Monday, September 4, 2017

The Highly Structured Class pays off! (Procedures and Routines)

Last year, I had a couple of tough classes.  Really, really tough classes.  They had great attitudes and were excited about learning, but never, ever stopped talking.  In English.  Running commentary about EVERYTHING that happened.  Constantly.

It was enough to make me groan every time I saw them on my schedule. (Which was every day.)  I tried Plan B.  I tried every trick in my book.  They still made me crazy.

But...(you knew there would be a but, right?) they learned.

Despite all the time I spent away from providing comprehensible input (trying to create community, practicing routines and procedures, redirecting behavior, having class conversations about goals, and loosing my temper) they learned.  They learned a lot.  They retained a lot.

When they came back this year, they blew me away. 

They remembered all the Spanish.  Well, maybe not all.  Probably not the stuff we did in May.  But most of them have a strong hold on everything else.

I have to ask myself why.  Why did that work for them?  The only thing I can fall back on is my greatest strength as a teacher: procedures and routines. (Hey- you have a greatest strength too.  What is yours? It's good to ask yourself.)

 These together form the structure of my class and make it a highly predictable class with a lot of tolerance for chaos (e.g. kids barking, hooting, and stuffed animals flying through the air.)


It doesn't matter.  It truly doesn't matter what mine are.  I am happy to share them (below), but it doesn't matter.  What matters is knowing what they are, and how you teach and practice them.

I came up with my P&Rs by asking myself the following questions:
1) How do I want students to enter and leave class? (procedures)
2) What are the routine tasks that we do most days (sharpening pencils, passing out papers) that can be made faster or more efficient? (procedures)
3) What are things that kids do that make me absolutely crazy that I can train them not to do before they do them? (procedures)
4) How can I make my classroom feel more like a place where we are family, with in-jokes, predictability, and closeness? (routines)

Bryce Hedstrom defines a procedure as:

"Procedures are ways of doing routine activities that help the classroom to run more smoothly so that we can focus on learning. Procedures are not exactly rules, but repeated disregard of procedures will affect learning in the classroom.  There are several specific ways we do things in this class and you will learn them during the first weeks of school."
An aesthetically pleasing notebook arrangement makes me think of procedures.
Some of the resources that helped me develop this list (and my overall approach) include:
Bryce Hedstrom's classroom management philosophy and practice (including passwords and jobs), Alina Filipescu's philosophy of "Discard the Discipline Plan" and Angela Watson's amazingly useful book "The Cornerstone for Teachers", which I suggest that every teacher read.  

Entering and leaving:

  • Kids line up outside, receive their seating card for the day, give me the password, and enter.
  • They get their materials for the day (usually scrap paper, glue, and scissors) and get started on the starter.
  • When I ring my chime three times, they drop their pencil to indicate that they are focused on me,  and I greet them.
  • At the end of class, someone tells me it is time to clean up. (Student job)   
  • The kids quickly clean up the entire room and put away their materials.   
  • One person picks up the seating cards and puts them away.  (Student Job) 
  • A student inspector  (student job) tells me that they are ready: "Listos" and I reply in TL: Thank you for learning.  They reply "Thank you for teaching us" (in TL, of course) and I say good bye.

Papers: I give papers to the two kids sitting in the middle and they pass them outwards.  Kids sitting on the end of the horseshoe put the papers back on the paper table. (rotating job)

Absent kids: I wrote about that job and procedure here. (student job)

Moving chairs from one configuration to another: I model what I want, we practice, they do it.  We practice often, I narrate positives, and if need be, we practice over and over.

Whiteboards: If students are writing on whiteboards, I ask that they do not "show" their work to me until I make a specific sound with my rattle.  This way, I have time to look at individual work, make suggestions or give praise, and see who needs to work on what.  Everyone has think time.  Plus, they know that being the first one done doesn't get rewarded.

Late work: Students have somewhat relaxed deadlines and rolling deadlines.  If they miss something, they put a Missing/Late work slip on it so I know what I am doing with it.  If one kiddo has a lot of those slips, it is a good conversation to have during (or before) Parent Teacher conferences.

Here is a link to a document that I modified from I am sad to say that I can not give credit to the original as it is no longer available.  I am pretty sure I got it from Bryce, but not 100%.  If you know where the original document came from (ABCs), please let me know in the comments or by email!   Here is a link to the document I use in class. 

UPDATED 2023: 
Please note- in looking at the ABCs from a few years ago, my thinking has changed a lot on how I would use them. Now, I still think this is a really great exercise for me but I would not give it to students, and there are some things I would change.  

To me, routines are different than procedures because they add fun and a little chaos into the class.  Most of these routines I learned from Alina.  Here are some of the ones I have adapted:
I was very impressed with this class! 

  • ¿Quién?- when I say this question word, a student holds up a stuffed owl and says "woo whoo"
  • Sneeze- when someone sneezes, a student says "uno-dos-tres" and the whole class says "salud"
  • If a student impresses me, I say "Clase, estoy impresionada" and they respond (as if they can not believe that I could be impressed "¿Usted está impresionada?" and then I explain, in L1 or L2, why I am impressed (someone was a risk taker, someone was extra kind, etc.) and then I throw that person a stuffed animal to cuddle with.
  • Pero...all kids hold up their index finger, one kid goes "dum dum dum..." in a slightly ominous way
  • Perro- someone barks.
  • Queso- any time someone who is not in class walks in my door, someone jumps up and sings/dances "¿Qué es esto?" and the whole class responds "Esto es queso" and then we pretend like nothing ever happened.  

Our director of admissions giggles EVERY TIME she walks in our room with visiting parents.  It's so awesome.

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