Know the Routines You Want to Teach
I used to think that classroom management involved simply putting up a great behavioral chart and rewarding students for good behavior. Although that is a part of classroom management, giving the students clear, concise routines and procedures to follow is the key to great behavior. If students know what the teacher's expectations are and how to reach them, then you will have the start to a great year. In the beginning and all year round, you must make room in your lessons plans to teach routines. In the beginning of the school year, this should be every day. I usually take the first month of school to work on procedures, that way you know you have covered them all. Do not try to cram them in, let them evolve naturally through each subject and as you need them. Even during the middle or toward the end of the school year, you can schedule classroom management and routines into your day.
When setting classroom routines, first ask yourself, what do I expect my students to do and then how do I expect them to do it? Start by answering the following questions for each subject: How do I expect my students to line up, raise their hands, get a pencil, use the lavatory, become quiet, collect and submit their work, hold a book, sit in a chair, collect and use materials for a project, prepare for dismissal or a fire drill, move around the classroom...? Anything you expect students to be able to do must have a procedure to follow. This is very important when starting the new year and procedures can be added as you need them. In the beginning of the year, regardless of whether they are in Kindergarten, First or Second Grade, the students must learn what you expect. Always assume that they do not know it!
For example, if you want your children to move from their seats to the rug for circle time or morning routine, explain first how they will get up from their seat, how they will walk to the circle time area, and where they will sit down, model it, and then choose some students to model it for the rest of the class. Practice, practice, practice until it meets your expectations and reward with plenty of praise when it does. Always choose students to model who show that they are most willing to comply to demonstrate to the rest of the class. Those who are not willing to comply should be given many opportunities to try again and much praise when they do what you expect correctly. This will create a caring community in your classroom.
After a few weeks you will be able to cut back some on the praise but may need to remind the students later in the year or during times of disruption to the routines (i.e. around vacations and holidays) what your expectations are. If necessary, practice the modeling again as you did in the beginning of the school year. Say it in a lighthearted way, "oh class, we seem to have forgotten the classroom procedure of how to go to our seats, let's practice again." Do this as many times as necessary. In First and Second Grades the students may not need to practice as long as in Kindergarten, but definitely make your expectations known to your new class.
In our next article in the series we discuss how to evaluate classroom procedures to see if they are working and what to do when they are not!