Want to have your classroom almost run itself like you’re not even there? I’ll tell you the secret to making that dream a reality… it’s two simple words, classroom procedures. That’s it! I’m going to teach you how to have your classroom thrive on their own so you can spend more time focusing on the thing we love most…teaching!
By the time you’re done, you’re going to learn how to successfully implement important procedures, which ones to focus on the first week of school, and of course more tools and supports to help you hit the ground running! So what are we waiting for?! Let’s dive in and don’t forget to save this post so you can refer back when you need it! Read till the end so you can also save yourself when things go awry because it’s bound to happen!
The First Week of School
There are so many procedures we must put in place in our classroom and it can seem a bit overwhelming. Figuring out which ones are the most crucial to focus on the first week of school will help to start laying the foundation. So how do you decide which ones are the most important to focus on during that crucial first week? Ask yourself this question- What will we be doing and what do they NEED to know to do it?
Remember, the first week sets the tone for the ENTIRE year. Sound a little scary? It doesn’t have to be when you are prepared! So here are my must teach procedures for the first week of school!
How We Meet Our Needs (bathroom, water, tissue, help, etc)
Beginning and End of Day
Getting and Using Supplies
Work Completion (completing and turning in work)
Outside of the Classroom (hallways, specials, etc.)
Intro to Social Emotional (good choices, growth mindset, problem solving)
These are all things I’ve anticipated over the years that come up A LOT and so starting them from day one is a great way to start on the right foot. You know they’ll be needy, they will need to learn the classroom, we will need to transition efficiently, work will be completed, we will travel in and out of our classroom, and social emotional skills have got to be introduced for a sound classroom community.
There are MANY procedures that will be taught over the year, but focusing on these at first will help them get all the other ones you teach later on. The younger they are, the more support they will need, so be patient when it looks messy at first. Keep practicing and take your time to hold everyone to high expectations. Once procedures are known like the back of their hand, your classroom WILL run itself, no matter their age.
Go Slow To Go Fast
One of my favorite quotes I’ve ever learned during my teaching career is, “Go slow to go fast” and it means just that. Take your time building those expectations and spending ample time to practice, practice, and more practice. And when I say take your time, I mean SIX weeks. If you dedicate the first few weeks to slowly introducing students to ALL the routines and expectations for every procedure, the rest of your year will fly by because students will know EXACTLY what to do.
I can hear some of you saying, “ Yeah, but I don’t have time for that, I have a ton of curriculum to cover.” Or “My admin wants me to start teaching curriculum ASAP.”
I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to STOP those thoughts, take a deep breath, close your classroom door, and do what’s best for you and your students. It may be challenging to be that bold, but it WILL pay off. I have been told by many principals that my class runs like a well oiled machine and sometimes it even looks like I’m not even in the room. This isn’t a magic trick, it’s simply taking A LOT of time at the beginning of the year to set these best practices up. So no matter how much curriculum there is, or what your admin is saying, taking this time is important and makes a world of difference for the ENTIRE YEAR. I’ve also made it SUPER easy for you with the Teaching Timeline. It will help prep starting from a month before school begins through the first six weeks of school. Grab yours below!
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Make A List
Who doesn’t love a good checklist?! I have found that at the beginning of the year I tend to get overwhelmed and quickly forget ALL those many things that need to be taught. That’s why I love to keep my checklist handy so that when it comes time to teach those classroom procedures, I know exactly what needs to be taught! Take a look below at some of the checklists that I love to use during back to school each year!
The Secret Sauce
After you’ve decided what procedures to focus on first, you’ve made all your lists so that you don’t forget anything, it’s time to pour on some of the secret sauce. It’s four words – “looks like, sounds like” and it’s going to change everything for you. 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, ask yourself what do I envision for 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. Then you must have more practice, and then more and MORE practice, and you must stand strong. Check out an example below of what “looks like and sounds like” during our buddy math center.
Pro Tips When Teaching Procedures
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of what it looks like and sounds like for each procedure, here’s a couple of pro tips that will make student understanding much stronger. One, when teaching each procedure, I want you to also think through what it DOESN’T look like. This is honestly pretty easy AND really hammers it home for students.
Let’s go back to the bathroom procedure. When I go to the bathroom, I model for my students what it DOES NOT look like. So it doesn’t look like me running and knocking chairs over to go. It doesn’t look like me screaming to the whole class, “I have to pee!” It also doesn’t look like me making a mess in the bathroom or playing with my friends.
