As educators, we spend a lot of time researching strategies and techniques that we can use to make our classrooms lively, interesting, fruitful, and organized. I, for one, LOVE to try new things in this ever changing world of ours! It is exciting to watch students when they are truly engaged in an activity because it connects with who they are and how they learn. But there is one thing that does not change for me, and that is my philosophy on classroom management. When I was asked to read The First Days of School long ago, I took Henry Wong’s principles to heart and they are still a big part of who I am as a teacher. We do not have rules in my classroom. We have procedures, procedures, procedures! They keep us out of trouble, and that keeps us happy. Here are a few of my favorites.
- The Morning Handshake: As I watched my first class of eighth graders walk across the stage to receive their certificates it was awkward for them and extremely awkward to watch. These kids did not know how to shake hands! Since then I have taught students the procedures for a good handshake with a daily greeting. (Empty right hand completely. Clasp hands FIRMLY. Look one another in the eye. Shake twice and say, “Good morning.”)
- Attendance and Lunch Choices: The first thing that students do when they walk into the classroom is move their
attendance marker to their lunch choice. We use magnets with student numbers for markers. I got this idea from Lydia Leslie on Pinterest . . . thank you for the idea! Teachers have created many varieties of this using anything from cookie sheets to file cabinets, to whiteboards (that’s me) It’s a bit like the old clothespins on a box or plate. However a teacher chooses to set it up, this idea is a huge time saver!
- Collecting Assignments: I teach on a collaborative co-teaching team of two homeroom groups of students. We are mixed together for classes, but our gradebook has them listed by homeroom. So I keep a clipboard with a checklist for each homeroom roster. When asking for assignments, I call students in reverse alphabetical order . If they have it completed, students answer, “Yes ma’am”, highlight their name on the paper with their homeroom color, and place it in the correct slot. Students who are not finished answer, “No ma’am” and add their name to the incomplete list on the board next to attendance. The list is not a punishment, but a reminder that they owe work, and even students who were absent for the assignment add their name to the list before picking up their missed work.
- Open Sign: I brought in a lighted open sign from my bakery to use for my classroom. Every day, immediately following the pledge and morning announcements a student lights the sign signifying that we are open for business. You would be surprised at how this official opening increases on-task behaviors!
- Huddle Up: Student discussion is a very important part of our classroom culture, but it requires procedures to remain manageable, and for this we use the huddle up. After I announce that we will huddle up for a given amount of time, students raise out of their seats and lean in for conversation at a voice level 1 so that the sound in the room is a murmur, rather than loud noise. I use a stop watch to time the huddle up and announce “Break, in 3-2-1.” Students give one clap and say, “Break!” then return attention immediately back to the instruction. It is HIGHLY effective!
- Silent Signals: We use the silent signals that Madeline Noonan shared on the Teaching Channel. These work really well for students of all ages. Here is a link to her video; check it out! .https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/classroom-silent-communication-signals
- Numbered and Colored Cooperative Groups: We work together a lot during the day! Handing out papers and supplies is a snap when each group is numbered and individual desks are marked with a color (the little color label stickers from Walmart work great for this). I can easily call out a color and the correct student comes to me for supplies. I do not walk through the room to hand out papers, AND seven students coming to me for papers is a lot more manageable than 25!
- Draw Sticks: Many teachers use sticks to call on students or choose them for various activities. They are very handy and students feel confident that choices are made fairly. Rather than using student names, which require a separate set of sticks for each class, I made a stick for each seat in the class. They are labeled with the group number and seat color. Not only does this mean that I simply need one set, but I also do not have to add or remove sticks as students move in or out of our school.
- Reward Tickets: One of my biggest pet peeves is when teachers announce reward systems that they fail to follow through with. So, I wanted to come up with something that would run on student procedures without much involvement from me . . . and it worked! First, I set up a supply basket for each table group and included small sticky notes. Then I stocked up on cases of special drinks for lunch, BEFORE I started the program, so students would never have to wait on me to remember a trip to the store. Now, during class I simply tell groups who are on task, quick in transitions, etc. to enter a ticket. All groups who are “looking good” get a ticket, not just the first . . . we want lots of entries! (this eliminates certain groups from not working for it because they are rarely first) Students write the class period and their group number on the ticket and put it in a Pringles can on my desk. Are you ready for an added bonus?! Every group chooses an inventory person who checks all supplies at the end of each class period. They get a ticket if all supplies are accounted for without having to ask their group to find anything. If something is missing they come to me for a replacement, but no ticket is earned. These kids are PROTECTIVE of their supplies now! It is amazing; no supplies are missing! I never even need remind them to do inventory. On Thursday afternoons I draw one ticket from the can, the four students in the winning group pick out their drink for the next day’s lunch, and I put it in the refrigerator. Done.
- Lining Up: We line up in alphabetical order everywhere we go. Students are assigned numbers in this order, and there are no changes to this for any reason. This means no fighting for the first spot in line. It also means that in the case of an emergency, students quickly organize and students simply call out numbers in order for roll call, making it obvious when someone is missing. We are accounted for in a snap!
Classroom behavior is always better when we keep things positive, and procedures help things to stay that way. When I find myself getting cranky or tired and I have a few days where students are pushing the limits. I begin to feel terrible because I start sounding like a nag! In those moments if I will stop and think about my own actions during that time I can usually see that I am not following all of my own procedures with my students. These procedures, and many others keep me focused on what is positive and children just respond much better to this. As a matter of fact, don’t we all?