When I first started teaching, I used to spend the first day of class going over the syllabus. At some point I realized how overwhelming (and boring!) that must be for students if every teacher is doing this on day one. I also enjoy doing activities that help me learn about my students (and their names!) on the first day. For the next couple of years, I started going over the syllabus on the second day of school so I could spend the first day learning about the kids. Finally, I realized that there is never a good day to "go over the syllabus" for an entire class period. I mean, let's be honest.....as an adult, am I able to sit and listen to someone talk about important rules and procedures for 45 straight minutes and actually absorb this information? No! So that is definitely not an effective way to go over the very important procedures that I really need for my students to know to have a smoothly running classroom for the rest of the year.
My current system involves prioritizing my rules and procedures, as well as waiting until they are relevant to teach them. Instead of teaching them all at once, I teach a few of a day for the first few weeks of school. I am very strategic and careful about how I teach the rules. As I mentioned in the last post, I start with a list of all of my planned rules and proceduress for the year in a Google Doc. As I am planning out my first week of school, I start looking over my procedures and prioritizing them.
- What procedures are the most important to me?
- What procedures will help my classroom be organized and allow for maximum learning?
- What activities can I plan to give me a good way to teach my expectations and procedures?
As I'm planning, I pick the most important procedures and find ways to incorporate them in to the first week of school.
For me, the very first procedures that I teach are my expectations for the beginning and end of class. I feel this sends a good message to students about the value of class time by showing them exactly what is expected at the beginning of class so we can get started right away each day. It is also important to me from the very beginning that students know that I expect us to be busy until the end of class (especially because I expect students to wait for my signal to be dismissed rather than the bell). Another expectation that I teach right away is the supplies that I expect students to bring to class. Since these are the most important procedures to get my class running smoothly, these are the procedures that I teach on the second day of class.
Once I have chosen a couple of procedures to teach, it's time to plan for the rest of class. At the beginning of the year there are always lots of things that I want to do: introduce growth mindset, do some goal setting, have the students take an interest survey, and.....do some MATH! After teaching a couple of basic procedures, I pick an activity that meets one of these other goals. Often I am able to naturally incorporate a few other procedures or expectations to go with an activity. For example, if I an activity that requires students to pick up a supply at the beginning and be turned in when they are finished, then I have the perfect chance to talk about these procedures. Or if my activity involves students sharing how they solved a problem, then I take the chance to introduce my classroom listening norms. Teaching procedures when students need to know, rather than all at one time, them leads to better retention.
Each day for the first couple of weeks, I continue teaching a few norms, rules, expectations and procedures. I also continue to reinforce the rules that I have already taught. It helps students to hear expectations several times over the first few weeks. It is also important to give students feedback on how they are doing with meeting expectations over these first few weeks. Now is the time to teach your students how to do things the way you want. Remember, you're teaching students how you want things done for the rest of the year. It's worth a few extra minutes now to consider the ideal way you want things done. Let's look at something that will happen a lot: turning in papers. In my classroom, I have an alphabetical file sorter that I use for turn in. As I imagine this happening, here are some things that matter to me:
|I love that the papers are easy to stack, and in alphabetical order when students turn them in!|
- I want all of the papers facing the same direction.
- I want all of the papers placed all the way under the first letter of the student's last name.
- I want students to be relatively quiet during the process.
- I want students to return to their seat as soon as their paper is turned in.
If these are the things that are important to me, then I make sure that I tell students these expectations before they turn in papers the first time. As they turn in papers, I am closely evaluating how they are doing. If I notice a problem, I point it out as something we can improve next time (or perhaps something that we need to try again right away). I also note anything that is done exceptionally well. I will make sure to reinforce these expectations the first several times we use this procedure. Let's face it, if you don't take time to get things going smoothly now, what's it going to look like in April or May?!?!
Throughout the first few weeks of school, I keep my list of procedures close by. As I teach a procedure, I cross it off my list. This list is always close by the first weeks of school. I use it during class as I teach my procedures. I use it as I plan, to keep track of what procedures still need to be taught. It is a well-worn friend by the time I get all of the procedures crossed off!
You can also use other activities in your classroom to teach some of your procedures. Do you enjoy using stations for your classroom? Then use stations as a way to teach some of your procedures! As a bonus, you can use those stations to teach students your expectations for moving around the room when doing stations. Enjoy using games for practice? Plan a Jeopardy game using questions off of your syllabus and teach your expectations for playing games. Love the collaboration and fun of escape rooms? Plan an easy puzzle based on your classroom rules and teach students about perseverance, collaboration and growth mindset!
It takes a few weeks, but I feel like this way of teaching procedures, rules and expectations is much more effective than having a boring day of class to go over the syllabus when I overwhelm students with more information than they can possibly take in. There is a day that I love every school year. There comes a day, usually a few weeks into school that I realize I didn't have to teach a single procedure....just math, all day long. That is one of my favorite days each year....and it always goes more smoothly because the students know how I want them to do things!