by Harry and Rosemary
How a Good
University Can Help You
Sarah Jones left her home in San Jose, California in search of the best university to prepare her for being a teacher and went to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. She had heard that they had an excellent school of education. This advice even came from an official in a California university. Today, she raves about her experience at Western Kentucky University (www.wku.edu) and whole-heartedly recommends the school for anyone planning to be an effective teacher.
She thanks her professors, Dr. Boulware, Dr. Daniel, and Mrs. Mikovich, who taught the classroom management course, which is required before student teaching. In this class the students were required to develop a First Day of School Action Plan. One aspect of this First Day of School Action Plan was to develop a set of procedures and routines to be used in managing a classroom. From the very beginning of our writings for this column we have stressed the importance of classroom management.
Classroom management encompasses everything.
If you are not managing the classroom,
then your curriculum will not even matter.
We Never Hear From Them Again
Each month we receive letters desperately seeking an answer to the "What do I do? question.
The parents are not home when I call.
The students don't come to class.
They don't turn in the assignments.
They talk when they are supposed to be working.
I find them disrespectful of me.
What do I do to this one student who..."
And we answer all of them the same way. We ask to please send us a list of the classroom management procedures distributed to the students on the first days of school, so that we can address the problems more specifically. We, sometimes, even ask if the person has read the book, The First Days of School, or all of the other columns we have written since June 2000 for the Gazette. Invariably, we never hear from the person again.
We truly sympathize with all of you who are struggling with the challenges of the disorganized classroom. Classroom management could easily have been taught in a university class or in a school district's new teacher induction program. But since many of you did not get either, we get your pleas for help.
To answer your question of what to do, please understand that you don't do anything to anyone. You wouldn't like it if someone did something to you. Thus, it is incorrect to threaten a student by saying, "You do this one more time, and this is what I will do to you!" The ineffective teacher, perhaps in frustration, is always blaming others and wants to do something to a student, to whom they perceive is the problem.
The true core of the problem is really the teacher who has set up a classroom where the students have no ownership and no responsibility. That's why students walk into class, even late, and slump into a chair waiting for the teacher to announce what is going to happen. And some teachers don't even announce what is going to happen until 10 to 15 minutes of class time have gone. The teacher is usually too busy taking care of administrative tasks that are not the priority when class time begins. (See The First Days of School, page 121.)
Your first priority when the class starts
is to get the students to work.
She Was Ready the First Day of Her First Year
Sarah Jones will live in our daughter's heart as the teacher who made a difference in her life. Ms. Jones is a perfect combination of structure and nurture.
Karen and Jerry Lovejoy
Parents of Kaelie Lovejoy
As a result of her work at Western Kentucky University, Sarah Jones was prepared for her very first day in her first year as a teacher. Her principal, Judy Morasci of Milpitas Christian School, says,
Sarah Jones came into her first year of teaching with all of the skills and maturity of a veteran educator. Because of her expertise in providing organized routines and procedures, she creates an atmosphere of mutual respect and compassion. This atmosphere is an ideal learning environment for her students and a rich, supportive experience for the families of her students as well. Her classroom management skill allows her to establish and maintain an environment where children are eager to learn under her encouraging guidance. She is an outstanding example of professional excellence in the field of education.
We have had the pleasure of observing Sarah Jones several times in her classroom. Because of her organizational skills, well beyond that of the normal beginning teacher, we found a classroom that was highly predictable. Students like consistency; they do not want surprises accompanied by yelling and screaming. As the parent and principal correctly described her classroom, it is one of nurturing and compassion, which is only possible after the classroom has structure.
Sarah Jones' Classroom Procedures
Sarah Jones had procedures and routines ready for her first day of school. She developed these while training at Western Kentucky University.
Entering the Classroom
Students enter the classroom quietly and calmly. If coming in at the beginning of the day, they put their belongings away quickly and do the morning routine. If it is at another part of the day, the students come in and have a seat in their chairs.
End of Class Dismissal
I dismiss the class not the bell. Students are dismissed when called upon, either individually or by groups.
Each morning there is a "bell work" assignment on the board or overhead projector. Students enter the classroom and get started on the assignment. The assignment is turned in or corrected verbally as a class. When the assignment is completed, students write in their journals or read. Every morning the students write the daily entry from the board into their agenda. This is always a part of their "bell work" assignment.
