Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Value of Establishing Classroom Routines

In my first few years of teaching I used to wonder: what is the big deal about having a set of procedures for routine classroom tasks such as dealing with lunch cards, metro cards, taking attendance, motivational work and collecting homework? I used to think, I can handle these tasks as they come. You know what happened next. One day I was blindsided. It seemed as if every announcement and bit of paperwork hit every period on the same day and I realized that I needed to have established procedures. Why?
1. Procedures greatly reduce the amount of time that is robbed from the lesson
2. Procedures give students the responsibility.
3. Procedures set an immediate purpose because it puts the students in charge of important classroom routines
4. Procedures save time, particularly when the routines are posted
5. Procedures organize the classroom
6. Procedures greatly reduce the number of lost, messed up or mixed up papers.
It is worth it to get the file organizers that allow you have to place labels on the front. I used to put the period and subject of the class. It was an incredible time saver. When I had to travel between two classrooms, I would get the rolling file cabinet that only included the work of the classes in that second room. I would negotiate with the teacher of the second room a space that I could use and I would place my inbox/classwork and outbox/homework and exit passes.

Here is a great list of established procedures:
1. Entering the classroom in a respectful manner. Yes it really is important to stand in the hallway or near the door. It helps set the tone. A student enters noisily, quietly address the student, and have them re-enter. You are teaching them the power of "first impressions."
2. Placing homework in the in box. I had a box for each group or subject so the work was sorted. The homework had to be in the box within the first 5 minutes of class. I made sure that each class practiced this routine during the first week of class until it went smoothly.
3. Using the restroom. Stick with the school rules. No one takes the pass during the first 10 minutes or last 10 minutes of the class. Do not putt the pass out during those time periods.
4. Recording the homework into the Class Homework reminder book. When you have a blog, have the student leader type the homework onto the blog site.
5. Set the timer countdown to complete the opening motivational question or problem.
6. Have monitors pass out handouts and materials.
7. Either have the first person in the row or leader in the group of tables be responsible for returning the materials.

Reinforce the classroom routines and rules. I found it was vital for me to be disciplined by being consistent. The more I stuck to the rules, the more the students realized it was important. I did not have to say I believe in organization and discipline. The students saw me live it, breathe it, refer to it, walk it, and do it.

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