What Procedures Should Every Teacher Use?
Over the last few posts, I’ve discussed the basics of classroom management as well as how to implement classroom procedures to reduce behavior issues and improve your classroom environment. If you missed those posts, definitely check them out. I want to take some time now to share a few procedures I believe EVERY teacher should establish. Now, I’m not going to tell you HOW to establish it — you need to figure out what works best for you and your students. I will provide you with a few examples from my own and others’ classrooms, but a procedure that works for you is the one that works best.
Classroom Procedures #1: Entering Class
This might be a no-brainer, but you should establish a procedure for entering class. Students should walk in each and every day knowing exactly what they need to do to begin class, and not a single second should be wasted. (Ok, that’s a little dramatic. I know we are all working with children and adolescents, and they do move on their own schedule to an extent. That said, you’re going to waste significantly LESS TIME by establishing a start-of-class procedure compared to letting things happen willy-nilly).
Now, you may be saying, “Well, I start class when I enter it.” Not good enough. Students should be starting class on their own! WHAT!? Yes. Students should start class as soon as they put their foot through the door — getting the appropriate supplies and beginning their work with no prompt from you (other than those constant reminders, of course).
So how can you structure your Entering Class procedure? Here’s a few suggestions I’ve dug up for you!
In my own classroom, I teach my students to enter class, get their notebooks from the appropriate shelf, and begin their Science Starter. They begin this process while I am still greeting my students at the door and taking attendance as they enter. When the bell rings, I enter class and set a timer – typically for about 2 minutes. The timer is projected so that students are aware of the time they have left.
After entering attendance into the computer, I begin making my rounds of the room, stamping completed work. To earn the stamp, students must have the question and an answer. At this point, I don’t care what the answer is. For the most part, students work to identify the correct answer. On occasion, a student may take advantage of this policy and write something along the lines of “apple.” For my purposes — which is to simply start class quickly, quietly, and efficiently while I complete mandatory “housekeeping” tasks — the occasional “smart aleck” is not a concern.
When the timer goes off, I quickly stamp any students I had missed (whose work is complete), and then we review the question. Students are expected to correct their work, or they will not receive credit for the answer when I collect the Science Starters. Students return the papers to their folders until the page is filled. All of this takes no more than roughly 5 minutes.
In an elementary setting, you might use something like Morning Tasks and Morning Work to get students in class and focused. The Science Starter fulfilled that role for me in my middle and secondary classes. However, no matter what grade you teach or what your “morning work” looks like, you should post your Entering Class routine as a visual reminder and reference tool.
I always keep the general procedure posted somewhere students can easily see it – and I can easily refer to it if reminders are necessary (which they are, often!). (You can grab my old procedures posters for free in my TpT store.)
That said, when the procedure might be a bit different or class may be disrupted — such as on the first day of school, a field trip day, or school assembly — I may simply jot an updated task-list on the board.
I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of note-taking in science classrooms. That said, I do believe it can be done in alignment with the NGSS and the 5E Model, although it is a very different approach than what most of us have known.
If your students are typically working in their notebook during class, it would make sense for them to set up their notebooks at the start of class. Perhaps it is recording the Learning Target or Success Criteria for the day, or perhaps it is copying an organizer, a question/prompt, or diagram into their notebook. All of these activities can be done independently by students, so it makes for a perfect Entering Class activity.
Classroom Procedures #2: Group Work
It is so important that we provide students with the opportunity to work with others in our classroom, but it is equally important that we structure that work. We have all been there: one person does all the work, one person does none of the work, everyone fights over who does what, everyone argues over who goes first, no one can decide who to work with, everyone chooses horrible partners, so on and so forth. Whatever it is, without clear expectations, boundaries, and procedures, group work can be a nightmare.
That said, procedures can help streamline group work.
Dividing Into Groups:
Create a system to divide students into groups. There are a TON of options out there, but I’ve pulled a few from Pinterest below.
Collaborative groups tend to work best when each student has a certain responsibility. That said, you need to choose those responsibilities carefully. You don’t want one student’s “job” to end before the activity even begins (aka the “supply person”). Your goal will be to create roles that engage students throughout the entire activity and help delineate responsibilities without preventing students from participating in any specific part either! It’s a tricky task. Here’s a few examples of group roles that might work for you.
Classroom Procedures #3: Absences
Planning for absent students is a challenge, but it’s best to set up a system early on — before the absences start to accumulate. The goal will be for absent students to get the material and resources they need without taking up too much of your time — and ideally, NONE of the class’s time.
I’ve gone through a number of approaches, and the one I finally settled on was a Absent Student Binder that had a quick checklist of the day’s activities (identifying the notebook pages we completed and any worksheets/materials we used). While I did put each absent student’s name on any materials we used and personally handed it to the student when they returned, I put extras of all materials into a file folder for each course, as well. Lastly, I kept my own version of the student notebook, which made it easier for students to catch up on notebook work they had missed. They never had to copy from another student, because my notebook was always available for them.
Classroom Procedures = Prevention
Procedures prevent behavior issues, lost time, and unnecessary work. Every teacher should be establishing procedures, but the procedures you use will be tailored to meet the needs of you and your students. These are just three procedures — entering class, group work, and absent students — that I believe every teacher should consider implementing, but there are a TON more.
I highly recommend you check out The Classroom Management Book by Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong.* It is like Pinterest for procedures — so many ideas to get you started! (Note: This is an affiliate link! If you decide to purchase based on my recommendation, I’ll get a few cents. :-P)