Weekly Tip – The 3 P’s of Classroom Management – 3 Part Series
Part II: Procedures
The first building block of good classroom management is positive environment, as we discussed last week. This week we’re going to take a look at the 2nd building block of good classroom management – procedures. For those of you who have been subscribing to this newsletter for a long time, you’ve heard my soap-box about procedures. I simply cannot say enough about this topic. In my mind having set procedures for your classroom means the difference between having an okay year and a great year. It definitely can mean the difference between having a bad year and a good year!
Human beings are typically creatures of habit. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being spontaneous have habits. We drink our coffee the same way every morning. Some of us brush our teeth first thing while others wait until after eating breakfast. There are people who live their lives by a watch and others who don’t. Think through your day for just a moment. What activities and/or tasks do you do similarly every single day? Do you walk the dog? Feed the fish? Get dressed? These activities become habits. We tend to complete them the same way (or very close to the same way) every day. You could say that these are procedures for your life.
A procedure, simply put, is :
1. An act or a manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.
2. A particular course or mode of action.
3. The sequence of actions or instructions to be followed in solving a problem or accomplishing a task.
(Source – http://www.dictionary.com)
When we create classroom procedures we are developing a course of action and/or a sequence of actions to accomplish a task. For example, an “opening class” procedure may consist of students checking their “mailbox” for returned papers, getting out their journal, sharpening their pencil, and beginning the focus assignment before the bell rings. A “closing” procedure may consist of students putting their journal back in their “mailbox”, turning in the class assignment, cleaning up the area around their desk, and sitting quietly until dismissed.
Classroom procedures should be developed for the different activities accomplished daily in your classroom. How do you expect students to turn in homework and classroom assignments? How do you expect students to work together in groups? What are your expectations for students to label their papers for assignments? What do you expect students to do when participating in writing or reading activities, labs, or learning centers? How will students request to go to the restroom, see the nurse, or get materials for class? What about lining up and walking down hallways to Art or recess?
All of these actions and activities require procedures. Some procedures should be written down so that students can easily see and refer to what is expected of them. Other procedures will be communicated verbally by the teacher. However, it is vital that you take the time at the beginning of the school year to think about how you want your class to operate. It is this proactive reflection and determination that will make your life easier. Clear communication only happens when you are certain about what you expect. If you only have vague ideas of what you think you want, chaos can easily happen. Don’t forget that your students are human beings also. They are likely to develop their own ways of acting and their own “procedures” to follow if none are specifically given to them. The more prepared you are in the beginning, the less likely your students will come up with their own more creative habits.
Take, for example, students entering and leaving your classroom. With clearly marked procedures in place, students know to enter the classroom, get necessary materials, and begin working before the bell rings. This does not mean that you will not have to redirect and remind students to get this done, but it does mean that each one already knows what they should do. When the bell rings most of your students will be sitting at their desk either working or preparing to work. Without a set procedure you’ll end up with students entering class at their leisure, chatting with friends, hanging out about the room doing “whatever” until the bell rings. Then you have to take the time to herd them all back to their seats in order to get class started. This, as some of you know, can take a chunk out of class time.
Once you have developed your procedures, be sure to train students in following these procedures. Go over them at the beginning of the year and practice. Stick to these procedures daily so that students can get into the routine and develop the habit. Before the bell rings, remind students of what they should be doing. If you see students not following your procedures/expectations, stop and practice it again until they do it properly. Taking time at the beginning of the year to practice and get into the habit of following these procedures will save time at the end of the school year when everyone is feeling that spring fever. Do not think that you are wasting class time by practicing and revisiting these procedures. Instead, you are wisely using time to reinforce positive habits that will continue throughout the school year.
As we discussed last week, a positive environment is only the beginning to good classroom management. The next step is developing classroom procedures. These will then reinforce that positive environment when everyone knows what to do and what is expected. There are no hidden surprises and everyone is on the same page. This results in a teacher who feels less stressed and less likely to show frustration in the classroom. Students respond to this positive atmosphere and tend to behave in a more positive manner. Next week we will discuss the last of the 3 P’s – Productive Students – and how this element increases the likely-hood of having a well-disciplined class.