Lesson Plan: Back to School Expectations

If there’s one thing you want to establish right at the beginning of the year, it’s what your core expectations are. If you’re unsure about what these are then your students won’t be able to meet them and you’ll feel frustrated and grumpy that your classroom isn’t functioning the way you want it to.

When I was in Belgium teaching, the school’s behaviour expectations fell under what they called the ‘big four’. Is it safe, is it fair, is it respectful, is it kind. Since leaving I have found that those four terms can be applied to pretty much every scenario and are easy for every child to understand. At the beginning of every year I outline these terms and then run some activities to ensure all my students understand exactly what it is that I expect of them.

These activities can be done all at once, or broken down into 20 – 30 minute increments to be done over the course of a week or so and are usable for almost any grade.Use your judgement  in how you divide them up to best suit your kids.

Lesson one — Intro to expectations (first day of school)

8 pieces of chart paper



Time: 20 – 30 min.

Curriculum expectations:

oral language 2: use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes

  • On a piece of chart paper write one of the following:

Safe, fair, respectful, kind, At school I should…, At school my teacher should…, I wish my classroom was…, I worry about…,

  • Give each student a marker and set a timer on your SB or phone and give them 10 minutes to walk around the room and write down what they think each of those words means in terms of  the classroom and school in general. (if they are still on task and working well at 10 minutes don’t hesitate to increase the time, but I have found 10 minutes to be the magic number for middle school stamina)
  • When timer goes off have students return to their desks and then divide them into 8 groups and give each group one of the original chart papers
  • Set another timer for 10 min.
  • Their job is now to synthesize the info on the chart paper into an anchor chart that can be posted around the room

Post charts around the room

Lesson 2,3,4,5 — Safe, Fair, Respectful, Kind & intro to the quick write

Writing journals/ lined paper

Chart paper, or smart board file for master notes

Time: 30 min. each

Curriculum expectations:

Oral language 2: use speaking skills and strategies appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes

Writing 1: generate, gather, and organize ideas and information to write for an intended purpose and audience.

A quick write is a great way to build writing stamina and get kids thinking and working quickly and without interruption. During a quick write there is no talking and they MUST write the entire time. If they run out of things to say they just write I don’t know what to write over and over until the timer goes off. (This is so boring I promise most of your kids will do this once because they think it’s funny then get tired of it and never do it again)

Repeat this lesson with each of the big four.

On SB or chart paper show prompt:

A safe classroom looks like….

A safe classroom sounds like…

A safe classroom feels like…

Set timer and give students 6-7 minutes to write down as many ways to finish those sentences as possible.

Once timer has gone off, have students share their ideas as you scribe them onto the master copy on the SmartBoard. Once they have shared their thoughts add any that you have that weren’t covered. Then repeat the exercise for the rest of the big four.

Key points to hit:

– Physical safety may look different in different places. I.e. in the gym it is safe to run around, but it’s not safe to do so in a science or music room.

– feeling safe extends to feelings and mental health as well. If you are worried about bullies etc. at school you will not feel safe.

– everyone deserves to feel safe at school no matter what.

– fair is not always equal, equal is not always fair

– respect is for everyone. Always. No matter what.

– respect extends to property as well as people. Don’t touch mine or other people’s things without permission.


Lesson 6 — consequences for not meeting expectations

SB, white- board for master list

Time 15- 20 min.
Whole class discussion.

Now that they know exactly how you expect them to behave in class and how to treat you and one another this is your opportunity to let the kids know where your limits are and how you will handle issues. I suggest that you are very explicit about what consequences small issues like interruptions, missed homework and silliness will be, but be a bit more vague about the big stuff. There are going to be times when three strikes will not be an option or you have to make a parent phone call without giving a detention first. I usually just list all the possible consequences and say it will be a case by case basis. Let them ask all their questions and then FOLLOW THROUGH on any consequences you outlined.


There you have it folks, how to make sure your classroom expectations are crystal clear with no room for “I didn’t know” or “it’s not fair!”.

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