Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Weeks of School - Teaching Procedures

The first weeks of school are upon us and this is the most important time to establish positive classroom management. I'd encourage you to think about all the specific procedures that the children need to know in order to get along throughout the day. For example, how will they hang up their things? How will they line up? How will they move from working at the tables to sitting at the rug? All of these transitions need to be taught!
Often behavior problems can result when teachers do not specifically teach the children how they are supposed to behave throughout the day. We might assume that children will figure this out on their own, or that they should already know these behaviors. This is a big mistake. Think about teaching your behavioral procedures the same way you'd teach a lesson. 
Children with disabilities can have a particularly tough time with transitions and behavioral expectations. Imagine a child like Jamie, who has ADHD. She has trouble keeping things in her memory and is easily distracted. When the children come back in the room after lunch, she becomes interested in the plants on the windowsill, and doesn't notice that the other children are settling onto their cots. The teacher gets frustrated and reprimands her which sets off a negative cycle of misbehavior when she resists. She - and the other children - need more practice and direct instruction on what to do during this transition. A positive classroom

Teaching Procedures
The first step in teaching procedures is to think through the parts of the day and how they fit together.  Then make a list or description of the different procedures you want to establish. Write down what behavior you would expect from the children. For example, if you were teaching 2nd grade, you would want to establish a procedure for when children first enter the classroom. You would write down the steps the children will follow:
  1. Come into classroom and walk over to coat hooks. 
  2. Look around and make sure there is space between you and the other children. 
  3. Take off coat and hang it on the hook. 
  4. Bring book bag to desk. Take out any papers for the teacher and put them on the corner of your desk. 
  5. Sit down and Look at board for “Do Now” work. 
  6. Begin work.
When developing behavioral expectations, it can be helpful to use visual imagery to ensure you are thorough. Close your eyes and picture the children engaging in the activity or transition – what do you want them to be doing? What does the classroom look like and sound like? Where are the children going to? What steps need to be taken?
Once you’ve determined your behavioral expectations, the next step is to teach the children this routine until they know it well enough they do it automatically. Model the behavior you are expecting clearly. Provide correct and incorrect examples of behaviors and create a game out seeing who can tell you what is wrong with examples. Then have the children practice – an important step in getting them to retain the information. Give them positive feedback and gentle precorrection as necessary. Precorrections are short reminders of what are the behaviors you expect. You can use them with the whole class, such as, “Who can raise their hand and tell me what part of the story could not be true?” or with individual children, such as “Zach, remember to wash your hands before sitting down for breakfast.”
If you were teaching preschool, you might need to break down routines into very small steps. For example, you’d want to teach the children how to put away the blocks when it is clean up time. These might be the steps in your routine.
  1. Find the blocks you are going to put away. 
  2. Look for the pictures of the shapes on the shelves. 
  3. Put the blocks next to the pictures.
You could model this for the children during circle time, then have a few children demonstrate the process. The next day you can gently remind the children of how to put them away and give support during clean up time.
Good luck with your first weeks of school this year and let us know what procedures you use and how you teach them in the comments. Also, feel free to suggest new topics for The Positive Classroom!


  1. It's so easy to think that young students can be told what to do without instructions. I remember when my child (7 years old at the time) and I were baking a cake. I "told" him to break three eggs and put them in the wet ingredients (a "real" big-boy job since I was mixing the dry ingredients.) In less than 3 minutes, he took those eggs and literally threw them on the counter. He then scooped up the "broken" eggs with his hands (shells and all) and threw them in the the "wet" bowl. He THEN had the audacity to start mixing it all with a wooden spoon. It was so shocking and funny that I could not stop him. I asked, "What are you doing??" His reply was, "I'm doing exactly what you told me to do!" Well, he had me there.

    Instructions are very important, thanks Dr. Rand. :)

  2. This is extremely helpful for me.
    I have new students in my class this year and I have to teach them things from scratch. Even though i am only there from 2:25-6:00 it seems like I'm there the entire day. Also their teacher from the day just had a baby so they have different teacher coming in and out of the classroom which often doesn't help. I wish they had a steady teacher especially at the beginning of the school year. However, I try my best when I get to work.

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