One thing that sets my classroom apart is my emphasis on teaching a practicing procedures. I learned this the hard way. My first year of teaching was a mess!! I entered teaching through an Alternative Licensure Program, so it was my first experience in the classroom. I learned quickly that without good classroom management, there can be no teaching and no learning. Unfortunately, I never learned classroom management that year. I just muddled through and tried hard not to quit my job. During that summer I took three courses to earn my license. And in one of those classes I received this golden nugget of wisdom, “Rules are to be broken. Procedures are to be practiced.” Bingo!!
Adolescents are all about rebelling against the rules. So I don’t make any rules (other than the school policies which I always enforce). But I have at least 20 procedures that I teach. Here are a few:
- Coming into the classroom
- Correcting exploration assignments
- Correcting practice assignments
- Turning in assignments
- Turning in late/absent assignments
- What to do when you’re finished
- Test/quiz taking
- Group work expectations
- Independent work expectations
- Pencil sharpening
- Hall pass procedures
- Responding to teacher signal for attention
- Partner work
- Dealing with students who are bothering you
- Group presentations
- Informing vs tattling
- Individual student response vs whole class response
That’s just a few. I teach and reteach these all year long. Probably every day I teach a procedure. What’s the consequence for not following the procedure? We practice it again. Sometimes that means that my students practice coming into the classroom, one row at a time, while the rest of the class quietly waits. Sometimes they practice sitting silently for 15-30 seconds after I call for their attention. They practice putting calculators away. They practice handing in assignments. It makes me feel good, because I’m not punishing them. I’m teaching them, by giving them more opportunities to practice. Of course, they don’t see it this way, often. But it helps me maintain a positive attitude when I realize that I don’t have to get angry at them. I just have to find a way for them to practice the procedure that they are struggling with. And, actually, most of the time they don’t need to practice the procedure. They just need to be reminded. But practice is good for those moments when I can feel my classroom is teetering on the verge of chaos.
I also have signs in posted all over my room that teach some of the more important procedures.
(The informing vs tattling poster I got here: http://www.familyvolley.com/2012/03/tattletale-make-it-stop.html. Very helpful, since my I find that even 8th graders get the tattling bug at times.)
My coworkers joke with me that I have procedures for teaching my students to breathe. While I’m sure I would never take it this far, a small part of me can hear myself saying, “Inhale, class. Now, exhale. Very good. If you find that your breath smells a little strongly, a soothing Altoid would not be amiss. But don’t forget the proper Altoid-retreival procedure. Be sure to take one from the top, and take the first one that you touch.” Hmm, Ms Moore thinks to herself, perhaps I could give them a small formative assessment on appropriately selecting an Altoid from the tin. A picture of an open Altoid tin with the directions, “Circle the Altoid that you should take.” Then I would know if this procedure needs to be retaught and practiced some more.