Habit 2: Classroom Habits

This is the second in a series of articles entitled 5 Habits of Highly Effective Teachers.

251751_empty_classroom_deskClassroom Procedures
The procedures that you lay out in the classroom are the most outwardly evident procedures that you have in place. For this reason, they are key elements of your overall classroom management plan. Much of the procedures really depend on the age-group you teach. Since I teach middle school, my procedures are very middle-school oriented. These procedures can be broken up into three categories:

  1. Beginning of class
  2. Middle of class
  3. End of class

Beginning of class
The tone of the entire class is established before the students walk in the door. We’ve all heard the old adage, You never get a second chance to make a first impression. This holds true for the school year, as well as every single class day. For this reason, Harry K. Wong recommends in his book The First Days of School to greet students at the door each day. I don’t always do that, but I find that when I do, the tone of the class is much more manageable throughout.

  1. Arriving at the classroom
    I ask my students to walk as they are coming to class. I also make them aware that they are tardy is they are not in their seats before the bell rings. This lowers the amount of wasted time.
  2. Entering the classroom
    Every procedure that we establish in our class is a reflection of our own personality. I prefer for the students to come into class quietly, and be ready to begin class before the bell rings. Other teachers have no problem with kids coming in yelling. Whatever happens, however, should be because you’ve made the conscious decision to make that happen.
  3. Starting class
    Again, some teachers want the students to begin immediately. They have a “sponge activity” on the board and students are expected to quietly work on that. As a band director, that’s not a very realistic option. I am faced with the choice of whether or not to let the students play their instruments before class begins. I choose to not let them play. In a high school setting, this might be different.

Middle of class
Once the tone of the class has been established by a well-refined entry procedure, the majority of clastime is spent in the learning process. How can we get the most learning out of every single class?

  1. Talking
    When is it appropriate for students to talk and when is it inappropriate. We cannot assume that students come to us with this knowledge. Even if they have the knowledge, they will test the waters to see what they can get away with and what is not allowed. To be successful, you must know what is allowed and forbidden beforehand.
  2. Leaving the classroom
    Do students get to abuse restroom privileges in your class or do they have to hold it in until the wet their pants? I have discovered that once one person goes, more usually realize they need to go also. Do they leave the class without a hall pass? Are there limited numbers of hall passes in a grading period?
  3. Moving around in the classroom
    When are students allowed to get out of their seats? What if they really need to sharpen their pencil? I know some teachers have students move desks during class. What is the procedure to make that happen? What about when the whole class is going to the library? How do we line up?
  4. Staying seated
    What are the students expected to have at their seats? What if they forgot their pen? Or if they are about to have a restroom emergency, can they leave and then answer questions later? How should they sit in their chairs? Is it acceptable to put feet in chairs or across aisles?
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Again, all of these are personal choices. There is no one right answer for any of these, though I would like to hear what other people think.

Ending of class
The ending of class will help to determine how much information is retained and how much is forgotten. One of the primary keys to success is finishing well.

  1. When to end class
    You control when the class period ends, unless you allow the bell to take that authority away from you. I used to think differently. I have usually rehearsed until the bell rang, and then had the students put their instruments away. This year, I am going to aim to be finished before the bell rings. This is harder because too much time before the bell rings can allow them to lose focus. So I’m going to establish a procedure where all announcements happen at the end of class to allow for better information retention as well as to maintain better focus.
  2. When to put books and supplies away
    I remember putting my books away about 4 minutes before the teachers finished with class. How important is it to you that your students stay focused until you dismiss them?
  3. How to leave class
    If you give middle school students their choice, the answer to this is running and screaming down the hallways. The procedure must be in place on the first day if you want to avoid this.

Your decision on these procedures are things that you should write down. I give my students a “Rehearsal Procedures” page on bright colored paper at the beginning of each year. We consult those procedures from time to time if necessary. Writing things down helps you to more clearly know what your goals are. Writing things down helps the students to more completely know what is expected of them. It’s a win-win situation.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

3 Comments on Habit 2: Classroom Habits

  1. The procedures are effective… I do find more structured classrooms gained more knowledge and comprehend lesson more than those which aren’t . Consistency helps students learning and get them respect us as teacher and also respect the class as the system they’re in.. Though it seems to be a bit stiff, but it helps us reach the aim of the lesson in a more peaceful way. Great posting…

  2. I totally agree that rehearsal should end at least a few minutes before the bell rings. One thing that always bothered me when I was marching drum and bugle corps was when our instructors would say, “Rehearsal begins at 3. That means you are on the field, in your set, warmed up and READY TO GO at 3, not just getting to the field at 3.” Somehow this same rule didn’t apply to our precious meal time…so many times I wanted to scream “DINNER BEGINS AT 7! THAT MEANS I’M IN LINE, READY TO GO, AT THE FOOD TRUCK AT 7, NOT JUST LEAVING THE FIELD AT 7!”

    If I expect my students to be in their seats, ready to go when the bell rings, it’s only fair that they are packed up and ready to go when it rings again.

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