Quieting the Class
- The teacher raising her hand quiets the class. The teacher doesn't say anything or get upset, but patiently waits with her hand up until the class is quiet.
- Another method used is counting to five and each number symbolizing an action.
"1- I need your eyes on me; 2- I need your ears; 3- You should all be sitting; 4- Sit up straight; 5- Five Star (Give Me Five) students ready to begin."
- The teacher ringing the small bell on the desk quiets the class. The bell signals the class to be quiet and listen.
- A clapping pattern started by the teacher is also done. The teacher makes a short clapping pattern and the students repeat the pattern. Once the pattern has been repeated, the room becomes quiet.
Taking Class Roll
A student is assigned to be the "Attendance Keeper." The student looks around the classroom once all children have been seated and then records who is absent by placing an "Absent" folder on that person's desk. I can then glance around the room quickly and know who is absent by seeing where the folders are placed.
Every morning the class says the classroom motto, which is posted on the wall in the front of the room. Everyone stands for this and says the motto together to start off our day.
Collecting Seat Work
Work is collected according to the configuration of the desks. If the desks are arranged in rows, passing the papers across their row collects students' seatwork. They are instructed to place their paper on top of their neighbor's desk and then that neighbor picks it up and continues the passing process. When all of the papers are received at the end of the row, the student, whose job is to collect papers, brings all of the papers to the front of the room and puts them in the finished work basket. (See http://teachers.net/wong/DEC00)
Students' seated at tables collect their work by placing their finished papers in the middle of their table. The student, whose job is to collect papers, walks around the room and picks up each table's stack of papers and puts them in the finished work basket at the front of the room.
Turning in Work
There are two baskets placed in the front of the room. One basket is labeled "class work" and the other is labeled "homework." Whatever type of assignment they have to turn in, the child places the work in the appropriate basket.
Notes From Home
Students are to place any notes from home in the basket, which says "Notes From Home."
Going to Lunch
Students make two lines by the outside door, one for "home lunches" and one for "school lunches." The students buying their lunches line up in alphabetical order. Students are picked up after lunch on the blacktop as they wait in the area of their classroom number. (Numbers are painted on the blacktop.)
Students follow the cafeteria procedures as well as the classroom rules. Students clean up their sitting area after they are done. Students should be on their best behavior by using "Please" and Thank You."
Working in Cooperative Groups
Students are placed in teacher chosen groups at all times. They are reminded of the procedure for Support Groups.
- You are responsible for your own work.
- You are to ask a "support buddy" for help if you have a question.
- You must help if you are asked for help.
- You may ask for help from the teacher when the group agrees on the same question.
Students follow the school's rules and classroom's procedures even when riding in vehicles on school outings. When walking to or from the bus or car, the procedures for the halls are followed. Students stay seated while on the bus or in the car and respect the property. Seat belts are worn at all times. A low voice is always used in the vehicle. There is no eating in the car or bus unless the driver says it's ok.
Students are chosen to do things in class by picking a Popsicle stick from the can labeled "Pick a Stick." Each student's name is written on the bottom end of a Popsicle stick and the sticks are all placed in a can. The teacher draws a stick in order to pick students for a variety of things.
Pinning Up Art Papers
Students pin up their art work on the clothesline in the front of the classroom. Whenever an activity that requires glue or paint is completed, the clothesline is used to hang the paper to dry. At the end of the day the students remove their dried papers and stack them in the "Class Work" basket.
Keeping the Noise-Level Down
A traffic signal is used to remind the students of the noise level for the classroom. A large cutout stoplight is hung in the front of the room with three black circles and a hook on each circle. Green, yellow, and red circles have been cut to fit over the black circle. The red circle is hung from its hook to indicate silent time, the yellow circle for whisper time, and the green circle for talk freely time.
Classical music is played during class time. Children keep that noise levels lower than the sound of the music.
Sending Notes Home
Notes to go home to parents at the end of the day are placed in the cubbies. This is the cubby keeper's job to do. Students are responsible for sharing all of the notes with parents each evening.
When a Student Is Absent
When a student is absent, an absent folder with a yellow sticker is placed on that student's desk. All papers are passed out during class or any notes that need to go home are placed inside the folder. When the student comes back to school he/she knows to complete the missed work in the yellow folder. The absent work is placed on the shelf in the front office of the school for parents to pick up after 3:00pm.
