For new teachers, this step demands identifying and defining for themselves the procedures that will be important to the functioning of their classroom. Intentional forethought mitigates the frequency of having to apply emergency band-aids when unexpected problems arise.
While Dr. Wong’s list is far more extensive, I’ve identified and will discuss several of the his key procedures in terms of how I’d like them to be executed in my classroom this year.
- Getting Students’ Attention: This was, admittedly, a salient issue when it came to my classroom management last trimester. While coming into the class ⅔ into the school year didn’t help, I never established for the class a procedure. This year, I’ll try on the raised hand technique Dr. Wong describes: when I raise my hand, students will freeze, face the teacher, and be receptive to what will be said. This could be supplemented by ringing a bell. We will rehearse this procedure several times on the first day of school so as to cement it with the students as an expectation.
- Getting in Groups: While my class won’t be arranged by pods, students will spend a considerable amount of class time collaborating with one another, so I need them to be able to quickly maneuver their desks into pods of 4 or 5, and to do so quietly. To maximize the efficiency of future classes, we will rehearse this simple procedure several times in the first week of school like drills. I want to be able to say a few phrases and have the class rearrange itself without losing time to chattiness or indecision.
- End of Class Dismissal: I noticed a rather strange physical phenomenon last trimester. As the end of the hour approached, the gravitational pull of the class door seemed to increase, attracting the entire class to the few square feet preceding the threshold. In an attempt to circumvent dealing with this issue, which includes the hasty and disrespectful premature packing of items before the bell, I will explain to my students on the first day the procedure for leaving the class. In the minute before the bell, we will “wrap up,” and students will stay in their seats until I dismiss them. And I will dismiss them, by the way, not the bell.
- Passing Out and Handing In Papers: I’m pretty bad at passing out papers. I admit it. It’s a coordination issue. So I’ve put some thought into minimizing the time it takes for this procedure to take place. One thing that Dr. Wong recommends (and I like) is to never have students move papers up and down columns of seats. The clumsy and distracting process takes too much attention and allows for a number of unnecessary hiccups. Passing papers down rows (left to right) minimizes the chances of poking or dropping papers. If I choose to have students hand materials in as groups or need them to acquire group materials, one person from each pod will be identified as the official “whip” and shoulder the responsibilities of the walks back and forth. I know it sounds simple, but thinking about it beforehand and enforcing such easy procedures from day will hopefully maximize learning time by trimming transition times.
- Absent Work: One of the biggest time sucks for every class is dealing with students who need to get late work. Though you may ask it of them, they rarely seek the work between classes or before school. To get around this issue, I plan to outsource the job to responsible students. I will print out a number of “What You Missed” sheets that will be kept in a consistent and reachable location. Each week, a student will be responsible for filling out a sheet for every absent student and appending to it the days handouts and/or homework. That packet will be placed in an “Absent Work” bin, and when students return, they can go to that bin to get their homework and ask questions if necessary.
- Bathroom Passes: You know how it’s super annoying when a student raises her hand in the middle of a class discussion, and you call on her thinking she wants to contribute and she disappoints by asking if she can go to the bathroom? This is both distracting and disrespectful behavior that can be avoided via procedure. Rather than signing individual passes throughout the year, I will give every student 3 pre-signed bathroom passes at the start of the semester. To signal their desire to use one, all they have to do is raise it up, and I will respond with a nod in the affirmative or negative, depending on the situation. If they fail to follow this procedure, they simply won’t be allowed to go to the bathroom until they can do it properly.
- Getting the Teacher’s Attention: Raised hands are great, but they can cause unnecessary distractions. If students are working silently, and Jill raises her hand to ask a question, I may need clarification about the nature of the inquiry. Our exchange creates a quick distraction to the class. Or imagine a class discussion interrupted by a need for clarification out of the blue. Therefore, we can use a simple two finger system to help define the types of questions students have. If they need clarification, they can raise two fingers. If they want to make a point publicly, they can raise one finger.
Remember, these are procedures, not rules. Dr. Wong makes an important distinction. Rules are enforced by means of consequence and punishment; procedures are simply followed. Outright noncompliance with procedures will be considered disruptive behavior, which will be dealt with through discipline, but the vast majority of procedural issues can be solved through careful explanation, rehearsal, and reinforcement (“Thank you, class, for quieting down quickly”) and reinforcement.