Why Classroom Procedures are Important
Updated: Nov 22, 2019
Ahh, classroom procedures...the backbone of any classroom management plan.
If you have solid procedures in place, you probably still have some of your sanity left and your classroom may still be intact. If you have vague procedures kind of existing in your day to day routine, chances are you are running your classroom in organized chaos.
As mentioned in a previous post, a strong classroom management plan will have 5 elements: Procedures, expectations, rules, consequences, and an incentive system. Procedures are by far #1 on the list and here are a few reasons why:
1. Procedures Create Order
Without specific, set procedures in place, your classroom will be in “organized chaos” as one admin told me my second year. He is absolutely right. Without real procedures, I can’t teach content because all I am doing is trying to orchestrate chaos.
It doesn’t matter if I explained to the students what the routine was for that day, if it changes day to day, I’m stuck with directing what they should be doing instead of helping them understand what they are learning.
And that makes sense, right? Procedures are directions that create a routine, and once that routine is repeated over and over again, eventually, you don’t have to spend time enforcing it, they just do it. Your classroom systems become predictable, consistent, and reliable.
You can always tell which classrooms have them in place by watching the students transition into the next activity by a provided cue (without detailed explanation) from the teacher. The students start the next thing on the agenda while the teacher assists and facilitates. It’s beautiful.
2. Minimizes Disruptive Behavior
Having predictable patterns of activities reduces disruptive behavior and chaos in the classroom. Which also makes sense.
When everyone knows what to do and what the expectations are, it’s discouraging for students to go against the grain, especially when the majority are following directions. If a kid doesn't know what to do, all they have to do is look around and boom! They start doing the thing.
It’s also easy to stop disruptive behavior from escalating because the students who aren’t doing what everyone else is doing will stick out like sore thumbs. So addressing the behavior before it escalates is easier, and discouraging disruptive behavior just naturally happens.
Of course, you’ll always have that one who can’t help themselves, and that’s alright. Take the time to help them understand the routine and have them practice it over and over again. If the student is being disruptive on purpose, you can try and dig deeper to understand why they are being disruptive. Sometimes needs are going unmet and they are seeking attention. If that isn't the case, then yes, it may be time to consider some consequences.
3. Help Build Positive Relationships with Students
We all dread having to repeat ourselves all day. It is energy draining! So when we go through the “what are we supposed to be doing right now?” bit 5.8 million times a day, yeah! We’re kind of fed up with it! ::goes into grumpy teacher mode::
To avoid having a stressful interaction with your students about what they should be doing next, create your procedures and have them posted somewhere in your room, REALLY BIG, because when they ask, all ya gotta do is point at the thing. They will eventually start using it as a reference on their own.
I think this is a big one because, with every interaction between teacher and student, there is a chance to weaken or strengthen the relationship. If more interactions are confrontational, for example constantly redirecting simple behavior, more than likely, the relationship isn’t a positive one. Work on nurturing your relationships with them and let the procedures tell them what to do.
4. Builds Confidence in Students
Think about the last time you were in a space where you didn’t know what was going on, what was expected of you, and what you should be doing. I imagine that you probably weren’t as confident as usual and felt a little lost, intimidated, and maybe even anxious.
Some guidance would have been helpful, right?
Your students are no different.
You’re doing them a service by having clear procedures because you’re giving them guidance on what needs to get done without them feeling like they have to ask you to hold their hand. You’re allowing them to do what they have to do independently.
When students start to understand what is happening in class, know what to do, and when to do them, they gain confidence navigating and learning in your room. This opens so many doors for a lot of awesome possibilities.
Here is an example of what classroom procedures can look like:
1. Greet at door
2. Grab journals and go to seat
3. Start warm-up
4. Silently complete warm-up
5. Go over warm-up
6. Go over homework
7. Go over daily objective
9. Independent practice
10. Clean up
Teach, Train, Practice, and Reinforce
For procedures to be effective, we have to do a few things. We have to teach the procedures to our students, train them, let them practice the routine, and reinforce them. We have to be consistent with the reinforcing part; otherwise, it won’t stick!
It takes a few weeks for them to really have it on autopilot, but once they know it, they have it ingrained in them to do it.
3 weeks of intense training = the rest of the year smooth sailing
And just to be clear, your procedures shouldn’t change day to day, but they don’t have to be identical.
For example, if the students didn’t have homework the previous day because you were out, skip going over homework and go into the lecture. If you don’t need to lecture because they are doing a group project, skip the lecture and let them go into independent practice or in this case, group work.
Be flexible but be consistent.
If you don’t have set classroom procedures yet (by set I mean, crafted with intention, explicitly taught, no room for assumptions), create them! Set, solid, specific procedures are a MUST for any classroom! The routine, consistency, sanity, all the benefits they provide, are totally worth the effort and make for a better year.
If you need help creating procedures and expectations, I created a guide specifically for new teachers- The Ultimate Guide for New Teachers: Twelve Steps to Better Classroom Management. It’s a step by step guide on how to create them.
You’ll find examples of what my procedures and expectations were, what they transformed into, and how you can do that for yourself. You’ll also get some ideas on how you can implement and enforce them.
If you liked this post, you might also like Five Essential Elements for Strong Classroom Management