Rules, routines, and procedures are the backbone of your classroom. In my opinion, first you have to LOVE your students. Then you get to teach them about what you EXPECT from them. Only then can you teach them everything else. We practice, practice and practice these expectations so much that we don’t even focus on curriculum these first few weeks. You can read more about that HERE!
You can be the most knowledgeable teacher in the world and an expert in your field, but if your class gets too chaotic it’s hard for students to gain that knowledge! It is my belief that if you hold your students to the highest of standards they will absolutely meet them. If you think they can’t, they won’t. It is important as an educator that you are their biggest cheerleader in this category. Challenge them, cheer for them, push them to be their best, and you will be amazed at what they can do!!
Management is Key
As I stated earlier, if your class gets too unmanageable, it can really disrupt the learning happening in your room. Having strong classroom management techniques is key and it can take some time to build and figure out what works for you and your students. You’ll also most likely have to switch up your tricks each year to cater to all the different personalities and behaviors you come across. I have 5 must have management tools every teacher should know and you can check those out HERE!
In addition to your teacher toolbox of management techniques, focusing on social and emotional learning in the classroom works wonders to create a safe and calm environment. I highly encourage every educator to have a calm down corner in the room for when students have big feelings, because that’s inevitable. They need a safe space when things are overwhelming and we can easily provide that. We also have to fit lessons about emotions and feelings into our curriculum and see it as a priority. Take time to work together with fun team building activities. Build a solid community, keep kindness at the forefront, and your classroom management will become an easier task to tackle.
Rules should be specific and easy for students to follow. For example, “Keep Your Hands and Feet to Yourself”. This rule is specific for students and should be easy for them to follow. For primary grades, 3-5 rules is a good amount and you don’t really want more than 5. Students should know them and be able to read them. I believe if you have a long list of rules they won’t hold as much meaning and can become unimportant to students.
At the beginning of the year, I like to think through what I want my rules to be. After I’ve come up with a general idea by myself, I then have my students “help” me develop the rules. It is important for students to feel like they helped create these rules because it is their classroom too. If you have read my post about Back to School Read Alouds, you’ll know I love to use literature to help teach important lessons. So of course I use books to help us with our rules too. We may read books like, “What if Everybody Did That?” or “Volcano Mouth” to help us create our rules for our classroom. Typically my idea of rules stays the same from year to year, however with student input, they may shift a little.
Our discussion piece is the most essential part of creating the rules in your classroom. Asking students what is important to them and what they want their classroom to be really helps them think about what rules we need in order to create that environment. As we sit and dialogue, I chart their ideas and we highlight similar ones. After we have talked and charted multiple times, I then create from our list our 5 classroom rules. It’ll be presented to them in order to get their final input. If we all agree, then we all sign our rules for the classroom and they don’t change all year.
Routines are just as important as rules. You probably have a pretty solid morning routine. Maybe it consists of a shower, breakfast, coffee and then it’s off to work. We know what to expect and we like our routines because they help us function. Now let’s say your alarm doesn’t go off one morning and you wake up late. Well, now your morning routine goes out the window and it’s a race to get things done so you can make it to school on time. How does that feel? Probably stressful and overwhelming and it definitely has a lasting impact on your day.
Children are the same way. They THRIVE on routines. It helps them feel safe and know exactly what to expect every day. We should always keep this in mind because oftentimes, our school routine may be the only routine in their lives. If it gets disrupted, it could really be detrimental to their mental health. It’s important to stay consistent with the routines because coupled with those classroom rules, it’s what will really help build that smooth sailing classroom. So how do we teach those routines to students and keep them running efficiently? One word… procedures.
Procedures need to be modeled EXPLICITLY in order for students to understand and know their expectations. Think about how you want your classroom to be run. For example, how do I envision how students will use the bathroom or get a new pencil? Let’s think through the bathroom expectation. As stated earlier, ALWAYS have high expectations and that goes for anything and everything. You want to set an expectation for how it will look and sound when students use the bathroom. When you know how you want this to look, you must model it for the students. If you expect that students use a hand signal to go to the bathroom, uphold it and make sure they do that EVERY TIME. If Johnny needs to go to the bathroom and uses the signal, but then Katie needs to go and doesn’t and just gets up, what would you do? If you don’t hold every student to the same standard, then they won’t follow the expectations. It gets exhausting and patience is tested and it takes practice, and more practice, and then more and MORE practice, but you must stand strong. Check out these editable classroom procedure posters to fit all your needs!
By spending ample time at the beginning of the year thinking and planning these rules, routines, and procedures out, it can greatly reduce stress and worry for the remainder of your school year. Use THIS checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten a thing! All of this will help you have a classroom that is a comfortable environment in which students THRIVE. Remember to LOVE them first, teach them expectations, and then everything else comes easy!
These are just a few of the things I cover in my Beginning of the Year Teacher Survival Guide. I go over in extensive detail how I successfully set up the classroom and go through how I teach all my procedures. You’ll learn how to successfully set up your classroom community, classroom set up, and classroom management!
Beginning of the Year Teacher Survival Guide
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