10 Classroom Procedures that Will Save Your Sanity



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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….)

10 classroom procedures that will save your sanity

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). 🙂

But wait, there’s more! Click here to read 10 MORE Procedures that Will Save Your Sanity.

 

10 more classroom procedures that will save your sanity

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.

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Linda Kardamis

I believe that when God calls us to teach, He promises the strength & wisdom to do it well. All we need to do is keep learning, growing, and depending on Him. I'm here to provide practical advice and Biblical encouragement so you'll have the confidence and perspective to not only inspire your students but reach their hearts as well.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Laura Vela Alarcón. - August 3, 2015

Thank you very much, have a blessed week.

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Sharon Freeburn - August 7, 2015

golf pencils work wonderfully! I have been using them for years.

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Anonymous - August 14, 2015

Also, some stores, such as Lowe’s or home Depot I believe, will actually take standard #2 pencils,cut off the erasers and cut them down to size for you. I also thought that was a good solution to the pencil problem.

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Sharon Freeburn - August 25, 2015

golf pencils work wonderfully! I have been using them for years.

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Sharon Freeburn - September 13, 2015

golf pencils work wonderfully! I have been using them for years.

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Chelsea - October 8, 2015

As an art teacher (middle school) golf pencils aren’t an option for me. Instead I made a quick sign out form where they sign a pencil out and check it back in. It’s in the same place on my desk (so it feels like a teacher space and not a kid space, so they have to obey the rule), and after I teach the procedure, kids will come in and just check one out without needing to ask. (They’re even really good this year about checking them back in… and if they don’t check them back in I can hound them about it later.)

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Ruth Eller - October 21, 2015

Tell students to highlight their name before turning in their assignments. This sounds dumb but seriously, you can’t highlight it if you haven’t written it! And highlighting is mysteriously fun! I have maybe one in a thousand papers without a name. Almost miraculous!

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Anonymous - October 25, 2015

My second graders used to go through pencils like candy. Now I use a sharpie to draw a black ring around each of 2 dozen pencils just below the eraser. One child sharpens them in the morning. Kids can use “my pencils” any time during the day. If theirs breaks, they just grab one of mine. If all 2 dozen are back in the pencil mug at the end of the day, they earn 2 points for the class. Now I only replace pencils when they become too short to use.+

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    Pam Stewart - July 29, 2016

    This is a great idea! What is your reward for the points and how many do they have to earn?

    Reply
Hillary Midgley - November 8, 2015

Great ideas! I always use the phrase “test mode ready” which signals nothing but a pencil and eraser on the desk and everything placed under the chair.
Thanks for sharing!

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Anonymous - December 28, 2015

Super Ideas! Thanks!

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Megan - January 10, 2016

I teach first grade and instead of highlighting their name, I have them put a star by their name. They love to make stars and it is the same concept as highlighting.

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Clair Ryan - February 2, 2016

I love your ideas! Here is one from me – I have each student fold his/her test lengthwise and write his/her name on the back. When I grade them, I put the grade inside. So students can give the papers back and not see what their classmates’ grades are!

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Shelle - April 6, 2016

We gave out engraved pencils as gifts for Christmas. Over the break I bought a bunch of discounted candy and school supplies. I stapled them in a big bag and told kids the last one with a pencil gets whatever is in the bag! It’s crazy but I still have two kids in the challenge. I think it is amazing that three pencils can actually last this long and now they know it too! After Spring break we are doing it again for any kids that did the optional work packet! It is a small price to pay to have that frustration mostly gone!

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Lesleigh - May 10, 2016

I post my pencils on a magnetic board with magnetic alligator clips. Students learn they may borrow a pencil from that board without asking, but all clips must be filled with pencils again before class is dismissed.

I’ve only gone through one pack of pencils this year and I never have to stop to find a pencil for a student.

I also use an agenda at the beginning of each class. Students learn to “check the board” and find bell work (to begin as soon as the bell rings) While they are working I can get in a few minutes to check attendance, etc. It cuts down on the repeated, “What are we doing today?” as well. I teach high school, by the way.

The Classroom Management Book by Wong and Wong has some other great procedures I use as well.

🙂

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Anonymous - June 13, 2016

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with other teachers. I am looking forward to using some of these ideas during the upcoming school year. Thank you,
T. Walidng

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Kathleen - June 29, 2016

I purchased a bathroom plunger, painted the handle a bright color and that is what my 3rd graders use to let me know they have gone to the bathroom. No one asks for permission and I know where my students are. Only one student can go at a time. I set certain perimeters at the beginning of the school year and haven’t had many abuses in my years of teaching. I teach them to be responsible for their behavior and most of the time they step up to the responsibility.

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Bekah - June 30, 2016

Great tips! I’m studying to be a choir teacher, but I can still use some of these ideas in my classes in the future! I have another one about pencils: my geometry teacher had a rule that if you borrowed a pencil, you left a shoe. You couldn’t get it back until the pencil was returned. Needless to say, he didn’t lose many pencils. 🙂 It’s pretty hard to forgt that you’re missing a shoe.

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Cedar - July 4, 2016

Hello,

I love the ideas posted here. I went to the link of the Absent Secretary Document but it will not load for me. Is there another way I could see that resource?

Thanks!

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Heather Jones - July 25, 2016

Could I also get that absent secretary form? Thanks!

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Casey - August 4, 2016

Great ideas! I teach kindergarten and I was over our pencil (or lack thereof) situation. I sharpened two brand new pencils for each student and I wrote their classroom number at the top and wrapped scotch tape around the number so they wouldn’t rub off. I know that this sounds like a lot of work, but I would allow the students who could present both of their pencils at the end of the week to choose a small prize from the prize box. Our behavior program tied into the end of the week as well so two birds, one stone. It worked so well that I rarely had to even sharpen pencils and I definitely wasn’t searching for the things!

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Patricia May - August 22, 2016

I would love the absence secretary form. Also, your idea for “All set? You bet!” is appropriate for which grades?

Thanks!

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Anonymous - August 27, 2016

Another teacher I know will trade something of value (phone, keys…) for one of his pencils. At the end of class the student gives the pencil back for his item back. It works really well with middle or high school.

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Bernadette - January 31, 2017

Hey! This is a great post. As a music teacher, some of these recommendations don’t apply BUT I will use the “all set” “you bet” and the passing items sideways instead of front/back.
Thank you!

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Dawn Frier - July 16, 2017

Another good pencil idea is the upgrade. If a student doesn’t have a pencil, I offer a new pencil to someone in the class who would like an upgrade for their small or no eraser left pencil. Prepared get the new one this rewarding those. The one unprepared gets the discard. I will also upgrade any tiny pencil that has been well used.

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