Saturday, May 4, 2013

Procedures For The First Day Of School

Classroom management is such an important part of having a successful classroom. When a teacher has procedures in place for everything students do in the classroom, it frees up time for engaging lessons that could include group work, creating original artifacts, large scale art projects, etc. because students know how you expect them to behave.

On the first day of school, basic procedures should be explained (and demonstrated!). I continue to emphasize, demonstrate, and practice procedures the first 30 days of school and throughout the year, but here are the main ones I try to focus on the first day of school, along with some ideas for you to consider when creating your classroom procedures

1. Class rules: I preferred to keep mine simple: respect yourself, respect others, respect the school and everything in it (a variation of the one from The Cornerstone for Teachers). This might be too broad for some, but I would keep it five rules or less.

2. Your quiet signal/attention signal: You could use something like "Give me 5" or "1 2 3 Eyes on me" or a clapping pattern they repeat back to you. I have seen a very veteran teacher that just quietly says "May I have your attention please?" in a soft voice and it works great. Whatever your signal is, explain to the students what you expect them to do when they hear it, and it needs to be something you can do anywhere: a field trip, during the hallway during a crazy dismissal, etc. You don't want to be somewhere and need the kids to get quiet really fast (say an emergency or during a school-wide lockdown) and be scrambling to find a bell or some other item.

3. How to enter the room/Morning procedures: Do you require students to be totally silent when they come in? Whisper voices? When they come in at the beginning of the day what steps should they follow? Things to include in this procedure include: sharpening pencils, putting away bookbags (where do they go?), turning in homework or parent notes, beginning morning work/bell work.

4. Hallway procedures: Where should they walk? Are they expected to be silent? Whisper voices? Depending on the age you may need to practice how much space to leave between students, what to do/what not to do with their arms, line leaders or line order, etc.

5. Restroom procedures: Do you want them silent? Whispering? How many students can enter at once? Where should they line up when they're done? Will you have bathroom monitors? Include things such as how much soap and how many paper towels they can use.

6. How to pass in/pass out papers? You may want to pass papers up and down rows or across rows. Consider the layout of your desks for the best method to use. Have students practice this (yes, it sounds simple but you might be surprised what ends up being an issue by October :)

7. Your discipline policy: There may be a school-wide policy already in place that you are required to use. If not, decide if you want something like a basic demerit system (pulling sticks or cards, etc.) I have seen an idea in many schools over the past few years that I LOVE. The chart looks something like this ( you could change the wording if you wanted).

Each child begins the day with a clip on the "Ready to Learn" section. Then their behavior can be moved up and down depending on their behavior. What I really like about it, is that if a student moves down for bad behavior, they can always "clip up" if they change their behavior. Sometimes a child might have a really rough morning, but they decide to make a turn around later in the day--and I want to recognize this!

Side note: If you teach kindergarten, I might wait a little while before introducing the discipline plan so they get a chance to learn the rules before getting in trouble for breaking them :)

8. Recess procedures: You could do something as simple as raising your hand and having students line up as soon as they see you. Or maybe you'll use a whistle or some other noise making device. Whatever you do, teach students to line up quickly because so much instruction time can be lost when there is one or two students who wait until the last possible second before lining up. Maybe even have them race against a clock and the first five who get to you get some kind of (very small) reward.

9. Dismissal procedures: Talk about the one part of the day that can be super stressful, especially the first day of school. You have to make sure each child knows exactly how they will get home, where the buses are, where the car rider line is, etc. If you have very young students it's a good idea to clip a bus number or a "car rider" sign to their shirt or put around their necks in case someone gets away from the group. If your students are older, you can call their names and ask them to tell you how they are getting home (and verify it with the list you have). Teach them exactly how to get their bookbags packed, how you will call them to pack up (by table, one at a time, by number, etc.) Tell them where to go when they pack up (back to their desks, sit on a rug, etc.) You don't want a classroom full of students running to the door when the bell rings so practice dismissal procedures an hour or so before the end of the day so it's fresh on their minds what they're supposed to do.

This isn't necessarily a comprehensive list, but these nine procedures are definitely on the must-list for the first day.

Tip: One of my students' favorite ways to practice procedures (even with sixth graders) is a game I call "Yes No Yes". To play, pick a procedure to practice (say, passing in paper). Ask students to demonstrate the correct way to follow the procedure. Next, ask them to do it the wrong way. Finally, have them practice it the correct way again. It sounds so simple but they get the biggest kick out of getting to practice it wrong, and somehow it really cements the "right way" in their head. I guess it's a little reverse psychology! BUT be careful when you practice this for procedure such as restroom breaks. For whole class procedures, have one or two students demonstrate for the class instead of having 30 students acting crazy at once. Just an idea. Good luck with your first day!

Last tip (I promise!): A fun idea to practice procedures is to take pictures or video of students following the procedures. These can be used throughout the year to remind students of what to do. Or (even more fun) have a colleague take a video of you doing a procedure wrong (think: splashing water in the bathroom or ignoring another teacher's quiet signal). Play it for the students and ask them to point out what you did wrong.

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