How to Teach Procedures that Your Students Will Actually Follow
Procedures are perhaps one of the most important aspect of a classroom as they help it run efficiently, give the students a sense of confidence and security, and help to prevent discipline issues. But whether it’s the first week of school or the middle of the year, how you teach your students your procedures will have a huge impact on how successful they are.
When you implement a new procedure, it is not enough to simply tell your students what you expect of them. You have to practice – and practice everything. This is especially true with elementary and middle school students, but it’s also applicable in high school.
The 4-Step Process for Teaching Procedures
- Give clear, specific directions. The first time you tell your students to pass in papers, you cannot just say, “Please pass in your papers.” If you do, you’ll get some papers but also a lot of chaos. Be specific in your directions. Try something more like, “Now we are going to pass our papers in. Those at the back of the row will pass theirs forward first. Please wait to pass in your paper until you have the stack. When it gets to the front, Makenzie will pass them to Jared who will pass them to Steve who will give the whole pile to Alex. Alex, please place the stack on my desk.”
- Have the students practice the procedure. After you give the directions, have the students actually complete the task. As they do, watch to see if they are doing everything correctly.
- Kindly correct any piece of the process that is done incorrectly. This is the most crucial element in teaching procedures because practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect. If a basketball player practices foul shots with the wrong form, will he get better? Probably not. He needs a coach to correct his mistakes before he tries again. The same is true with your procedures. The chance that students will pass in the papers correctly the first time, despite your perfectly planned explanation, is about two percent. They’ll get it mostly right, but Jon won’t wait for the person behind him, Elana will put hers upside down, and Alex will forget what to do with the stack when he gets it. When you see mistakes, kindly remind your students the way you’d like to have it done.
- Have the student(s) redo the part of the process that was incorrect. Yes, that’s right. Redo it. It may seem like you’re nit-picking at the time, but this is the step that will help your students remember how to follow the procedure correctly. And, of course, be sure to praise them when they do it correctly.
A Couple Tips When Teaching Procedures
- Be kind when you correct the students and don’t make them feel stupid. Say things like, “I know it’s a lot to remember, but…” or “Thanks you so much for _____; just don’t forget to _____.”
- Plan to cover less material the first week of school so that you have time to teach and practice procedures. You might feel like you’re wasting time, but you’re not. The minutes you invest during the first week will save hours throughout the year.
Do you use this basic process to teach your classroom procedures? What other advice would you add?
- Create Your Dream Classroom (I wrote this book specifically to help teachers revamp their classrooms and prepare to have their best school year yet.)
- The First Days of School (a classic resource that will give you lots of practical help planning and implementing procedures)
- The Cornerstone (classroom management help specifically for elementary teachers)