Procedures in the Classroom: They Aren’t Sexy, But the Results Are!

There’s nothing sexy about implementing procedures in the classroom.  Trust me, I’ve tried to spin it so that there is.  No luck!

But what I do know is that when we’re talking about making teaching sexy – interesting – fun – provocative, it begins with a look at what makes all that go ‘round.  And what does make the classroom go ‘round are classroom procedures or “rules of engagement” while we’re doing the fun, interesting work of teaching and learning.

In fact, when teachers have strong procedures, they have more TIME for the fun, interesting stuff that neophyte educators dream of!

So, in order to bring the “sexy” – we must put in the groundwork.  And we’re going to start by asking ourselves a few questions.  After all, you can’t improve practice until you analyze what’s in place first and how well that’s working for ya.  So, here are some reflection questions for you:

  • Do you feel that in order to have a well-run class, you have to compromise the fun factor?
  • Do you think that fun teachers have fewer rules?
  • Would your kids and you benefit from more time to teach content each week?

If you answered “YES!” to any of these, then it’s time to look at what procedures are…and aren’t.

Classroom procedures are expectations that we set up for individuals, small groups and whole classes so that they know what is expected of them as they carry out the work in the classroom.  Procedures are not just rules, but they’re the operator’s manual for getting’ it done in the classroom.

For example, a typical classroom rule is: Keep your hands and objects to yourself.

A procedure that supports that rule is: When we walk into, out of and around the classroom, we hold our hands at our sides until we reach the spot where we are working at.

Another example of a rule is: Students speak kindly and respectfully to each other.

A procedure that supports that rule is: When we have a disagreement with a classmate, we wait for them to finish talking and then we, with our voices low and slow, say, “Kelly, I disagree with __________________ and I’d like to suggest that we think about _____________________.

You see, it’s not just about the rule, it’s about the action or procedure that underlies the rule – – that’s where true implementation of procedures comes to life!  And I think we miss that quite often.

We need procedures to help us meet the expectations of the rules in the classroom.

And once we have mastered the procedures and have thoroughly and completely taught them to our kids, the party can BEGIN!!  We can begin to get into the nuances of the teaching, discussion, instruction, scaffolding and all of that good stuff that the neophyte teachers dream about.

So what’s the big lesson here?  Our procedures match our expectations and rules.  Without procedures, we have just set expectations.  And that doesn’t ensure success at all!  Especially for the kids whom we are raising the bar for!

I challenge you to take a look at your current classroom.  Ask yourself (or even ask a few kids!) “What are the procedures in this classroom that make the world go ‘round?”  If you’re having a hard time coming up with your procedures and you’re leaning more toward rules, then you’ve probably got some work to do in defining and refining the way your students and you do work every day.  If this describes you, don’t freak out!  It’s a really simple fix! 

To fix a “no procedures” classroom, all you have to do is create a little 2-column chart – on one side list all of the “rules” that you have and would like to have followed.  On the other side, list what it will LOOK LIKE when your students are carrying out the procedures.  Then write in your lesson plans which procedures you’ll teach which days (don’t do it all at once!). 

Then teach the procedures as “This is what it will look like when we’re doing xyz.”  Trust me, your kids will get it if you make them practice a zillion times.  Don’t forget the positive feedback when they’re doing it correctly!  That’s CRITICAL!