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Establishing Classroom Procedures : A Plan for Back-to-School Success

Before you can really plan out the first days and weeks of your school year, you need a plan in place for how you intend to handle the routines and procedures in your classroom.

Effective procedures are a hallmark of every well run class. They’re an indispensable part of a successful school year. If your room is not a place of predictability and order, it won’t ​matter how incredible your lessons are.

In order to learn, students need to manage time and materials efficiently. They need structure and consistency. That’s why procedures and routines are so important!

Even if you don’t teach procedures, your class will use procedures.

Think about that for a minute. Around every commonplace action in your classroom – whether that’s handing out papers or asking a question – a standard of behavior will develop.

As the teacher you have a choice: you can either establish efficient structures or you can let them generate on their own.

In the first situation, you can shape events and their effects. In the second situation you don’t have any control. By letting procedures develop as they will, instead of guiding the outcome, you are stuck managing consequences.

Your classroom will run more smoothly if you make the effort to establish the procedures you want. Routines mean no effort is spent trying to decide when and how to do something. Procedures free up time and energy for the more important – and more enjoyable – parts of teaching!

Besides saving time and energy, classroom routines eliminate many discipline problems. If your students know where to go and what to do (without having to be told!), there is less opportunity for trouble-making, dawdling, or getting off-task. You’ll have prevented all those problems before they even have a chance to start!

So we’re going to walk you through the steps of establishing the effective and efficient procedures your students need. You’ll identify areas where procedures are needed and develop a way to teach them. By the end, you’ll have personalized your Plan for Success!

Step 1: Determine where to start

There are many different lists in the download above. Most likely, they won’t all be pertinent to your teaching situation. Choose the ones that apply to you!

Begin by looking at the Procedures Lists. There are 17 different areas where you might find it helpful for your students to have set procedures to follow. Read the questions at the top of the page. Check-off those that apply to you. Cross out those that don’t.

Think through what your students need to know to be successful during that time of day or in that situation. Understand what needs to be accomplished. Then jot down your ideas at the bottom of the page. If you’re new to the school or grade, make a note of anything you need more information about from your team or administration.

Use your ideas to make your plan for what and how. What do your students need to accomplish and how do you want them do it?

It’s challenging to think through all the details, but the questions will guide you to identify every aspect of that procedure.

The more contingencies you plan for, the smoother everything will run!

Step 2: Teach your procedures

Procedures must be taught. They must be practiced until they’re perfected. Basically, introducing each routine is a full-blown lesson. This takes a lot of time and effort!

Is it worth it???

The standards in any classroom, to put it bluntly, are defined by whatever the students can get away with. If teachers do not take the time to carefully teach their rules, routines, and standards, they will get whatever the students feel like giving them… A wise teacher knows that spending time on procedures early in the semester saves time in the long run. Prevention is always cheaper than remediation.
Fred Jones, Tools for Teachers, p. 126

Though it may feel wasteful to spend time thoroughly introducing so many procedures, that investment will more than pay for itself down the road. Because if you don’t take time now, you’ll spend the rest of the year managing the same behaviors over and over and over…!​

 

We use Harry Wong’s 3-step approach to teach any classroom procedure:

  1. Explain: state, explain, model, and demonstrate the procedure.
  2. Rehearse: rehearse and practice the procedure with supervision and correction.
  3. Reinforce: reteach, rehearse, practice, and reinforce the procedure until it becomes a habit.

We’ve shortened these 3 steps into an easy-to-remember phrase: Tell, Try, Tally.

  • Tell 

Begin by clearly explaining your procedure. Model exactly what you want them to do. For older students,  you may wish to post a list of steps to follow. It can also be helpful to point out the reasons that procedure is important for the good of the class. Understanding why a rule exists will help students want to comply with that rule.

  • Try 

Invite a student to come demonstrate the procedure for the class (this works better for younger students). Point out what the student is doing right. “Notice how Lisa is going straight to the shelf. She grabs the first piece of paper off the top of the stack…” Then invite one or two other students to demonstrate as well.

You may want to ask a student to model what NOT to do and allow the other students to point out what the child did wrong. This is a great way for the class to clown to get some laughs in an appropriate setting, but be careful not to embarrass anyone.

After a few students have modeled, ask the class to complete the procedure. Observe what is happening and make any necessary corrections. Fix mistakes now before they become habits!

For young students, point out the positive behaviors you see. Older students probably won’t appreciate this attention, however.

  • Tally

​Begin by asking the class to evaluate how well they followed directions. Thumbs up or down is a quick way to rate. Then discuss what they noticed.

Take a moment to share your observations of how they did. If necessary, offer some correction and have them try again. Rehearse this until they get it right. Practice to mastery.

Step 3: Evaluate

​Tallying is an on-going process. As the year progresses, observe how students complete the procedures. If they start to loosen up, take the time to revisit. Tell, Try, and Tally, all over again!

You may find, however, that the problem isn’t with the students but with the procedure.

After you’ve established your procedures, use the checklists in the download to evaluate your routines. This can help you spot the gaps between what you want to happen and what is actually happening. Then you know exactly what needs fixing.


The thing about procedures is that they not only benefit students, but teachers as well.

If you want to spend less time working after school (and who doesn’t???), set up a routine. Use the list to evaluate what you need to get done before the next day and make it a habit. This will help you work faster and more effectively.

Use a to do list (included in the download) to help you get out the door even quicker!

The work you do on your Plan for Success will carry you through all the other plans you make for the first few weeks of school. The process of creating this plan is laying all the groundwork for what comes next.


Click here to sign up for our e-mail list and download the Establishing Procedures & Routines Plan for Success.


If you’re looking for additional resources to help you organize you prepare for back to school, check out (some affiliate links):

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Welcome!

After a combined 14 years in 2nd grade, sisters Heidi & Emily are passionate about helping simplify life for other teachers!

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