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Setting Expectations

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation.” Charles Kettering

Setting expectations is crucial to achievement. Setting expectations is also vitally important in building relationships with your students. Classroom expectations help maintain structure and they create a friendly, safe, and motivating environment. Classroom expectations establish feelings of respect and trust between teacher and students, and within your classroom. Teachers should hold themselves to the same expectations they establish for their students.

Setting expectations in the classroom should begin the very first day. Additionally, students need to be given the opportunity to help establish the expectations and goals for the classroom, they need to have a voice from the beginning. When students work together with the teacher to establish the expectations and goals for the classroom, they will take ownership and as a result, they will perform better. They will also be invested in their own learning and achievement.

An effective first-day activity is to allow the students to work in small groups to discuss what they want their classroom to look like and to create a list of must-haves to be excellent learners.

  • Supply each group with chart paper and markers. Each group should choose a recorder for their suggestions.

  • Give guidelines to the class, such as their expectations should be well defined, achievable, and necessary for the success of each student.

  • Remind students that classroom expectations should be consistent with the goals and expectations of the school.

  • Set a timer.

  • Once each group has completed their chart, hang all charts around the room.

  • Explain to the class that they are going to do a gallery walk (explain how this works: walking quietly to each chart, no discussion.)

  • Each student will have a marker or stickers, and their job is to walk around the room, carefully reading each chart. On each chart, they indicate their own personal must-haves to be a successful student. Again, set the timer.

  • After the gallery walk, discuss the items with the highest number of marks. Create a list based on the results, discuss as a class, and come to an initial agreement.

  • To ensure each student understands the expectations, modeling, practicing, and even reflection are good strategies to incorporate before the final agreement.

  • Once a list has been agreed upon, each student and the teacher signs the chart. Display the chart throughout the year as a reminder of the expectations.

“The first and last days of school are the hardest for a teacher. The first day you are starting all over again. On the last day, you are letting go of the progress that was made. What comes in the middle is the building of a classroom community. Create your classroom community first, and the learning will fall naturally into place.” Kathy Griffin’s Teaching Strategies, 2015

Building relationships, creating community, and setting expectations need to happen from the very first moment your students walk into your room, effective teachers start those things before the students even enter on that first day. Success for your students depends on those first days of school. Setting expectations, high achievable expectations, will foster a learning environment where students will achieve and succeed.

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