As an educator, I’ve learned that it’s imperative to establish routines and procedures in a class or group. Without routines and procedures, your classroom or group can become utter chaos. I have seen chairs and other objects thrown and physical altercations between students in classrooms without clear routines and procedures. Students will test limits and do what they want until their behavior is put in check. They need clear rules, routines, policies, and procedures. This blog will answer questions when, why, and how to establish routines and policies, and will provide examples of how to implement procedures for entering the room.
Why is establishing routines procedures important?
Routines clarify expectations for the participants and the instructor. They allow for smooth transitions between activities and will aid in maintaining order, even when a routine has been disrupted. Routines you establish can vary based on the age of your participants and the youth populations in which you engage. If the routines and procedures are successfully implemented from the beginning (of your class or program), it will save you time and energy, by allowing more time for learning throughout the group and the school year. You will not need to stop daily and get the participants to refocus back to learning.
When do you establish routines and procedures?
You want to begin introducing routines on the first day and continue incorporating them slowly throughout the week. If you provide the participants all of the routines at once, it may become overwhelming and confusing, therefore making the routines less effective.
How do you establish routines and procedures?
Routines and procedures should begin from when participants first enter the room and continue through dismissal. All routines should be taught, modeled, and reviewed. Don’t be afraid to spend your time reviewing proper procedures. Consistent repetition will aid in the students understanding and complying with the routines.
I have spent an entire period practicing how to enter a room. It may feel slightly frustrating at the time, but you wont regret it. After having to tediously practice the routines, students will also be more apt to quickly learn the other routines and procedures. They won’t want to spend the entire period working on one skill.
There’s no one perfect way to establish these routines. Look to peers and find out what they have tried. Then, find the method and techniques will work for you and your style. Provide policies and routines in a written handout. Students should receive this during the first week.
The steps below will help your students and participants understand how to carry out the correct procedures in your group or class.
Demonstrate the correct way each task is done.
Model the common inappropriate way each procedure could be done. I like to make a joke or exaggerate the behavior when the participants are not following the correct procedure. For example, when we discuss being engaged and ready to get started with the activities, I demonstrate slouching in the chair or putting my jacket over me with my feet up, like I am going to take a nap. This usually gets a chuckle or two.
Have the participants demonstrate the procedures. Make sure to correct them if the procedure is incorrect.
Have them keep demonstrating the procedure until it is correct. Inform the volunteer, that you are using them as an example so they can all have the procedures down perfectly. This will help avoid them feeling like they are being targeted.
Keep reviewing, rehearsing, and modeling the appropriate behavior or tasks. Explain the reason behind each routine, and continue revisiting routines throughout the group or school year.
When do you notice participants struggle with a behavior when entering the class or group?
Is there a procedure put in place to address this issue?
If not, take a minute to think of how you would like the procedure to go and write it down.
What types of routines and procedures should I establish?
At a minimum, routines should be set for: arrival, attendance, procedures, dismissal, and transitions. There’s not one correct way to establish routines or procedures. Finding what works for you and your participants will provide you with clear messages about behavioral expectations, which will allow for more time to facilitate lesson plans and activities. Each of these routines will vary depending on your setting, location, size of the space, and materials. Do your best to create a safe, welcoming, orderly environment for your youth.
Some policies may already exist within the school or organization. Create your own to enhance the work you are doing within your class or group. There are five major areas that should be examined when developing routines and procedures; entering, exiting, in-between times, communication, and managing materials. This blog post will focus on entering the class or group.
Arrival and Check-In
AVOID: Running around and preparing for an activity last-minute when the participants are arriving.
IDEAS: Have everything prepared for your activity the day before. This includes all of the materials and handouts. Arrange the handouts in the order they are to be distributed in the lesson plan. Set-up the room ahead of time. Have chairs and desk in the arrangement you want them for the activity in order to avoid disruption or delay of the activity.
Be clear on what time the class or group starts. You want the participants to arrive on time. You can have the participants sign-in if it works for your environment.
Entering the Room
AVOID: All 30-40 of your participants forcibly pushing their way through the door at the same time, running and screaming their way into the room while throwing down bags and books on the floor or tables. Oh, yes, I have seen this.
IDEAS: Greet participants at the door. It allows you to also gauge the mood and mindset of the participants for the day. Find a greeting that works for you. I have seen some educators give high fives and others simply greet hello or good morning as they enter the room. You can even use the thumbs up/thumbs down method for how they are feeling. The great thing is, you have the control and freedom to shape the space how you want.
Participants enter the room quietly, one at a time. They sit down and take out the materials they need to begin class or group. When an activity begins, bags and personal belongings should be off the desks and tables. There should be an assigned location for them to place their possessions (desk, locker, or hooks). Participants should also have assigned seating, which provides more opportunity for the participant to stay on task.
Don’t be afraid to spend your time reviewing proper procedures. For example, entering the room and being seated. Repeat this activity until you are confident the participants have it down. It is better to spend your time in the beginning working on the routines than to deal with settling everyone down for extended periods of time daily. Be consistent with the routines. Remember, there is no one perfect way to establish routines, and at a minimum, routines should be set for arrival, attendance, procedures, dismissal, and transitions.
Starting the Day
AVOID: Giving participants excess time to talk in the beginning of class or the group; if you are still preparing, it will take more time to get them focused and started.
IDEAS: Have activities ready so they can get started immediately when they enter the room. If it is a class, have an aim and starter already on the board.
AVOID: Stopping instruction to explain what the participant has just missed, or having them ask neighbors what they have missed while you are still providing instructions.
IDEAS: I use a community service method. The goal is to not disturb other participants and to give back to the community they took the time from. For each minute they are late, they owe the class or group community service. I keep an ongoing list of tasks for them to complete. They make up the time during lunch or after school. This policy is agreed upon at the beginning of the program or class. Be consistent with the policy and make sure to follow-up on the completion of the work. Make sure the participants understand that the directions will be explained at the start of the next activity.
AVOID: Having to meet with students individually to go over what they have missed.
IDEAS: Communicate how they will make-up the missed work. How much time do they have to make up the work? Create a list of class/group work and homework assignments. Number the assignments so that you can easily keep track of the missing assignments in your records. I create an assignment bin, which allows participants to be responsible for their own missed assignments. A master sheet is kept in the front of the bin with a numbered list, which includes the titles and directions for the class work, group work, or homework assignments they have missed. Each assignment is in a separate hanging folder labeled with the assignment number. I create separate handouts or readings for group work in order for the participant to get the information they missed during the group work.
Be clear on the policies for excused and unexcused absences and lateness. There is usually a school or program policy for this.
AVOID: Not knowing where your participants are. I was a Social Worker assigned to do counseling in a school. On the first day, I was to meet the new student, but they could not find him. The teacher did not take attendance and could not find the student in her own class. (There were a lot of other issues there, but this still demonstrates my point).
IDEAS: Keep track of your participants. Have a sign-in sheet that participants will use every day upon arrival. Have a participant assigned to take attendance, or have assigned seats and take attendance when participants are starting their first activities.
How can I improve on my concerns listed above?
Being consistent with your routines will help ensure that participants continue to follow the routines. Revisit the proper way to perform routines and procedures when necessary, especially after breaks. Participants tend to need a refresher; they get out of the daily routines and need to be reminded of the procedures.
With these tips, routines, and procedures, you should have some great new ideas for organizing and managing your class or group. Look for the blog post More Smart Strategies for Establishing Group and Classroom Routines and Procedures. The Blog post will include; exiting the class or group, in-between times, communication, and managing materials.
Please let me know if you have any ideas for entering the classroom or group. I would love to hear them!