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How to Plan (and Stick with) Classroom Procedures

The beginning of the year is full of activity. Getting to know the students and introducing them to school rules is just a piece of it. As a classroom teacher, you will also need to start your classroom off on the right foot. One of the best ways to do that is to establish rules and procedures for your classroom. Every action in your classroom needs to have a procedure or process to match it.

Consider What You Want

When planning procedures and processes in the classroom, you need to consider typical classroom movements. For instance, there needs to be a procedure for pencil sharpening, leaving the classroom as a class, leaving for enrichment or remediation, bathroom breaks, questions during a lesson, questions during independent or group work, and using electronics in class. It may seem that this is overkill, but wandering students, interruptions, and unasked questions can make for a stressful day.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The first few days of school should be spent practicing these procedures until they are like second nature. After that, you can even pick students to do it incorrectly so that you can review with students what proper procedure should look like and why it’s essential to do things as you planned. For instance, having students sharpen pencils in the middle of class or instruction might let students know how loud it can be and how it can disrupt learning. Likewise, having a student stumble over chairs and announce they are going to the bathroom while leaving the classroom makes it more disruptive than following procedures.

Involve Students in Designing Procedures

Students who have a stake in the classroom tend to behave better. Ask students to help you figure out which procedures to plan. Additionally, you can have the students plan the procedures. For example, ask them what they think should be done when they need to sharpen pencils or when these things should be done.

Make it Fun

Planning procedures is much easier than making them stick. However, one of the best ways to make them stick is to make learning fun. Procedures can get boring if you repeat them over and over without creativity. The following are some ideas to make it fun.

Acronyms or Initialisms

When you create acronyms or initialisms for your students, they have a shortcut for remembering the procedure. Likewise, when they design these independently or as a class, they tend to be even better at remembering.

Songs or Rhymes

Poetry and songs are fantastic memorization tools. Have your students create a song or poem to teach the class a procedure.

Each One Teach One

Have your students teach the procedures to each other. Then, break the class into groups. Assign each group one procedure. You should have them check with you for approval first. Then, come together and have the groups show each other the procedures they designed.

Photos and Videos

Have your students pose for pictures or record videos of the procedures. The videos can be uploaded to classroom websites, and the photos can be placed in the area where the procedure would take place or on a bulletin board.

Chants and Call/ Response

Chants or call/response can be good, especially in classrooms with students with special needs. For instance, repeating a procedure in rhyme can trigger a memory for how to complete a procedure for students who struggle to remember things clearly. Also, building this into a routine is a fantastic way to get them involved. For example, you might chant, “when I say sit, you say,” and they respond with “down” as they are sitting. They will know that it is time to sit, and they need to do so by the time the chant has finished. You might repeat it a given number of times to help them get cleaned up from their activity if necessary.

Don’t Forget Routines

Routines are essential in the classroom as well. You may be thinking that procedures and routines are the same things, but they are not. Procedures are HOW things are done. Routines are the order that things should be done. For instance, if you want your students to put their book bags away when they get to the classroom, that is a routine. How and where they put the book bag away is the procedure.

Why Do Procedures and Routines Matter?

Beyond keeping your classroom operating efficiently and minimizing disruptions, procedures and routines keep students from being confused. Likewise, they cut down on congestion in high traffic areas during independent work time. This may be the time for sharpening pencils and taking trips to the restroom, but no one is working if everyone is gathered in one area. Teaching routines and procedures means that you don’t have to worry about a lack of participation because everyone is doing something at the same time. It also cuts down on arguments over who should be doing what.

Final Thoughts

Plan your routines and procedures carefully. Don’t forget to think about how you will move around the school, in other classrooms, and outside of the school door. Even on the playground or during recess, procedures and routines are necessary. Children should be given the freedom to play, but they also need to know what to do if many people want to do the same thing simultaneously and how to bring problems to the teacher’s attention.

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