Classroom Management: Procedures = Prevention

Procedures are one of the top three classroom management must-haves that every teacher should be utilizing to keep their class culture positive, orderly, and conducive to learning.  If you missed that post, you can check it out here. Today, we are going to dive deeper into procedures. What are they, and how can you use them effectively?


A Procedure Is…

According to Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong in The Classroom Management Book, “Procedures are the tasks students must do to increase their chances for learning and achieving.”  They are simply the means of accomplishing an action.

Procedures set up your classroom for success, and they set up your students for learning.

A Well Managed Classroom → Student Engagement → Productive Learning Environment


Why Should You Use Procedures?

  1. Procedures help students understand exactly what is expected of them.  This reduces behavior issues that are the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding.
  2. Procedures reduce wasted time.  This means students have more time to intellectually engage in their learning.
  3. Procedures ensure your classroom remains orderly while still allowing students to embrace the “messiness” of learning.
  4.  Procedures reduce YOUR workload by creating an effective system that puts responsibility back in students’ hands.


When Should You Use Procedures?

You would be surprised at the types of activities you could – and should – be using procedures for.  Take a minute and think of all of the activities where time is wasted in class.

Taking attendance. Passing back papers.  Assigning new seats.  Transitioning to lab stations.  Picking partners.  Packing up bags.  Collecting assignments.  Checking homework.  Answering student questions.  Getting out supplies.  So on and so forth…

You could realistically have a simple procedure for every single one of those tasks that would save you time and energy, all the while reducing opportunities for behavior problems and lost learning time.


What Makes A Procedure A Good Procedure?

Reflect again on those tasks I listed above.  Which ones do you do really well?  What works about your process?  Is it easy to remember and carry out?  Does it serve multiple purposes?  Are students taking responsibility?  Are students learning while they do it? Is it quick?

Just like everyone has their own style when it comes to teaching, you’re going to have your own style when it comes to procedures.  That said, we all know “best practices” exist in terms of instructional strategies and interactions with students, and those same “best practices” exist when it comes to developing your classroom procedures. Keep the following things in mind as you design your procedures.

1. Your procedure must accomplish the task.

This is literally the entire point of the procedure.  Accomplish the task, whatever task it is.

Pinterest is full of fun procedures, cute classroom setups, and adorable organization strategies. But just because it works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you.

Identify your classroom goals – your ideal classroom environment and culture, your teaching style and instructional strategies – before you even start thinking about procedures to carry those out.


For example…

For example, I witnessed an awesome teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, play “Desk Olympics” with her students.  She taught them early in the year to arrange their desks in a variety of ways to support different activities — fishbowl discussions, groups of two, three or four, and even a “clear the floor” option.  This allowed her to keep her students forward-facing, working independently on the day to day, while also making for quick transitions to short bursts of group work.

I taught a simplified version of this procedure to my class early on one year – just going from partners to groups of four – and it worked fine, but as the year progressed, I realized I didn’t really need that procedure at all.  I had lab tables in the back of my classroom that were perfect for group work, and I preferred my students to stay in partners when we worked at the front of the room.  My two-desk arrangement, plus flexible seating options, eliminated the need for any moving of desks.  When we worked in groups, we moved to the back of the room.

Her procedure wasn’t bad by any means. It was AWESOME, actually.  But I didn’t need it. It wasn’t necessary for my instructional strategies and physical environment. (See more on physical environment below).

So the moral of the story here: consider your teaching style, your strategies, your students, YOUR GOALS, before jumping on any procedure-bandwagons.


2. Your procedure should be easy to remember and implement.

It is normal for a procedure to have two to three steps (think: enter class, get your pencil, take a seat).  It is not so helpful when a procedure has twelve complicated steps that students are expected to remember.  It’s just not going to happen, and you are going to struggle enforcing it.  You may even struggle to remember it yourself.


3. Your procedure should build upon the physical environment.

Or build your physical environment to support your procedure.  Either way, your physical environment and your procedures have got to mesh.  When your goal is to get students into class and working quickly, don’t make them walk back and forth across the room to collect all their materials.  You’re setting them up to fail.

Likewise, if your goal is to minimize disruptions caused by bathroom trips or late arrivals, don’t put a bell on your door that rings loudly as students enter and exit.

These examples might sound silly and common sense, but for real, consider your physical environment and align it with your classroom goals and procedures.


4. Your procedure should save you time and energy.

Procedures should simplify your life, not make it more complicated.  Yes, it will take some time to teach procedures up front (more on that below).  That said, in the long run, procedures save time and energy.  They reduce inefficiencies, maximizing the learning time.  They reduce your workload, empowering students to set up, clean up, and provide services in your classroom.

If your procedure is making more work for yourself in the long run, DITCH IT.  It’s not worth it.


How Do You Implement Procedures?

You teach them.

It’s pretty simple.  You teach it. Like literally, TEACH IT LIKE YOU TEACH ANYTHING.  Then, you give them time to practice. YES, THEY NEED OPPORTUNITIES TO PRACTICE.  And then you review it. Again, and again, and again.

You CANNOT expect students to remember your procedures after teaching it once.  When they make a mistake – when they don’t follow your procedure – don’t assume it’s blatant disobedience.  They’re adolescents, and how they enter science class is pretty low on their list of concerns.  Assume they simply forgot, and give them a reminder.

For real, even high school students need reminders.  Over and over and over again.  That said, eventually, they will get it.  It just takes a little time up front.


Use Visuals.

Post them. Post them everywhere. Put up posters on your walls.  Tape procedures to the desks. Include the procedure in your syllabus and on group work assignments. Label everything, so they know where it goes.

These visual cues can make all the difference.


Review, Review, Review

Every single time you use a procedure – especially if it’s something that you don’t do daily – review the procedure.  Review how students are supposed to move to their lab stations.  Describe how to interact appropriately with their partner.  Explain how they should pass their papers forward.  Review the procedure before carrying it out so that there are no misunderstandings.

This is obviously more important early on in the procedure’s life.  As students become more familiar with your procedure, especially the ones you use daily, they won’t need these frequent reminders. That said, a little proactive prompting can prevent a lot of problems.


Learn More: Examples Of Procedures

I had originally intended to include examples of procedures in this blog post, but I’ve really covered a lot more than I had expected to, and I don’t want this to become overwhelming.  Check out the following post Classroom Procedures Every Teacher Should Use for more ideas.

For a whole book of great ideas, be sure to check out the Wong’s THE Classroom Management Book linked below. (Disclaimer: This is an affiliate link. I’ll get a few cents if you purchase.)