The teacher gives a verbal announcement of five minutes left before changing centers, lessons, activities, etc. When it is time to change, a variety of methods are used.
- Play music
- Snap/clap rhythm pattern led by teacher
- A bell is rung
Students know what these different signals mean and make the change quickly and quietly.
If the Teacher Is Out of the Classroom
Students remain on task while the teacher is out of the room. Classroom rules and procedures are followed as they continue their work. The classroom aide or a teacher next door is available for help if needed.
Daily Closing Message
At the end of the day the class reads the daily closing message. This is a short summary of the day's events. One child is chosen to read this to the class as everyone else follows along. The daily closing message is in their take home folders and then shared with their parents that evening. (This is a great communication tool between school and home of upcoming events, important information, and the children's day in school.) The daily closing message is prepared during the day by the teacher and then photocopied for each student.
Saying "Thank you."
At all times remember to say thank you to one another. Along with "thank you," "please" should also be used at all times.
(These are procedures and not rules Students are not to be punished if procedures are not done correctly. Rather, a student will be asked, "And what is the correct procedure, please?" Procedures are to be practiced and rehearsed daily and only then will they become habitual.)
You Can Have a Smooth Opening of Class
Teach only those procedures necessary
for the smooth opening of class.
Delay the other procedures until the appropriate activity arises.
Sarah Jones was ready with more procedures as the school year progressed.
Lining Up to Leave
Heading on Paper
Going and Coming From Recess
Managing the Class' Behavior
If Students Finish Work Early
If Students Don't Finish Their Work in Class
Storage for Recreational Reading Books
RAP Time (Read Any Place)
Keeping Students' Desks/Cubbies Clean
Lining Up to Leave
Heading on Paper
Keeping Your Take Home Folder or Daily Journal
Knowing the Schedule for the Day
If a Student Is Tardy
When a Student Needs Help
Returning Student Work
Handing Out Playground Materials
Moving About the Room
Going to the Library
Returning to Task After an Interruption
When a School Wide Announcement Is Made
If Someone Is Suddenly Ill
For a Classroom Party
When Visitors Are in the Classroom
Assuring Names on Papers
Listening to/Responding to Questions
Indicating Whether a Student Understands or Not
Procedures Are a Part of Life
Procedures are important in society so that people can function in an acceptable and organized manner. Likewise, procedures demonstrate how students are to function in an acceptable and organized manner in the classroom.
Judie Gustafson of Manor, Texas, is a high school math teacher. On the first days of school she gives her class an eight-page paper, "Procedures." It begins:
Procedures are a part of life. We follow procedures for using a telephone book, boarding an airplane, approaching a traffic light, and attending a wedding. The reason we have procedures in life is so that people can function in society knowing the acceptable and efficient ways other people do things.
There are procedures in this classroom too. The procedures establish our classroom culture.
Judie Gustafson's procedures (See The First Days of School, page 173.) are, in concept, similar to Sarah Jones' procedures, except they have been designed for high school students.
Sarah Jones got married this August, and will be moving to a new community. She already has a job in a public school in her new community. What administrator wouldn't want to quickly hire a truly effective elementary teacher like Sarah Jones, or one like her?
Teachers like Sarah Jones will succeed in any kind of a school, because it truly makes no difference whether you teach in a public, private, or charter school, whether your school is traditional or year-round, or whether your students are urban or rural. All effective teachers have procedures to assist in managing a classroom.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Instead of asking what can be done to a student who is misbehaving, prepare your classroom to minimize the number of problems. Be proactive, rather than reactive. Spend some time this summer working on your classroom procedures.
Please share with us your first day of school script or your classroom procedures. If you prefer not to use the e-mail address at the end of this column, please drop us a note and we will give you a fax number or address.
By preparing your classroom for success, you have greatly increased the odds
of your success as an effective teacher and your students' success
as responsible learners in the world. Your classroom management
skill is the solid foundation on which the seeds of greatness
will be sown. It's a monumental responsibility. But then, individuals
did not build great monuments. Use teachers.net as one of the
most effective resources available today. There is a community
of caring educators tapped into this site who truly want to help
you be the most effective teacher you can be. Use them, use us,
and create monuments beyond the wildest of imaginations. There
are children eagerly waiting to enter through those doors.
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