Friday, August 19, 2011

classroom management: establishing noninstructional routines

Anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows that classroom management is essential to an effective learning environment. And anyone who has worked with new teachers knows this is a real area of anxiety for those new to teaching. It is a topic we will spend LOTS of time on through this blog forum, and I'm hopeful that you, dear readers, will participate in the dialogue to share ideas and strategies that work and need work for you.

This first installment is going to prompt you to think about classroom management from the perspective of developing noninstructional routines. Some things that might benefit from discussion of routine include:
  • how to enter and exit the classroom
  • what to do when class begins
  • what to do when class ends
  • what to do in case of an emergency
  • opening exercises - warm-ups, morning meeting, lunch count, attendance
  • using the restroom, getting drinks
  • when and how loud to talk
  • where to get supplies
  • how to behave in each area of the classroom
  • where and when to submit completed work
  • how to gather and complete work when absent
  • who will and how to help a substitute
Which routines are important, of course, will depend on your content and the age of the students in your classes.

When I ask practicing teachers what advice they wish they had been given when they first started, over and over they tell me that building community and establishing routines and procedures is always time well-spent. It may seem like it's taking a long time to get to the content of your subjects, but if students know what they are expected to do at each step of the school day will help enlist the students to help manage each other and answer questions about these established routines. Students appreciate routine and predictability in the classroom, and setting these routines can help assuage anxiety about school.

One thing to remember is that one explanation and practice is not enough to ensure that all students will be able to internalize the routine. You'll need to reiterate the expectations of the routine each day for perhaps the first two weeks, starting with a couple and adding a routine each day, and over time, students will have mastered these routines to the point that they can engage in these even in your absence.

A great way to think about establishing these routines is to use the gradual release of responsibility model (which, I'm sure, most of you heard about in your preservice teaching program). This model asks the teacher to take the responsibility of explicit instruction and modeling to start, guided practice with descriptive feedback next, and then gradually allow students to practice the routine independently.  To think about it another way, the teacher begins with "I (the teacher) Do, You (the students) Watch," then move to "I Do, You Help," eventually moving to, "You Do, I Help," and then students are independently, "You Do, I Watch." You're likely to have to reteach and refresh routines, perhaps revising routines that just don't work for you or the students throughout the year.

So why spend all this time on noninstructional routines? Because your time is so limited with students, the urgency to teach so great, that you don't want to spend time answering the same questions every day, redirecting the same behaviors every day, when you can set clear routines and expectations up front. You won't regret thinking about this!

What other noninstructional routines might you consider teaching your students?

* Adapted from: Guillaume, A. M. (2012). K-12 Classroom Teaching: A Primer for New Professionals (4th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.


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