Jaime Patterson | September 2015
Practicing Procedures: Part I
For most of us, we are moving into the second week of school. Classes are starting to level out, most of the schedule changes have been made, and we are beginning to delve into our favorite part… the content! However, if you find yourself running into some procedural roadblocks, it’s not too late to develop and practice the class structure. This week we are going to take a look at some ideas for each of the practicing procedures listed in last weeks’ article (see Back to School).
Last week, I listed 10 everyday occurrences having the potential to take significant time away from class if we don’t have a specific procedure in place. Over the next two weeks we will go over some simple ready to use ideas to alleviate devoting class time to non instructional issues.
1. How should students enter?
The start of the class period is imperative to the success of the instructional time. Establish expectations for the academic environment. For example, finish all food and drinks before entering or enter with purpose by having a seat and beginning a specific activity. The teacher is the beacon for how students enter. If we are running around trying to get things ready; we are not sending the right message. Stand at the door, greet each student by name, chat a little to see how they are doing each day, take attendance while they enter. Remember, “students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” You can set the tone of the entire class period by simply standing at the door and greeting the students by name.
2. How do we begin class?
Traditionally, we have a “Do Now” or “Sponge” activity ready for the students to begin. This activity should take no more than 5 minutes. Establish the expectation that students enter and begin immediately. Once the bell rings for the start of class, students should already be engaged in something. Try not to take this time to work on anything yourself, but rather walk around the room and give value and praise for the activity. I like to hold a clipboard so they assume there is a value placed on the assignment, whether or not I am actually grading it, because as soon as they realize it doesn’t “count” they will stop doing it. Make comments to students about the work they are completing, let them know you are interested in what they are doing and that the activity is important for the class.
3. How does a student signal that they need to use the bathroom or get a drink of water?
Having to leave the room is inevitable, but it should not take up class time to do so. There are a couple different things to think about here. First of all, if your class is engaging, students won’t want to leave unless they absolutely have to. For this scenario, try sign language. Have students use the sign for toilet,
Class can continue without interruption and without verbal response. However, there is always one class period of the day where the need to get up and get out is abundantly high (usually around lunchtime). There are a couple things to think about for these special classes. If you notice that a certain class is a little less focused and needs to move around, work that into the lesson. Give them opportunities to move around and talk, don’t fight it. You might find that the lesson becomes so engaging that you try it with all of your classes.
Another option is bathroom tickets. This can be a way to monitor how many times a student leaves the room while still utilizing a nonverbal approach. Create tickets that students can hold up if they need to leave the room. Give each students a certain number of tickets (2 per quarter for example), once they use them then they may not leave the room. Students tend to realize the tickets are valuable and only use them if necessary. Additionally, if they don’t use them they can return them. Some teachers may give extra credit for not using them, I personally am a fan of mastery based grading so that doesn’t work for me. Instead, for me, they can use them to retake a quiz or redo an incorrect answer on an exam, that way the process is still supporting their learning.
4. How do we move around the space for different activities?
Keeping students in rows facing the front of the room is an archaic approach to learning and often hinders engagement. Consider all of the configurations you might use in a classroom, circle, horseshoe, groups, partners, debate, etc. Choose the top 4 and create table olympics. Teach the students the most time efficient way to move the tables and have them practice until the transition only takes a few seconds. Rick Smith, author of Conscious Classroom Management, suggests taking a picture of each configuration and then placing it on the board at the start of class.
Students see the configuration, move to prepare the class, and all is done in a matter of seconds without the use of voices. Martha Kelly, a high school theatre teacher uses songs. She will begin a song and the students have until the end of the chorus to have the tables set. She uses “the ants go marching” for rows, “circle of life” for a circle, and “it takes two” for partners. She starts the song, the kids join in, and within seconds the room is transformed.
Practicing Procedures or so important to the success of a classroom. Although it may feel like you are spending a lot of time practicing procedures, the time is worth it, because it will alleviate future distractions ultimately providing more time to engage in learning.
Piquès & Pirouettès
Next Week: Practicing Procedures: Part II
Next week we will take a look at idea for implementing and practicing procedures for the following daily occurrences: how do we prepare and experience a class discussion, how do we look at the end of the class to show we are ready to go, how are we dismissed, what happens if I am late, what happens if I am absent, and how do we turn in paperwork? Plus a downloadable Procedures Play, that will add a theatrical component to practicing procedures!