Getting Off to a Good Start:

A Written Resource for Repeated Reference

Getting Off to a Good Start (GOTAGS) is designed for easy access and application of proven techniques and principles. As the teacher reads through the manual, he or she completes the twenty-plus activities and reflections along the way. The text culminates with the development of a personalized plan for the teacher’s own classroom for those first days of school. The book includes access to downloadable planning templates that can used year after year.

With over 100 pages of valuable information, vital activities, personal advice, data-driven research, downloadable templates, graphic organizers, and forms for annual usage, GOTAGS is more than just a teacher’s survival guide. Learn more about GOTAGS

GOTAGS is based on…

  • Multiple in-depth studies of classroom time management and student management with fellow professors in Education and in Special Education at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education,
  • Dr. Alene Harris’ personal teaching experience: 16 years in elementary and secondary classrooms with diverse socioeconomic levels that this research validated
  • Conversations with many, many teachers

Explore the Getting Off to a Good Start three-part synopsis below.

Setting the Stage for Learning

  • Surviving the First Days of School
  • Preparing Your Classroom
    • Planning, Analyzing, and Modifying Your Room Arrangement
    • Focusing on “visibility, accessibility, distractibility, and flexibility”

Addressing the Four Main Student Anxieties

  • The Teacher
    • Getting to Know Your Students While They’re Getting to Know Their Teacher
  • “Doing School”
    • Rules, Procedures, and Goals – Distinguishing, Developing, and Defining Each
    • Teaching and Reinforcing Classroom Rules, Procedures, and Goals
  • Grades
    • Building Expectations of Success with Initial Academics
    • Encouraging Student Accountability for Academic Work
    • Clarifying Students’ Understanding of Assignments
    • Making Visible Your Grading Expectations
  • Physical and Emotional Safety
    • Creating a Positive Classroom Community
    • Helping Students Learn About One Another

School-Home Communication

  • Communicating with Parents
  • Using a “Help Me Know Your Child” Form
  • Laying the Groundwork for Appropriate Parental Involvement
  • Making an Initial Proactive Telephone Contact

The Screencast

In the eight screencast segments, teachers alternate between viewing brief presentations of animated slides with a voice-over and engage in activities that build toward a detailed, proactive plan to begin the school year. Time and cost effective, the screencast provides ultimate flexibility for teachers’ preparations. Learn more about the screencast

  1. Program Introduction
  2. Arranging the Classroom
  3. Introducing Yourself to Students
  4. Developing and Teaching Class Rules
  5. Developing and Teaching Class Procedures
  6. Encouraging Student Academic Accountability
  7. Developing a Safe and Positive Classroom Climate
  8. Communicating with Parent/Guardians

The GOTAGS screencast use provides a very desirable cost/benefit ratio of teacher time required and teacher/school results. See Segment #3 as an example.

Teacher Time Requirement

A teacher can complete the program in 9 to 12 hours of his or her own choosing before the school year begins, then applying the results on the first day of school.
For professional development credit information, click here.

Individual Benefits

  • Step-by-step guidance through all pages and activities of the book
  • The content and activities of an actual workshop without the cost of a workshop
  • A flexible viewing schedule that conforms to each teacher’s own timeline over the summer months
  • The opportunity to complete the program at an individualized pace.
  • Unlimited access to the screencast for two years for continued review and planning

School & School System Benefits

With no school-calendar in-service day required and no consultant’s fee, the GOTAGS Screencast saves time and money. Other benefits include the following:

  • Each teacher has in hand a research-based, proactive lesson plan outline for beginning the school year, which can also serve as documentation that the program was completed.
  • All faculty, first-year teachers, and mentor teachers share a common language for class management discussions.
  • New hires are more likely to have a positive experience in the coming school year and stay in the teaching profession.

Screencast Access

Screencast videos access is available both to individual teachers with the book-plus-screencast purchase and to a school system purchasing 10 or more books for teachers. In either case, a teacher with a GOTAGS book receives two years of free and unlimited screencast video access.

Individual purchasers receive an access code with their books. Schools designate a screencast administrator who adds teacher accounts that allow teacher access.

Teachers may use the screencast resource from any computer with an internet connection.

Each teacher with a book has two years of access to the screencast. This allows a teacher to revisit the screencast over winter break and review GOTAGS to help the second semester get off to a good start, and to review again for the coming year.