When I first started teaching, I quickly learned that there were a lot of daily classroom procedures to juggle, and I needed to streamline them to teach efficiently.
For example, attendance took me forever and ate up a ton of my time. I needed to find a quick fix for that — and don’t even get me started on grading papers. No one told me that it could be a chaotic mess between homework, worksheets, projects, grades …
I had to find a system for everything. But I soon realized that building classroom routines, despite the initial time investment, actually relieved stress and saved loads of time for me and my students.
If you’re struggling to keep things in order, why not take a look at these classroom procedures to make your life as a teacher easier?
7 daily classroom systems and procedures that will increase efficiency
1. Select groups in fun ways
I taught middle school, so there was a lot of group learning going on. But choosing those groups can be time consuming without a system in place. I didn’t have time to go through and make sure that Jimmy wasn’t with Johnny. Eventually, I settled on randomizing the procedure and letting the students figure it out themselves. Hey, that mirrors life, right?
I settled for relying on a couple of group activities that doubled as icebreakers in class. One of my favorites was having the kids get into two lines facing away from each other. One line would write their names on a piece of paper, crumple up their names, and throw them to the other side. Students in the other line would open a piece of paper and see their partner’s name written there — voilà, I had a classroom full of pairs, and I didn’t have to lift a finger.
There was also a neat smartboard spinner activity you could project on the screen. I’d input all the children’s names into the program, and the names would spin to find a group. Kids were always excited and bubbling with anticipation because of the random outcome. And since I didn’t have time to sit down and strategically form groups during my lunch break, it served as a beneficial plan for me, too.
2. Have a prelude
I found that kids behaved wildly at the beginning of class, and I used to have a hard time getting the ball rolling. One of my mentor teachers took pity on me and recommended having a prelude (a pre-activity) projected on the board for the kids to complete as they came in.
As an English teacher, I decided to start with my mechanics usage and grammar (MUG) activity. This required projecting a sentence with errors on the board and having the kids write it correctly. This was the first activity they did as they trickled in.
We continued this routine every day, and the procedure got imprinted into their minds. This activity also gave students time to work on those mechanics that seem to be lacking in the age of frequently texting LOL and TTYL.
Plus, when the kids come in, they immediately knew what they had to do, and the room remained quiet — after all, it’s hard to complete a mechanics exercise when you’re talking and throwing spitballs.
3. Create a student preparation checklist
You know the scenario: A kid comes in, and he doesn’t have a pencil, he forgot his binder, perhaps he even forgot the book you’re reading — poor guy, there’s just so much to remember!
I understand that kids don’t fully develop their brains until they’re older. Their prefrontal cortex is still in limbo. I get it, but it’s still incredibly disruptive when kids are going back and forth to lockers to get things because they forgot the primary necessities for class.
To combat this, you might consider putting a little laminated checklist on each desk with a dry erase marker. Yes, this sounds like a lot of work, but it could save you loads of time in the future.
On that laminated checklist are all the items students need for that specific class, so when the kids come in and sit down, they must physically mark off that they have everything.
I know what you’re thinking: There might be some kids who won’t check it off. And you’re right — but at least it’s in front of them. If it says they need their planner, and they’re missing it, they’ll go get it and save you some aggravation.
4. Mark themselves off at the door
I mentioned attendance at the beginning of this article, and I’m still grumbling. I taught one class with 27 kids — that’s right, 27 kids — and attendance was a time-wasting nightmare! Kids are smart: They would milk it and slowly say their names.
Sure, you need to know that all your students are with you and not hiding in the bathroom, but taking traditional attendance wasn’t the answer for me.
One strategy was having an attendance checklist at the door that each student marked off as they walked in. This was way more productive than calling off names (and still prevented hiding in the bathroom).
5. Show an agenda
Another classroom procedure of mine was going over the schedule for each lesson. This was just a simple list on the board where I told students what was up.
I know you’ve heard it from the kids asking, “What are we going to do today?” An agenda answers this recurring question. When one of them asks, point to the board.
This doesn’t mean that you need to write down your entire lesson plan — just jot down a couple of bullets mentioning what you’re doing that day. Then you can kick off class by introducing those items so the kids know what’s happening. Students are more than curious about schedules. This way, you won’t have to answer “What are we doing today?” a million times.
6. Create a parking lot (not that kind of parking lot)
Speaking of questions, kids love them, and I’m sure you probably had a class where the interrogations wouldn’t stop. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with them all because they might be excellent questions, but you only have so much time in a class.
This is where the parking lot comes in.
Grab a big piece of paper that you can make look like a parking lot. Let students know at the beginning of the year that if they have pending questions that are not related to the lesson at hand, they can write them on the parking lot. Remind them that you will review those questions at the end of each class. This again saves time — trust me: You need every minute.
7. End class with a reflection card
According to research, a big part of learning is reflecting on what we learned. But it’s so easy in a 40-minute class to start an activity and not finish. How are you supposed to get the kids to reflect, too?
The exit card strategy helped me immensely, and I encourage you to give it a try. This is when you give each student a flashcard and then have them answer a question or reflect on that day’s lesson. Then, they simply hand it to you on the way out. Easy.
This strategy helped with planning and forced me to set aside that necessary reflecting time.
Make a few classroom procedure tweaks
Classroom procedures don’t have to be scary! When teaching feels overwhelming (an all-too-natural occurrence), take a moment to reevaluate your classroom routines and see if you can roll out some small tweaks to make those lessons flow. After all, even teachers are creatures of habit!
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