I know. I know. School has started once again! Exciting, right? Time to say goodbye to your vacation, and say hello to your new class of pupils.
I know what you are thinking: How do I make this year the best one yet? I have one answer: Be consistent. Children – even adults – respond better to consistency than inconsistency. To increase classroom productivity, you have to establish distinct and consistent rituals by the first week. Here’s how to do it.
1. Establish and maintain rules and procedures.
Everyone in the class needs to understand the expectations for learning, behavior and procedures. Some educators say keep them simple; others say have a rule for everything. Some say establish rules by the first day and no more; others say add to the rules as needed.
Whatever you choose, make sure your rules are known and followed everyday. Say them, repeat them, explain them, post them, model them, refer to them if students aren't following them correctly and compliment students when they follow them well. Becoming lax with just one rule sends the message that rules don’t always have to be followed.
2. Be consistent with rewards and consequences.
After you lay the ground rules, they must be enforced routinely. Only create rules that you are willing to enforce. If you are not consistent, students will spot it fast, and they may claim you're showing favoritism when you dole out consequences. We've all heard it: “How come you didn’t call Malcolm’s mom when he kept blurting out in class but you're calling mine?” Whatever behavior management technique you use, stick to it daily. Having a checklist to hold yourself and your students accountable for their behavior, and knowing the consequences and rewards for each infraction is key to showing fairness. Make sure the consequence is meaningful and will discourage unwanted behavior.
In addition, establishing a policy of rewards for meeting and exceeding classroom expectations is a must. Giving daily, weekly and monthly rewards give students something to look forward to.
By the end of the first day, incentives for good behavior and tasks should be set, and by the end of the first week those incentives should be distributed publicly. If you need a little help tracking incentives, ClassDojo is a great resource. It’s essentially an online behavior management point system that shows students and parents their positive and negative behaviors. Points can be given individually, as a group, or as a class, and you can reset them as often as you like.
3. Set objectives for learning.
Now that your students know the parameters for acceptable behavior, it’s time for learning. Your students need to understand why your lesson brings value to their lives – both in the classroom and beyond. Setting objectives and reiterating these objectives daily in your lesson will show students why their active engagement is necessary and why the tasks are meaningful, eliminating the question: “Why am I learning this?”
4. Assign jobs to your students.
Giving students a role in class management is key to the class running smoothly. When students are involved, they are more invested. Students should know what their role entails, who takes over in the event they are absent, how long they’ll be expected to carry out their duties and how they can lose their job. Make sure the jobs are utilized every day to show their importance.
5. Practice positive framing.
In learning, mistakes are made before skills are mastered. This is true for behavior as well as academics, so it is essential that correcting work and behavior is done in a positive manner at all times. Make a list of common mistakes and disruptions, and write an encouraging way to address them. For example: “I noticed that James came in late, but he followed the procedure nicely and did not disrupt anyone,” or “I noticed there was a trend of not turning in completed homework. I appreciate your efforts, but let’s make this one of our goals.” Keep in mind that students will see your example and follow suit!
6. Return student work with feedback.
Students need to be able to follow their progress. What better way to help them track that than to return assignments with feedback in a timely manner? One week is the most a teacher should go before returning an assignment. Students like to know what we notice about their work. Feedback doesn’t always mean a grade; it can be giving a compliment, a question or suggestions for some form of improvement. This shows that their work is not simply busy work. When they know you are truly examining their work, they’re more likely to put forth more effort. I have heard too many times from students, “What’s the point of doing it? (Insert teacher's name) is not going to grade it.” You don't want to be that teacher.
Now that you know these six routine procedures, apply them to your daily teaching ritual and watch the transformation that takes shape. You'll see smoother transitions, fewer disruptions and improved learning outcomes. Sounds like a good school year to me!
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