Classroom expectations – theirs or mine?

At the start of each year, a common discussion topic among teachers is ‘What do you do in the first lesson with your classes?’. Old school teachers may reply “Be tough, don’t smile until Easter”, “Put them in a seating plan, get them working hard to set a good work ethic” etc etc.

Well, this year, for the first time in a long time, I’d never taught any of the students in three of my five classes. Two were year 9 and one was a year 7 class. For year 7, that’s par for the course, but for the two Year 9 classes, their only knowledge or experience of me as a teacher will predominantly have come from others – either siblings or friends – evidenced by comments such as ‘don’t you give lots of detentions for such and such’, ‘I heard you give lots of homework, is that true’. So my first class had greater significance than ever before. Rather than set out my class rules/expectations, our first lessons were focused on students developing/setting the expectations, giving them some ownership over the culture we are to develop int he classroom.

Our first activity was to work in small groups and discuss what they thought were reasonable expectations for each of them in this class. This was followed by a class discussion and developing a set of expectations for behaviour and work ethic that would set the standard for the year.

Here’s what they came up with:

Student Expectations

  • Do your best. Work to the best of  your ability at all times.
  • Listen when someone else is talking
  • Treat your classmates with respect (this probably covers number 2 anyway)
  • Submit or complete work on time
  • Ask Questions when you don’t understand something
  • Come to class with everything you need

The only thing I had to add was:

  • Try new things and expect to make mistakes.

I thought this last one was important to add to get the students thinking about the role of mistakes in learning and because I want to try and foster an atmosphere  where they aren’t afraid to make mistakes. Hopefully, this will help them take more risks in their learning and experiment more with their projects and tasks.

The second part of the lesson was to determine what were realistic expectations of the teacher. Again, students had time to brainstorm their thoughts and then report back to the whole class. This is where the activity got interesting and required some light hearted negotiation. Students’ suggestions included ‘Give no homework’, ‘Don’t give detentions’. The most interesting and provocative though was “You need toteachus”. My response was “I can’t guarantete you that I’ll teach you as much as you want” This really got them going. “You have to teach us, that’s your job”, “that’s what our parents pay fees for” (we are a private school). I countered that my job isn’t to teach them, but to help them learn. Well, this seemed to spin a few heads as their were lots of confused looks in the room. It’s the first time that I’ve ever had that discussion with junior years and proved that it is a really worthwhile task to do with your class. Let them set the expectations and negotiate with them how the classroom will work to provide a positive learning environment.

Here is the final teacher expectations:

  • Have realistic work load expectations and time frames.
  • Treat students with respect
  • Encourage students in what they do
  • Give meaningful feedback on your work (this was my addition)
  • Listen to students’ ideas

So, a few final thoughts, who sets the expectations in your classroom? Do students have a voice in their learning environment? Will you be teaching the students, or helping them to learn.

Badminton – TGfU

At the end of last year, I began to experiment using the ‘Teaching Games for Understanding’ (TGfU) model in my PE classes. I’d used similar questioning in my lessons previously, but it hadn’t been a driver in developing lessons and units. This year, I’m determined to do it more and have in fact set my department the challenge to adopt it in to more of their units too.

Our year 9’s start with a unit of badminton. In the past, we’ve spent a lot of time playing games and practicing specific skills but little time on strategy. We don’t have specific courts marked out for badminton, so make do we what we can create in the space available. I have managed to string together 6 courts which means the class is active the whole time.

Before starting this year, I did a quick search for some resources online and found a fantastic wiki with TFfU resources for a wide range of sports. I found the Badminton resources particularly helpful in getting my class started.

In the first lesson, the students experiemented with different types of shots. After a quick warm up with one ‘bird’ between two students, they then had to rally just with underarm shots and then with just over arm shots. Because asking questions plays a big role in developing understanding, I asked questions like, ‘what was easy about playing an underarm shot at the front of the court?’, ‘What was difficult using one at the back of the court?’, ‘What was the flight path of the bird when hit underarm?’ and ‘What impact will that have on a rally?’. I asked similar questions for overhead shots in order to get them observing the flight of the shot and to work out how and when they could use each shot in a game.

Today we had the second lesson and it was based on progressions found on the TGfU wiki for Badminton.  Our first activity, used one tennis ball between 2 players across the net. The idea was to move the opposing player around the court trying to get the ball to bounce in open space to win a point. The video below gives a good idea of what the students had to do.

Activity 1 – Tennis Ball

This game provided a great basis for asking the following questions (taken and adapted from the TGfU wiki mentioned earlier).

1. Why is it easier to catch some throws than others?

2. What strategies did you use to try and make it difficult for your opponent to catch the ball.

Activity 2 – Singles with a racquet and bird

We progressed from this game to using a racquet and bird and asked the following questions:

1. When was it easiest to hit the bird? Why?

2. What was the most difficult shot to return? Why?

3. How and when can this shot be used effectively in a game?

Activity 3 – Doubles

The third activity was to play a doubles game, using any type of shot to try and get the bird to hit the ground. It was really good to see the students starting to think about he type of shot they would play and already working out strategies to create space on the court.

At the end of this activity, these are the questions I used:

1. What was the main difference between playing singles and doubles? Answers included a lack of space in doubles, harder to hit it away from opposition players etc.

2. What were the challenges of playing doubles? Answers included, getting in each others way, working out a common strategy or knowing what the other player was trying to do.

3. What different strategies did you use on the court to manage the space? Most teams said one player at the front and one at the back but a couple set up side by side.

4. For each of the two strategies we then explored how you could create space to attack – Question: How can you create space when players are side by side/one forward, one back?

We also discussed the types of shots players could use if they were forced out of position by the opposition and they were able to identify using defensive lobs or hitting the ball long and high to give you time to get back in position.


All of this was achieved in a 45 minute lesson. It was great to see the players starting to think and then putting the strategies they were developing into action. Make sure you check out the TGfU wiki . They have many great ideas that you can use in heaps of different sports.