Monday, September 1, 2014

7 Classroom Management Routines for the First Days of School

Every year, I spend the first months of teaching establishing the routines and procedures necessary to ensure an efficient, connected, focused, and happy classroom.  (In fact, I begin to establish my routines in the first moments of day one; check out my post about those first five minutes here.)  I can thank my favorite authors, Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong for the First Days of School:  How to Be an Effective Teacher and Fred Jones for Tools for Teaching:  Discipline, Instruction, and Motivation for their guidance in the area of routines and procedures. I would also like to add that my experience is at the high school level, where one might not expect routines to be so critical.

Over my ten years in the classroom, I have found that for routines and procedures to work, they must be practiced, practiced, and practiced.  The first six or seven classes I vigorously train students on the routines in my room and by November the classroom is running very smoothly.   I almost always model the expected behavior, at times with puppets or with volunteers.   Over time, I may quickly remind students about expectations and do not give consequences for not doing these expected behaviors.  As a class, we will simply practice (again) the expected routine until it is done properly.  These practiced procedures also have the benefit of creating fewer discipline problems and they can be modified based on student feedback.  

Here are the seven classroom management routines I focus on at the beginning of the year:

1.  Entering the classroom and beginning class.  I expect students to gather supplies, begin bell work, and grab any makeup work within the first five minutes of class. I have a poster detailing this routine. This classroom opening gets students to work immediately and allows me to chat with everyone, take attendance, talk with tardy students, pass back papers, and do a number of other administrative tasks.  

2.  What to do if you need to stand up for...
    a.  Classroom supplies
    b.  Bathroom/drink
    c.  Bandaids or tissues
I am comfortable with organized chaos in the classroom and encourage students to stand up to access what is needed at any point during the lesson.  I have readily available extra supplies and a binder for using the bathroom. My one caveat:  Students cannot distract others.  (Practicing this routine is generally hilarious, by the way.  Students love to demonstrate what NOT to do.)

3.  Asking a question.  I teach students how/when it is appropriate to ask questions.  With students seated in groups of four, I almost always prefer to answer questions when students are working in groups.  I also build in "group review time" after I give instructions.  Students have the opportunity to review the directions and ask questions with their partners. I will then ask the entire class if there are any questions.  This is a huge time saver and prevents the same four students (you know who they are) from dominating the class with excessive questioning.

4.  Classroom interruptions (knock on the door, teacher visitor, etc.)  I assign one student (the desk closest to the door) the job of opening the door any time there is a knock on the locked entry.  When we have visitors, I have readily available "sponge" activities (such as energizers) available to use at a moment's notice.

5.  Speaking in the target language.  I work with students about when to speak in the target language (French) and when English is okay.  I have used a poster that I simply flip over to detail which language can be used.

6.  Getting the attention of the class.  From the first day of school, I practice getting student's attention with a method that varies from year to year.  Sometimes it is a hand snap, or a countdown...whatever it is, students need to "Stop, freeze, and look at me."  We practice and practice this routine, making it possible to do student-centered work every day.

7.  Passing out and collecting paper.  This can be a time waster, so I practice how I want papers passed out and collected.

In my classroom, every minute is precious.  I find that working on these routines early in the year allows for more focus on work and student-centered learning, and less wasted time.  What routines and procedures do you use the first days of school?

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