Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Back-to-School Routines & Procedures

Before the start of each school year, I spend a lot of time reevaluating the routines and procedures that I use in my classroom. Establishing routines and procedures early on, sets the stage for a well-managed classroom and helps ensure "smooth sailing" for rest of the school year!!

Below is a list that I refer to each year when establishing routines and procedures for my classroom....

Like anything else we teach our students, these routines and procedures need to be taught, modeled, practiced, and reinforced!!

The following are the routines and procedures that I focus on the most, and the ones which I believe help foster a high-functioning learning environment....

Entering the Classroom "Ready to Learn"

One of the first procedures that I teach my students is how to enter the classroom, and what to do once they come in. I strongly emphasize that they need to enter the classroom "ready to learn". We spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be ready to learn.... coming in quietly, having all materials needed for class, ready to follow directions or routines, and ready to GET TO WORK!!!

My students learn quickly to always look to the white board for directions. First thing in the morning, after recess, and after lunch, I always have specific directions written on the board. Students learn to come in, look to the white board, and then begin following directions right away. This gives me time to take care of business, especially in the morning. At the same time, it teaches students independence. I always love the compliments I get from subs about how well my students follow directions, and how quickly and easily they get to work!!

Teacher Signal

The "teacher signal"-- No teacher should be without one!!

For me, I have always use the simple and easy, GIVE ME 5.  With this, I simply raise my hand and say, "Give me five," and my students raise their hands and show me that they're ready to.... STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN! Below is the graphic that I have displayed for the first weeks of school. We spend a lot of time discussing the expectations, and PRACTICING during those for first few weeks.

Most of the teachers at my school and our principal use this strategy, so it's something consistent for the kiddos from year to year.

However, I have always been very intrigued by some of the fun and catchy "attention grabbers" out there. I have often thought about giving some of these a try. Here are some great examples....

                                   {SOURCE}                                                   {SOURCE}

Transitions

I will never forget my first year of teaching.... It never occurred to me that I would need to teach students how to transition from one activity to the next. So of course, chaos would ensue each time I gave students a simple direction, such as taking out a text book, or coming down to the rug. Each simple task would turn into full-blow conversations!! I would then have to get their attention all over again to give the next direction. A vicious cycle!!

I quickly learned that quick and quiet transitions needed to be taught, practiced, and reinforced, NON-STOP for those first few days of school. The key is to always wait until students are quiet and then set the expectation for WHAT they need to do, and HOW they need to do it. I also teach my students to save their movement for when I am COMPLETELY done giving a direction.

Quality of Work

I spend A LOT of time at the beginning of the year discussing the quality of student work. It's always amazing to me how upper grade students forget {or do they?!} some of the most basic skills they learn in the primary grades. We're talking things as simple as using a period at the end of a sentence, or misspelling the word "read". 

In my class, I like to have a list of "must haves" that students refer to as they are working, and before they turn an assignment in. While of course there is always room for error, there are just certain things that are simply nonnegotiable for upper elementary (general ed.) students....
If anything on the list is missing, I simply hand assignments back to students, and remind them to refer to our Must Have List.

Additionally, we spend a lot of time focused on "presentation" and students taking pride in their work. For example, when I assign projects I ask students to outline their writing with black or colored marker, add details and at least 3 colors to their illustrations, and to make the most of the space they have on their paper. I spend a lot of time modeling this, and I am constantly reinforcing high-quality work. In my classroom, time, effort, and pride go a long way!!

Final Thoughts

With any and all routines and procedures, it is so important to constantly set expectations during those first days. Right before recess, I always remind students about what is expected when they come back into the classroom after recess. Before an assignment, I ask students to tell me how I expect them to behave while they are working. We are constantly talking about expectations! Plus, we practice ALL THE TIME!! When we line up for lunch, we practice how to walk in a line. When we come in after lunch, we practice how to come in the classroom quietly. It seems like a lot, but it is so important to get them in place so that the rest of the year is smooth sailing!!!