Preparing to head back to school? Establishing clear expectations and procedures will lay the foundation for a calm productive year.
When I mentor new teachers, the most important way I can help them is in supporting them to set clear expectations and procedures. A teacher can have the most amazing academic lesson planned, but if he or she doesn’t have classroom management, the lesson gets lost in the chaos.
With so many standards and so little time to teach them all, teachers often feel like they don’t have time to stop and teach students how to behave. The reality is though, taking a little time to set clear expectations and procedures will add valuable time into your lessons every day.
The first thing to set is 3-5 clear expectations. Some people use the words expectations and rules interchangeably. Having overarching expectations helps to encompass many more behaviors than specific rules. For example, saying “Be Safe” covers rules like walk in the classroom, don’t tilt your chair, keep your hands to yourself, and many more.
Take time to have a class discussion about the expectation and what it means. I like to have students list examples and non-examples to make the expectations clear. Here is one example:
Establishing clear procedures will set the tone of your classroom.
The first time my husband volunteered in my room, my students made him aware of some of our procedures. I was teaching second grade at the time and we were having centers while I met with leveled reading groups. I had him sit at a center where the kids would play a game from one of my Super Stars Skills packets. My husband is by nature a rather loud and fun person. As he was playing a game with the students, he cheered really loudly for one of the students. Their reaction was priceless. The quiet buzz of the class went silent as they looked at me waiting for me to give him a reminder. This was the loudest anyone had ever been in class. I had to try really hard not to laugh. I just smiled and said, “Mr. Hutchens doesn’t know our procedures, maybe you can teach him.” One of the kids in his group said, “Mr. Hutchens, when we have centers we have to use our indoor voices because the other teams are trying to concentrate.” He laughed and said, “I’m not very good at being quiet.” The kid looked at him very seriously and said, “We’ll help you.”
Here is an example for when the office makes an announcement over the loud speaker. If we don’t teach the kids to freeze and listen, we miss the announcement because they go quickly.
Important Procedures: Do Now / Bellringer
Having a procedure for when students enter the room is essential. Students take different amounts of time to sit down and take out what they need. You don’t want to just be standing there waiting. This is why having a Do Now or Bellringer can be so critical. Everyone comes in, gets to work right way.
Personally, I love digital writing prompts as a bellringer. I have quotes to respond to in my Growth Mindset resource, my Quote of the Day resource, and many holiday themed quotes resources. For the younger students, I like to use picture prompts. I also sometimes play a video while kids walk to the carpet.
Sometimes, though, like during math, I don’t have a go to assignment. So, in those situations, I use a digital Do Now slide to show on the interactive white board as the students enter.
Verbal directions don’t always sink in while students enter from recess, but having it posted where they can all see it helps the students know what to do and allows me to interact with students as they come in.
What if They Don’t Follow the Expectations and Procedures?
If a student doesn’t follow an expectation, like Be Safe, that is when you would give a warning, having a chat, have them appologize, or give a consequence.
If a student doesn’t follow a procedure, though, this is when you would have them practice again, If a student runs in the hallway when the procedure is to walk, have them try again. The student just turns around, goes to a location, and then walks to you. The great thing about focusing on procedures is it isn’t personal. This is how we do things. If a student doesn’t have that down yet, then they get a chance to try again.
Returning the situation where my husband loudly screamed during center time. The kids all looked at me because they wanted to see if I’d have him practice. Sometimes a kid will yell loudly during a center, realize it, and look at me. Then we could just exchange a look where the kid acknowledges that they need to remember to use the right volume. For a kid who didn’t notice, I’d go to them or have them come to me. I’d ask, “What kind of voice do we use during centers?” If the child could verbalize the procedure (with the proper volume) then we’d be done. If not, we’d practice saying a random word like banana loudly and quietly and decide which was the correct volume. The key is understanding the procedure. If a child looks like they think they are ‘in trouble’, I’ll be direct and say, “I’m not mad and you and you aren’t in trouble, we just need to practice this.”
Teaching Expectations and Procedures Throughout the Year
I certainly don’t want to spend hours and hours on the first day of school teaching expectations and procedures. I like to plan out which ones I want to teach and have them available for when they come up in class. I’ll usually teach one expectation a day during the first week of school, and then teach procedures as needed. For example, the first time a student breaks a pencil, we’ll stop and introduce the pencil procedures.
I used to make paper anchor charts or just discuss things verbally. Now, I like to use Digital Anchor Charts. All the pictures in this post are from my Back to School Digital Anchor Charts resource. At the beginning of the year, I’ll prep the slides and type into them as we have our discussions. As the year goes on, we might revisit procedures that students are struggling with. I may assign a slide in Google Classroom and let teams, partners, or individuals fill in the examples and non-examples.
Want a free sample of the resource and a list of procedures to teach your class?
Check out this blog post about homework procedures.
These are two of my favorite books for classroom management. The following links are affiliate links which means if you click and buy it today I will get a small percentage of the cost but it will not cost you extra.