10 Classroom Procedures that Will Save Your Sanity
The difference between a good procedure and a bad procedure is the difference between “everything is running fairly smoothly” and “this is driving me nuts. I’m gonna’ pull my hair out.”
Sometimes it’s easy to think of a procedure, and other times, a question will have us stumped for years.
Take pencils for example.
They’re these little lead things, y’know. They shouldn’t cause so much trouble.
But I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to keep my kids supplied with pencils. There just seemed to literally be no simple solution.
Until I finally heard an idea this summer that just might work! (more on that in a sec….)
So with school starting soon and procedures on everyone’s mind, I thought I’d share a few procedures that have worked well for me – and a couple awesome ideas I’ve run across since I’ve stepped out of the classroom (like that pencil thing….)
10 Classroom Procedures that Will Make Things Run More Smoothly
- Tell kids they can’t use the restroom. Okay, I know that sounds crazy, but hear me out. When kids ask to use the restroom during instructional time, my typical answer is, “no not right now.” Sometimes I follow this by telling them a time they can go, telling them I’ll let them leave class a minute early, or telling them I’ll write them a pass to have a couple extra minutes to go between classes, but the gist of the answer is “not right now.” The thing about saying no right away is that if the student really has to go, they’ll ask again (more urgently) in a few minutes. At which point you go ahead and say yes.
- Use short phrases like “prepare for a quiz” that stand for a combined set of directions. I teach my students that when I say “Prepare for a quiz” they are to clear their desk of everything except a pencil and a clean sheet of paper to use as a cover sheet. They are also to have a pen handy to grade. At first this takes a lot of instruction, but later in the year all I have to say is “prepare for a quiz,” and the rest happens (somewhat) automatically.
- Use call-and-response sayings to get your class’s attention. Basically you teach your students to respond when you call out something. So, for example, you say “All set?” and your students respond with “You bet!” This is infinitely better than just asking your students to be quiet because when they respond “You bet!” they actively stop what they are doing & refocus on you. I wish so much I had known about these when I was teaching – it would’ve prevented so much frustration! (Click here to get a free call-and-response sayings poster, or for more info check out Whole Brain Teaching.)
- Teach your students to use question marks when grading in class. When your students are grading work in class, don’t take grading questions. You just don’t have time for a million versions of “is it okay if Jerry didn’t capitalize the first letter?” Instead, teach your students to put a question mark by any question they’re not sure is correct. Then look at the question marks when you record the grades.
- Go over tests at the end of the class period. If you try to go over a test at the start of class, you’ll never know how long you’ll spend on it or how many arguments you’ll get about why such-and-such answer really should be fine. Instead, if you want to spend 10 minutes going over a test, stop class 10 minutes early to go over it. That way, you are pretty much guaranteed to only spend 10 minutes, and if anyone has serious questions they can stay after class to ask them.
- Have students pass their papers backwards or sideways. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you have your students pass their papers forward, they can’t see them coming. So Brandon has to poke Celeste 5 times with the stack of papers or ends up banging her over the head. Instead, have your students pass their papers over and/or backwards so they can see them coming their way. Oh, and if you train the last student who ends up with the papers to paperclip them and put them in a designated spot, that’s one less thing for you to worry about.
- Have designated in bins. Simple enough, but so many teachers don’t do this. Have a spot for that last student to put the stack of papers. And for students to turn in late work or work from when they were absent.
- Have students pass back papers for you. Now I’m not talking about tests or anything confidential, but if your classroom’s anything like mine, there are plenty of papers that need to be passed back that students can definitely help with. I create an “out” bin for each of my classes. Then I have one student per class (they normally take a turn for a month or two) who is trained to grab whatever’s in the out bin and pass them out at the start of class.
- Have an absent secretary. Designate a student to write down what you do in class each day and what the homework is. Keep this list in a special folder so that absent students (or their parents) can easily find what they missed when they return. Get an example absence secretary form here.
- Purchase & give out golf pencils. Okay, so I just heard about this idea this summer in our Create Your Dream Classroom summer book club, but it sure sounds like it’s worth a try. You know that impossible pencil situation? Buy a couple boxes of golf pencils (like these) and hand them out when your students don’t have a pencil. They are so many (& they’re cheap enough) that it doesn’t matter whether or not you get them back. And since students don’t like that they’re so small and have no erasers, they’re more motivated to bring their own. Sounds ingenious to me (insert evil laugh). 🙂
Want more procedures like this? Grab our newest training: 50 Classroom Procedures that Will Save Your Sanity (PD certificate included)
p.s. You know there’s more to procedures than just thinking them up and telling your students, right? You’ve got to actually teach them to your students, and that involves a very specific process. Check out this article for details about how to teach procedures to your students.