Getting Ready for the Start of School, Part II: Why Some Teachers Have Smooth-Running Classrooms

Getting Ready for the Start of School, Part II: Why Some Teachers Have Smooth-Running Classrooms

          I have observed many, many teachers in elementary and early childhood classrooms and the ones that have the smoothest-running classrooms all do the same thing: they teach procedures. Now only do they teach the procedures they need the children to follow, but they also have the children practice and they give them positive feedback until they become automatic routines. They make learning procedures the most important teaching priority in the first few weeks of school, even if it takes time away from other subjects. They more than make up for this time because their classrooms run so effectively.

          So the first step in getting ready is to plan what procedures to focus on. It’s helpful to think about them in three groups based on when you will teach them: The first day of school, the first week of school, and the first six weeks. Here are some suggestions:

  • First Day of School

               Quiet Signal
               Arrival: putting things away and getting started on “do now” work
               Lining Up
               Walking in the Hallway
               Using the Bathroom
               Talking during group lessons
               Dismissal: cleaning up desk and getting materials ready to go home

  • First Week of School

               Fire Drill or Other Emergency Procedures
               Morning Meeting
               Moving from group meeting area to centers and other transitions
               How to sit during group meeting or circle time
               Sharpening pencils, getting a drink
               Using learning centers
               Cleaning up after work time or center time
               What to do when you’re finished early
               How to say nice things to each other
               How to push in chairs
               How to hang up coats (this might have to wait for cold weather)

  • First Six Weeks of School

               Working with a partner
               Taking turns
               Turn-and-Talk or Think-Pair-Share
               Getting help when the teacher is working with a group
               What to do when the teacher has a phone call or must leave the room
               What to do when a visitor enters the classroom
               What to do when someone is hurt
               What to do when you need to calm down
               How to take care of materials
               How to take appropriate breaks


Teaching Procedures
               The Responsive Classroom has a wonderful strategy for teaching procedures called “Interactive Modeling.” This has four steps:

  1. Students learn why the procedure is important
  2. Students observe the model and create a picture in their mind of what it should look like
  3. Students do the noticing in describing what’s happening
  4. Students practice and get immediate feedback.

Here is a video that shows the process of Interactive Modeling in action:

You can also try the “I do, We do, You do” demonstrated in this video:

          Remember that children at all ages – from preschool to high school – need to be taught or reminded of how you want them to behave. Don’t be afraid to teach very minor procedures. It is better to err on the side of teaching too many than too few.           Please share with us in the comments what procedures you think are most important in your classroom and how you teach them. This is the second posting in a four-part series on getting ready for the start of school. See Part I here. The Positive Classroom Book is coming soon! Check back in September to order your copy. A must-have for all early childhood and elementary teachers!

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