July 2024
Vol 21 No 7

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About Effective Teaching

The most important factor in improved student learning is with an effective teacher.  Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong feature effective teachers and administrators and what they do to enhance student learning.  The columns provide specific strategies and activities that you can download and use.  An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column.

These strategies and activities are all based on the teachings and works of Harry and Rosemary Wong and they are happy to share with the profession the work of effective teachers.  If you have an effective strategy or technique that works, please share this by sending it to The Wongs will consider it for sharing in future Effective Teaching columns.

About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers.  Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science.  Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.

Harry Wong has been awarded the Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal.  He was recently selected as one of the most admired people in the world of education by readers of Instructor magazine.  Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.

Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today.  He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success.

Nearly a million teachers worldwide have heard his message.  Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work...

Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.  They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

Their latest contribution to helping teachers succeed is an eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong.  The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.  The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all successful teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education.  Over 3 million copies have been sold.

The third edition of The First Days of School includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They have released a new set of CDs with Harry Wong LIVE, called How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one of his many presentations.  He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, CD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at or

Best Sellers

The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
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The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
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Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong
eLearning course for individual use, CEUs available Preview the course and order at $124.95 (Group discounts available.)


How to Improve Student Achievement
Hear Harry Wong Live! in this 2 CD set
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New Teacher Induction:  How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
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A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
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Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

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If You Don't Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

September 2001

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 ( 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.

Classroom Procedures

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.
Bell Work
    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.
Class Motto
    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

    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."

Restroom Breaks

    Individual students are allowed to go to the bathroom four times a month without having a tally pulled. They use their daily agendas as their pass and have the teacher sign and date when they are going. Only one student may use the restroom at a time.

    Students are excused as a class to go to the restroom during lunch and recess.

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.
  1. You are responsible for your own work.
  2. You are to ask a "support buddy" for help if you have a question.
  3. You must help if you are asked for help.
  4. 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.

Picking Monitors

    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.

Changing Groups/Transitions

    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.
  1. Play music
  2. Snap/clap rhythm pattern led by teacher
  3. 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
    Disaster Drills
    Going and Coming From Recess
    Hall Behavior
    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
    Restroom Behavior
    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 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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