The transition into class can feel hectic and disorienting for students, especially if they are coming from an unstructured time like lunch or recess, if they struggle to stay organized during transitions, or if they're just having an off day. The thresholding strategy has teachers stand in the doorway of their classroom to greet students, build relationships, and provide consistency by reminding students of expectations and what they need to do to be ready for class. While each teacher should be themselves and authentic when interacting with students, this strategy will provide some tips for how to quickly connect with students and set them up for success at the start of class. This will help students feel recognized and message to them that their presence and participation in class is valued.
A few minutes before class begins, position yourself right by the doorway of your classroom so that students will pass you as they enter. It can be tempting to use this time to straighten up your classroom and focus on getting everything ready, but push yourself to keep this time sacred to greet students.
Consider what your focus areas will be as students enter the classroom. You should be yourself and be authentic! Your goals as students enter are to humanize the transition period by building relationships and providing consistency as well as providing helpful reminders to students who struggle with the chaotic nature of transitions to allow them to be prepared and ready for the start of class.
Consider identifying both academic and non-academic ways to check in with students as they enter. For example:
Academic check-ins and reminders - these help you remind students what they need to do to be successful in class that day:
"Do you have your book/calculator/homework folder/pencil?"
"The bell is going to ring in two minutes, make sure you're in your seat and starting the activity when it rings!"
"Today we're working on our group projects, so make sure you sit with your group."
"Your homework last night was so strong! I'm impressed by how much effort you put into it."
"You were such a supportive partner yesterday; I can't wait to see you do that again today!"
Non-academic check-ins and reminders - these help you establish a personal connection through a brief personal connection:
"How was your basketball game last night?"
"How was lunch today?"
"How are you feeling? I'm excited to see you back to your usual energy today!"
As students enter, greet each student with their name and either an academic or non-academic check-in. As you greet each student, you are signaling to them that you value their presence in your class and are excited to work with them. When students feel valued and respected, your classroom will feel more positive and productive.
Some teachers like to shake hands or high five with students as they enter (or even invent fun handshakes with students), but it is up to you what you would like your greetings to look like.
As you get to know your students, your threshold greetings will begin to give you some additional information about your students' headspace. You may notice a student coming in with a lot of extra energy, in which case you could prioritize helping them get on task at the start of class. You may also notice a student who seems upset as they enter, and you can make a note to check in with them privately during an appropriate moment of class.
It's not always an option to stand in the door before class. However, other "unstructured" times of the school day can provide a great opportunity to connect with individual students and check-in about academic or non-academic items.
Identify times in the school day when you might be able to check in 1:1 with students. For example, this could be during arrival, at mealtimes, at dismissal, or during study halls or free periods.
Because you won't feel the pressure to rush to start class, these less structured times give you the opportunity to stop and have a real chat with students who need that connection the most.
Join students in that space. Move around the space and say hello to students, using academic or non-academic questions to signal that you notice them, care about them, and want them to be successful.
For some students, connecting via conversation or in a public setting can be challenging. These students might benefit from a more private type of relationship-building: a personalized note.
Decide which student(s) you want to write a note to and why. You might choose to write a note to a student after they have a difficult day, do well on a task or assignment, show growth in an area they are working on, go through something outside of the classroom that is challenging, do something kind or generous, or are particularly stressed or worried about an upcoming assessment.
Write a note to the student. Consider writing just a few sentences. If you have a small notecard, index card, or a post-it note, you could use that; otherwise, just fold a piece of paper into quarters and use it as a card.
In your note, especially if you are praising positive behavior, be specific. For example, instead of writing, "Good job on your work today!," call out a specific action that the student took. For example, write something like, "I noticed that during choice book reading time today you selected a book that was challenging for you, and then you read it independently. I really admire your determination and perseverance." Specific, growth-oriented praise helps students identify actions that they can repeat in the future for success.
See the resources section below for a variety of example notes you could write to students.
Deliver the note to the student. In some cases, you may want to hand-deliver it when they enter the classroom; in other cases, you can leave it on their desk or taped to their locker, if you think they would respond better to a more private show of encouragement.
For students whose disabilities lead to difficulties with organization or self-control, thresholding can be a great opportunity to help these students prepare for class. Consider which students need very specific instructions from you at the start of class. For example, you might say, "Marcus, it's great to see you today! Make sure you have your red folder and a sharpened pencil on your desk when the bell rings in two minutes." To build student autonomy, consider changing the instructions into a question: "Marcus, it’s great to see you today! Let’s do a quick check: what do you need to have on your desk when that bell rings?"