Now these are just SOME examples. The reason why we do this is because it really drives the point home for students. They think it is SO funny to witness and it shows them exactly what you DON’T want to see. It helps them understand precisely what their expectation is. Also, when you model these “do not” behaviors in front of students, their reaction is priceless. It’s super engaging so I promise if you do this while teaching each procedure, you’re sure to have a class full of students who know exactly what and what NOT to do when they complete each procedure. Be sure to be the ONLY person modeling this part though. You never want to allow them to show what it doesn’t look like and risk them getting comfortable with behaviors that you don’t want to see. They need ample practice with what it DOES look and sound like and that’s it.
The next pro tip while teaching is to use real life, in action, pictures of your students showing each expectation while completing procedures. This is powerful for a few reasons. During your practice time, it encourages students to show the desired behavior because they want to have their picture taken to be displayed for everyone to see. It also serves as a great reminder when things go awry (and they will). You can see I have done this a few ways. You can create anchor charts with students and glue pictures of the procedures in action around the anchor chart, or you can create digital anchor charts and add their photos there. Both are easy and effective methods! Check out the jam packed Editable Procedure Posters HERE!
What Happens When Things Go Awry?
Things will absolutely go south at some point. You’re in a room full of children with developing brains about the world so it’s inevitable. It’s best to just be prepared. One of the most important tips I have for you when things go awry is to ask yourself a question- When does it happen and who does it happen with?
Answering this question will allow you to narrow down antecedents to the behavior and what you can do to redirect it before it happens. You also know who to give extra support to as needed. When you are working hard to lay the groundwork for procedures and find yourself 4 weeks into school, students may seem to have it one day and completely lose it the next. First and foremost, know that that is NORMAL. They are kids after all and they will spend those first weeks like a roller coaster, learning and testing boundaries and expectations. If you find yourself in this situation, pause what you’re doing to have the entire class STOP and practice until EVERYONE is showing the expectation. It may be painful at times, but I promise it’s all worth it in the long run. It’s part of setting those boundaries and letting students know what you expect of each and every one of them, every single time.
The main goal is to have students ready to learn and if they aren’t there, they may need a pause or a redirection. My rule of thumb is, if you have 3+ students not following expectations, it’s time for a whole group stop and practice. In the instance that it’s less than three, and it’s during the first six weeks, give more grace as they are still learning. You can still have the class, or individual student, practice the expectation again. If you feel it’s a minor offense, you can redirect them to complete a Think Sheet. I love using these because they are easy, differentiated, and can be sent home for parents to sign, while also providing you documentation when you make a copy for yourself too.
As far as consequences go, I personally don’t believe in taking recess away, however I think you can make a good point and have students practice their expectations before they do a choice activity. For example, we might be getting ready to go outside and they need to stop and practice how they leave the room again, or if we’re getting ready for a choice center and they need to stop and pause how they leave the carpet and get started. This all takes time from doing what they really want to do so it helps get them in check quicker. Remember, our main goal is to have students learn so we don’t want to take things away, but instead have a pause to re-do the expectation at hand.
Know that it’s ok if students aren’t meeting the expectations NOW; they are kids after all. There are steps you can follow to get students easily redirected and learning again. Make sure to check with your school and admin as well to find out school-wide behavior systems in place. Lastly, it’s ok to ask for help if you’ve tried your steps and students are still having a hard time. Sometimes it’s good to have another set of eyes or ears to support. If you have students too upset to learn (crying, angry, etc) try utilizing a Calm Down Corner to help them get regulated!
Now that you’ve learned TONS of great tips for teaching procedures, are you ready for your classroom to almost run itself? How do you feel excited? Overwhelmed? Unsure where to start? Well I have some news for you…
I have taken YEARS of learning, hard work, mistakes, and activities to compile this amazing tool to help plan out your entire first week of school with NO hard work for you. You’ll walk into your classroom day one with an overabundance of activities and plans so that you know exactly what to do. This way you can focus on what really matters- spending the time getting to know your amazing new group of kiddos. I have thought through ALL those procedures that need to taught, rules, first day/first week plans… ALL of it so YOU don’t have to! Check out the must have First Week Kit!
This First Week Kit is an absolute MUST HAVE!! It has been designed to include EVERYTHING you need for the first 5 days of school. We’re talking
- Detailed Lesson Plans
- 20+ Activities for Building Relationships and a Sense of Team
- Paired Mentor Texts and Activities
- Easy to Follow Assembly Instructions
- And SO Much MORE!
Want Even More Support from Me?
I strongly encourage you to join the Building a Student Centered Classroom course that will have you totally planned for your first six weeks of school with everything thought through. Get in the course and you’ll also have access to the Beginning of the Year Teacher Survival Guide at a discounted rate as well as some other amazing bonuses including a supportive teacher community. The course goes into extensive detail on how to successfully set up your classroom for the entire year. You’ll learn how to successfully set up your classroom in a way that flows and stays organized, strategies for building a positive classroom community, and all kinds of information on classroom management and instruction! The course will have you SET and help take some of the stress and pressure off.
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