Creating consistency in classroom procedures
As a new teacher, you are likely asking yourself: how do I create consistency in classroom procedures?
One of the most important aspects of the first lessons of the year and the planning of those lessons is creating classroom procedures and keeping those procedures consistent.
Classroom procedures are actions or activities that either occur regularly in your classroom, or procedures for events that you hope never to occur, but you want students to be prepared for.
Children find comfort in structure and consistency. The place to give them freedom is in their ideas, thoughts, and creativity, not in classroom procedures.
What procedures do you need to think about right off the bat? Emergency procedures are extremely important. You are required to practice emergency procedures like fire drills and lock downs. Make sure your students know where they’re going and how to get there before the first school-wide drill.
Everyday classroom procedures are also of upmost importance. Consistency eliminates confusion. If you want your students to come in every day and deposit their homework in a folder before they sit down, tell them that the first time they have homework and insist that they do so every time. Reinforce students who are properly following the procedures with praise. “Thank you for turning your homework into the folder before class,” etc.
Another classroom procedure you’ll want to establish immediately is how you want students to enter the room.
Must they be in their seats when the bell rings? May they talk for two minutes after the bell while you take attendance? Are the students allowed to talk during the morning/afternoon announcements? Are students required to complete a “do now” or warm up upon entering class? Are they allowed to eat or drink in your classroom? If so, what are they allowed to eat and drink in your classroom. I only allow drinks in closable containers like a water bottle and I ask that snacks be small and non-disruptive. One year I had a kid claim an entire plate of spaghetti was his snack. Um, no. What about gum? Decide now, and keep it consistent.
Another important procedure is how they go to the bathroom. Must they get your permission? Do they need to sign out of the classroom somewhere (there is likely a school policy on this)? Do they have to have a pass? Kids will have to leave class to use the bathroom starting from day one, so they need to know how you want them to go about doing that.
Reward/punishment consistency is extremely important.
Do you allow any curse words? If not, how will you punish students if they do curse? Do you allow students out of their seats without asking? What are your testing procedures? Must students always use pencil, always use pen? Does talking need to stop by the time the first test is distributed? Let students know how you will deal with cheating/plagiarism. My students know that I would rather sharpen their pencil for them during a test than have them out of their seat peering over shoulders and they happily raise their hand and I happily sharpen their pencil.
Think about how you want students to turn in a test. Do you wait until all students have finished and collect them all at once? Do you have students raise their hand and you go around and collect them as they finish? Do you have a particular place where they may turn in their tests? What if the test is electronic? Do they have to close their screen when they are finished? May they use the computer or other device to do other things when they are done?
There are so many things to think about and you may end up winging it for some of your classroom procedures the first year.
Procedures are exhausting to enforce at first because they require constant attention until they become routine, but it is worth it. Just try to be as consistent as possible and your classroom will run like a well-oiled machine after a few weeks. The less time your students spend confused about what they’re supposed to do, the more time you’ll have to teach.
Being consistent with discipline is tricky as well. Does your school have a “discipline matrix?” Find out if you don’t know. They are becoming more and more popular. A discipline matrix is a list of common student offenses (truancy, skipping, fighting, etc), and the ramifications for those actions. I love the discipline matrix! For example, after five tardies a student receives a pre-determined consequence, after school detention perhaps. The matrix creates a consistency that really works, but it is your job to follow the matrix and resolve classroom level issues in your classroom and send issues deemed referral worthy to the office. Don’t override the discipline matrix unless you feel it is truly necessary in a particular case.
One more word about consistency.
I hate to compare kids to dogs, but I feel a little analogy might go a long way here. Those of you with pets will understand. You know the scenario: Spot the dog is not supposed to sleep on the bed. You tell Spot over and over to get off the bed and training is going pretty well until one night. You know what I’m talking about. There’s that one night that it’s cold and you think it would be nice to have Spot curl up next to you under the covers. Game over. Once you’ve broken the rule once, it will be impossible to keep Spot off your bed. He will hop up after you are sleeping, or sneak in when you get up to go to the bathroom, etc. It’s the same with kids. Break the rule once and they will learn that rule is bendable and expect to be able to break it again. You must be consistent!