom management tips before heading back to school? Check out our blog post on How to Help Your Students Find and Maintain Enthusiasm All Year Long!
This post was originally published August 2018 and has been updated.