Procedures and routines are the keys to a well-run, efficient classroom. They are the oil that makes the gears work smoothly. When classroom procedures are done well, the students have fewer discipline problems and make more academic gains than in classrooms where they are not taught or there are none.
Effective procedures can increase safety and security in your classroom. Students know what to expect from you and your class – consistency and stability. Routines provide comfort because it reduces the anxiety of the unknown. This does not mean class has to be boring or that you cannot have changes, surprises, or excitement. It does mean students have a few things they can count on, which leads to security.
Here are a few important things to consider as you do this intentional work toward a more efficient classroom.
Procedures are not Rules.
Just as the heading reads. Procedures are not rules. I actually do not have any classroom rules. I instruct students to follow the school rules when they are in my classroom, but I have never found the need to have additional classroom rules.
However, it is important to have structure, expectations, and routines for a well-functioning class. These are my procedures. Things such as how I expect students to begin working, how I handle a student needing a pencil, what to do about cell phones in class, where students turn in work, etc. These things are much more relevant to an efficient and safe classroom environment than a list of rules.
Choose the right classroom procedures.
Having a list of procedures is not enough, though it is an important starting place. Here is a great, FREE resource to get your ideas going. Use this guide to decide all the routines and procedures that are appropriate for the physical space, the way you structure your lessons, and the classroom culture you desire to have.
Be sure to choose plans you are able and willing to follow through on. They won’t work if you are not consistent. Your buy-in is most important. You cannot be lazy about enforcing the procedures. If you commit, your students will, too.
Explicitely teach the classroom procedures.
Once you have selected the best, most appropriate procedures and routines for you and your classroom, what next? We cannot expect our students to implicitly know what to do. And mentioning your expectations as you go on with content teaching won’t be meaningful, nor will they stick. You must set aside time to explicitly teach students what to expect. At the beginning of the year is best, but if you find yourself frustrated at any point in the year with things like off-task behaviors, disruptions, blurting, chaos during transitions or at the start of class, etc., it may be time to do a procedure reset.
Teach your procedures as if you would teach any other lesson. Put extra care into making it fun and engaging though. Need an idea? This is how I do it. I present them with a PowerPoint in a Q & A format. I made three versions, so click around if this one doesn’t fit your style.
As you are teaching the procedures, have students practice. For example, you choose to ring a bell as an attention-getter. Explain that to students. Then, have students stand and talk as if they are really engaged in cooperative learning and the classroom is abuzz with conversation. Ring the bell and count them down with “3, 2, 1.” See if they can wrap up their sentence (not their paragraph), get seated, and get quiet by the time you get to “1.” If not, let them try again. They will learn your expectations more clearly if they get an opportunity to put them into practice as they are learning the procedures.
Taking the class time to teach these procedures may seem like a waste of time…you may feel like you need to jump into teaching content. I promise it is not a waste. You will more than get that time back. Plus, you will save your sanity.
Assess your students' understanding of the procedures.
If you are going to hold students accountable for your procedures (which you should), you need to make sure they understand what is expected of them. Teach, practice, assess, give feedback. It can be a short, multiple-choice quiz, but it needs to be something. An assessment of some sort will serve several purposes: a chance to implement any of your “quiz procedures,” reinforcement of the expectations, and an opportunity to reteach anything they didn’t grasp. It also adds a weight of importance. If students know you’re taking these routines seriously, they will, too.
If you would like to read about a couple of my favorite procedures, click the buttons below. And cheers to a more efficient classroom!