Classroom Rules – rule for effective teaching

A recent newspaper article identified that Inadequate training has left graduate teachers scrambling for advice from online education forums to help them run their classrooms.   Queensland Association of State School Principals president stated that inadequate teacher training was a massive problem.   The Sunday Mail, 1st February, 2009.

My own thoughts on this are: what is needed in teacher training programs is inclusion of effective classroom management strategies.  This is the area that has the biggest impact on whether a teacher is effective or ineffective.

My personal experience in the past with classroom management was that it varied depending on the nature of the students I was teaching.  Then I started to learn how I could be an effective teacher and by applying the principles in The First Days of School I became far more confident knowing that by implementing specific strategies it would take care of any discipline problems as well as make my classroom effective and much less stressful.   It seems obvious that teachers should have rules and procedures in the classroom for effective classroom management, but the skills of how to go about it are not always taught to trainee teachers.   Being able to manage a class without repeated interruptions from students, telling them over and over again (nagging) what they should be doing makes for stress-free teaching. Therefore the key to a dynamic learning environment for learning is to teach the kids the rules and procedures that apply in your classroom. Going into a classroom to teach without having these in place is asking for chaos and disorder.

The number one factor that leads to student achievement is classroom management.

Classroom management are those practices and procedures used to manage a classroom so that instruction and learning can take place.

The number one problem in education is not discipline. It is the lack of procedures and routines, the lack of a plan that organizes a classroom for success.

Harry Wong, Busy educator

Implementing rules and procedures in the classroom makes for an environment which is conducive to learning.  It embeds structure.   People expect rules and procedures for everything they do in life: crossing the road, waiting at traffic lights, going to the movies, waiting in line to be served, at a restaurant, work procedures etc, so teaching children the rules andprocedures they need to follow in class is giving them life skills as well as making teaching so much less stressful. When procedures are in place the teacher can focus on teaching. The students know automatically what needs to be done, when and how because you have taught them until they get it right.

Rules and procedures make for more effective teaching:

Identify classroom rules that you want to apply in your classroom and let your students know what they are as well as the consequences.  Rules can be posted as posters, powerpoint, a wiki, website and handouts. Post no more than 5 rules.  More is too many. Rules can be added to (when a rule is a habit it can be substituted with another new one).  Be consistent with applying the consequences.  Rules are about behaviour – therefore they carry penalties and rewards.

Then consider the Procedures you need to apply in your classroom. Procedures are the steps on how to do things, therefore they do not carry penalties.

State, explain, model and demonstrate the Procedure.

Rehearse, Practice and reinforce.

Keep reinforcing.   Students could keep a folder with procedures as they are introduced.   Eventually as students learn the correct procedures, when students don’t apply the procedures, other students will remind them. They don’t need to be all introduced at once, the first procedures to teach would include: entering the classroom, starting work, getting the class’s attention.  Others include:

Students leaving procedures

Walking in the hall procedures

Procedure if student finishes early

Getting the class’s attention

Quieting the class procedure

Listening to/responding to questions

Getting the teacher’s attention

Roll taking procedure

Collecting papers

Distributing papers

Disaster drill procedures

Lab use

How to ask questions

Handing in work

End of class/day dismissal procedures

And so on … you get the idea

An important procedure to implement is one whereby students start work as soon as they are seated:

When students usually enter a classroom, there is a settling in period.  They find their desks, finish their conversations and wait for the teacher to take the roll.  This takes away from valuable teaching time.  When students enter the classroom they need to get into a mindset for learning.

Your first priority when class starts is

to get the students to start work

P. 121, The First Days of School

The first thing students should do when seated is start a short assignment.  This may be revision work or other suitable exercise. It should be something they can complete without difficulty. This is to get them to settle down into work mode.  The work should be collected and viewed by the teacher but does not need grading.  This is a valuable way to use class time effectively rather than students entering and waiting whilst the teacher calls the roll and then getting them to settle. The teacher can mark the roll whilst students are completing their first task. If your students’s names are not yet familiar or you’re a substitute teacher, then a seating plan will enable you to do this.

In a well-managed class, students know what to expect.

Resources for Effective Teaching has an incredible supply of resources for beginning and veteran teachers to learn more about effective teaching.  Some of my favourites are:

Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School

How to Start a Class Effectively

How to Start School Successfully

The Power of Procedures

Teaching Procedures is Teaching Expectations

Classroom Management applies to all teachers

The Problem is not Discpline

Never Cease to Learn

I’d thoroughly recommend The First Days of School which includes how to increase positive student behaviour, how to ensure students attain success in their assignments, how to develop professionally as well as other great strategies and techniques for preservice and new teachers as well as experienced teachers and administrators.

In summary, my five top tips that would greatly assist trainee teachers in managing classrooms are:

  1. Implement appropriate rules, consequences and rewards
  2. Implement procedures: inititally how to enter the room, start an assignment, call to attention and be dismissed (then additional procedures as identified).
  3. As part of 2 above, students start work as soon as they enter the classroom, to prepare a mindset for work and to utilise this time for learning instead of roll calling.
  4. Plan ahead: have the day or lesson’s work posted in a prominent place so students know that the teacher is prepared and they know what is going on.
  5. Have positive expectations.

I would like to see all newly qualified teachers equipped with these fundamental strategies to make their teaching from day one effective and remove the trauma that many of them experience.

If you wish to purchase The First Days of School, mention that you came across the book on my site and they will give you a $5 discount.

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