Classroom Procedures

Student asking a question
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Teachers must develop classroom procedures in order to make the most of each school day. A classroom built on procedures and routines is more likely to foster positive relationships, experience daily productivity, and enjoy a relaxed environment—even in the face of challenges—than an unstructured and unpredictable classroom.

Well-defined procedures are essential. As a teacher, you need to create and enforce systems that will not only increase efficiency but also keep your students safe and help them to understand what is expected of them. Procedures allow you to set the same expectations for every student—this methodical approach ensures equity and saves you time having to explain yourself.

Teachers who do not clearly define procedures experience avoidable stress and rob their students of important experiences. Though procedures benefit both teachers and students, the onus is on you to decide what rules and routines will be most successful in your class. Start with these five types of procedures.

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Begin Class Intentionally

Beginning-of-the-day routines are important for classroom management and some of the most significant procedures you can set. A teacher that is intentional when launching every school day is likely to successfully carry out all of their responsibilities—attendance, homework collection, printing/copying, etc.—and motivate their students to do the same.

Morning procedures are so important that they are often explicitly outlined in teacher guidebooks and frameworks. The Danielson Teacher Evaluation Rubric describes the benefit of effective morning routines in terms of efficiency and predictability:

"Instructional time is maximized due to efficient and seamless classroom routines and procedures. Students take initiative in the management of instructional groups and transitions, and/or the handling of materials and supplies. Routines are well understood and may be initiated by students."

Follow these three steps to establish a successful procedure for the beginning of the day: greet your students, start on time, and give them bell work.

Greet Your Students

The school day begins for your students the moment the bell rings, so be sure to make their first few minutes count. Greeting students at the door with positive verbal or non-verbal interactions can improve their engagement and motivation. Taking the time to individually acknowledge each of your students also shows them that you care and this type of bonding is integral to healthy teacher-student relationships.

Start on Time

Don't risk losing any instructional time by starting class late, even by a few minutes—a few minutes every day adds up. Instead, set high standards for yourself for punctuality and timeliness just as you expect these behaviors from your students. Beginning anything on time is a learned behavior for anyone, so show your students what time-management looks like and don't be afraid to use mistakes as learning experiences.

Give Bell Work

Teachers should always provide their students with a warm-up task to be completed independently at the start of every school day. This routine helps students transition into a learning mindset and makes an otherwise hectic morning schedule more organized. A journal prompt to write, mathematical problem to solve, location to identify, an independent book to read, or graphic to analyze are all examples of independent tasks students can get started without your help. Remember also that when students are engaged in a task, they are less likely to misbehave out of boredom.

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Establish a Procedure for Asking Questions

Students should always feel encouraged to ask for help when they need it. Unfortunately, many students would rather keep their comments or confusion to themselves after being shut down for poor question delivery too many times. Get ahead of this problem before it even presents itself by telling your students exactly how you expect them to ask questions and showing them that you value their inquiries.

Set a clear system for students to follow when they need help. These guidelines should help you to avoid getting off-topic during a lesson and provide students with plenty of opportunities for getting help.

Common question-asking procedures for students include:

  • Raise your hand.
  • Write down questions so you don't forget.
  • Wait until after a lesson (or until the teacher asks) to ask a question.

Additional actions that teachers can take include:

  • Designate an area where students can "post" or write questions anonymously.
  • Set aside time where you sit at your desk and students can approach with any questions they may have.
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Create a System for Restroom Use

Students are always going to need to use the restroom during class and they should never be punished for this. As a teacher, you will need to put in place a system that makes bathroom use as undisruptive as possible. This guarantees that students are not denied the right to essential bodily functions and you are not inundated with frustrating and inconvenient—but entirely reasonable—requests.

If you are not lucky enough to have a bathroom in your class, try some of these rules for out-of-class restroom use.

  • No more than two students gone at a time. If another student needs to go, they need to watch for a student to return.
  • No bathroom use as the class is leaving (to a special, lunch, a field trip, etc.). Students should go ahead of time so that they stay with the class.
  • A teacher must always know where each student is. Try a whiteboard by the door, bathroom log, or bathroom pass to keep track of students.

Another optional procedure is to enforce a time limit if you feel that it is appropriate and necessary. Some students will take longer in the restroom because they are abusing a relaxed bathroom policy, but others genuinely need the extra time. Decide what is right for your class—additional rules can be imposed upon individuals if needed.

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Determine How You Will Collect Work

Collecting student work should be a streamlined process that makes your life easier, not harder. However, if teachers don't have a practical plan in place, the process of gathering student work can become an inefficient mess.

Don't let poor planning when collecting work lead to grading discrepancies, lost material, or wasted time. Decide what system will make this task easiest for you and teach your students the rules.

Examples of common homework-submission policies include:

  • Work should be handed in as soon as students come into the classroom.
  • Students should always deliver work to a designated location.
  • Unfinished work should be presented to the teacher directly.

Digital classrooms also need systems for handing in work. There is usually less for a teacher to decide in this domain as most platforms already have designated homework folders, but you will still need to show your students what to do. Educational software programs include Google Classroom, Schoology, Edmodo, and Blackboard. Student work is often timestamped upon submission for these platforms so that a teacher knows if work was submitted on time.—t

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End Class and Lessons Efficiently

The same attention that you give to the start of class should be given to the end of class (and end of lessons) for the same reasons that beginning the day strong is essential. Many teacher handbooks stress the importance of designing a sequence of activities that stretches all the way to the end of a lesson, not focusing any more on introductions than conclusions.

Ending a Lesson

Wrapping up a lesson cements new information in your students' brains and checks in with their development. You need to always design your lessons with activities that follow a coherent sequence for a natural conclusion. In other words, don't present new information as you're concluding or skip over important lesson features such as independent practice just to get to the end faster.

Always end your lessons with a conclusion activity that summarizes key takeaways and assesses student progress toward learning goals once they've had plenty of time to practice. Exit tickets—quick questions or activities at the end of a lesson—are a great way to find out what your students know. Use these to determine whether students are meeting expectations to inform future teaching.

Different forms of exit tickets include:

  • KWL charts for students to tell what they already knew, what they still want to know, and what they learned following a lesson
  • Reflection cards on which students write down real-life connections or the most important thing they learned
  • Short comprehension quizzes that require students to answer questions about the lesson

Ending Class

End-of-day routines should be like your beginning-of-day routines in reverse. Any homework should be distributed and safely stored in backpacks, desks and other furniture should be returned to their original positions, and materials should be put away for use the next day. If you have emphasized organization throughout the day, cleaning up before the final bell rings should take no time at all. Your students should have the room cleaned and their supplies ready to go several minutes before the actual bell rings.

To provide some closure to your students, gather the class at the carpet or have them sit at their desks to discuss the day either before or after clean-up. Give them positive and constructive feedback highlighting what they did well and what they could do better tomorrow—you may even choose to let them do the same for you.

Finally, just as you greeted your students at the beginning of the day, see them out with a warm gesture of goodbye. No matter what kind of day you had, you should always end on a positive note.