When I first started teaching I didn’t think junior high/high school age students needed procedures for everything. What's wrong with kids sharpening their pencils when they want? Well, I was VERY wrong. When I started implementing procedures for everything, my classes paid more attention, got better grades, and I didn’t have to stop class as often for behavior issues.
I normally teach junior high but I have taught at the high school level for a couple of years. Students not only need structure, they crave structure. The first few days of school I teach rules and procedures. I know they are not going to remember everything. They will forget most of it, but I practice the procedures over the next few weeks. Many do well but there are always the few that refuse. It is much easier to manage a few that are refusing than an entire class of 30 kids that don’t know what to do next.
One of the most important things to remember when talking about procedures, ALWAYS post them in your classroom in an obvious place.
1 - When They Walk Into Class
Make sure they have something meaningful to do. If they are taught to come in, get their materials out, and begin working on the bell ringer on the board, the class will run much more smoothly. I have a set of bell ringers already made and have it showing as they walk in. This will give you time to take attendance, pass back papers, etc.
2 - Sharpening Pencils
I have seen and tried many different procedures for this. Here are a few: Sharpen their pencil before the bell rings or before you are done with attendance. This didn’t work well for me. It became a social gathering at the pencil sharpener.
Raise their hand and ask for permission. This works well until everyone decides to ask because someone else did.
The best option that I have tried is to keep a cheap plastic pencil sharpener on their desk in a small bucket for the shavings. This worked well once they got used to it. At the end of each hour I had 2 students empty out all of the small buckets and put them back on the desks. I rarely had to replace the small sharpeners.
3 - Class Information Posted
Being prepared to start class is important. Getting out their book and other materials takes time. To save time I have the students prepping for class during their bell ringer time that way when it is time to start the lesson, they are ready. Here is an example of what I would write on the board:
They already knew that they needed their notebook and pen so that was left off. 95% of my students had their materials out and ready when attendance was complete. Having them open their textbook to the page we were working on saved a tremendous amount of time!
4 - Asking/Answering Questions
There are so many different ways teachers have tried for this one. The best for me is just raise your hand and wait. I know that seems simple but sometimes the simplest idea is the best. I did not answer questions that were blurted out. If they blurted, they had to wait.
5 - Leaving the Class (Bathroom/Locker/Office)
I tried many procedures for this one. 7th graders always want to leave for something. The best procedure for me was a ‘Bathroom Pass’. This was used for any reason they had to leave the room unless the office called or I sent them. I had these printed on business cards with my name, a space for their name, and 1, 2, 3.
I gave them 3 chances to leave so they need to make sure it was an emergency. When they left I initialed their pass in permanent marker. If they had their passes at the end of the term I gave them bonus points for each space they had left.
A few notes on leaving the classroom:
- I did not let them leave during a class discussion or tests. They know this from the beginning.
- Once one student asks to leave, the domino effect kicks in and the hands start popping up. I only allow 2-3 students to leave per hour and once that limit was hit they knew they couldn’t ask anymore.
6 - Need Paper/Pen
Keep extra supplies near the door so they can grab them as they walk in. I always had paper, pens, pencils, and sometimes highlighters by the door. I would ask students if they can bring in extra so it could be replenished. There was always a number of students willing to help out. You can also stock up at the beginning of the school year when they are on sale.
7 - Turning in Work
I had a bin on my desk where all work was turned in. If it was a test/quiz they would come up as they finished and turn it it face down. At the end of the hour I would pick the stack up and bind them. You can also have a bin for each class and collect them at the end of the day.
Sometimes I did not allow them to get up to turn in their work. I would have them pass it up their row and the person in the front would make sure they were all in the correct order and one person would pick up the stacks and place them in the bin.
8 - Activities
Sometimes I had an activity or lab that involved extra materials that I had to pass out. I had 53 minutes in class, I did not have 10-15 minutes to spend passing out the materials.
I went to the dollar store and bought some bins that fit on the tables (I had table in my classroom, or you can put the desks together to form a table). I placed everything needed for the activity/lab in the bin and placed it on the tables before school. Any papers they were not allowed to write on were placed in sheet protectors (this worked perfectly). They were not permitted to touch anything in the bin until I gave them permission. At the end of each hour, I had a few students check the bins for all of the items using a list I kept in the bucket that I called the ‘bucket list’.