In this episode, I share procedures I use in my classroom. At the bottom of the episode, you can get a copy of the station cards I use in my classroom.
Get the episode show notes and listen now 8 Tips for Better Classroom Procedures (in a STEAM Lab)
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The Ten-minute Teacher podcast with Vicki Davis. Every week day you’ll learn powerful practical ways to be a more remarkable teacher today.
VICKI: Hey teachers, for Thought-leader Thursday today I thought we will talk about eight great tips to really gets great classroom procedures.
Now, when my classroom really started leveling up and I started covering in more material than ever, having more fun than ever and finally recovering my evenings was when I read Harry Wong’s book, (The First Days of School – http://amzn.to/2oqGBu0 ) actually the second time and did it with a PLC, so we actually conversed and talked about it with other teachers. And I really think I have a system that works for me and I wanted to share that. And each of us will have a different experience that works for us.
So the first thing is, Do students know how to enter the room? Now, I like to stand outside my door, a lot of times I will shake my student’s hands, look them in the eye and tell them I’m glad to see them. They do know how to enter my room, we do hand sanitizer, it depends on the class, some may pick up certain materials. but then they pick up – my second one is they pick up a station card. (A copy of these are available via email at www.coolcatteacher.com/e54 ) Now, I love this system because I want my students to have a wordless way to ask for a help and I’m a very visual person, I’m so weak on the auditory. So remember that your procedures are really about how you operate the classroom as well as how the students the students can operate.
So they bring in those stations cards and they’re laminated cards and each of them have a computer number and it actually serves two purposes. First of all, at a glance from the hallway, other student can tell if and how many computers I have open in what station. So they don’t have to ask or bother me or interrupt the class anyway.
The second thing is this cards are green, typically. So I’ll look around the room, I know everything is okay at a glance because everything is green. If student is red that means they have a problem and they really feel like they’ve stopped and they can’t really do anything else. If they want me to grade something or they want to talk, that is blue. So I prioritize the reds over the blues.
And then I have yellow. Yellow is if they’re away from their computer, they’ve signed out of the room for some reason and that sort of thing. So I can look at a glance and tell everything is okay. Sometimes I’ll even have parents say, “Well, my child said they needed some help and they weren’t able to get it.” And I’ll say, “You know what, I know that in the class everybody was green so they didn’t flip their card and asked for it.” So I’m constantly working to keep the room green.
And also if I see suddenly everybody flipping to red I know that even my class students are having a problem and I need to stop and reteach the whole class. So having a wordless way to ask for help has really transformed the classroom and my peace of mind. I don’t know about you but hearing my name a million times, “Ms. Vicki, Ms. Vicki, Ms. Vicki…” You know, I read somewhere that we can all answered about 250 questions a day. So if I have students asking me to go to the bathroom, can you come help me, can you do this? I’m really trying to cut down on the verbal questions that are there.
The second thing is the students know how to figure out what work they have to do without me even saying anything. In fact. I think that a successful classroom runs well even if the teacher is not there. So I have a board on the wall, just a simple draw-erase where I have it written. But also, for all of my classes at this point of the year I have Power School Learning https://www.powerschool.com/products/lms/ so they can log in, see what they missed, they can do it from home and all of that. Put their work on the front table stuff has kind of gone for me because I use learning management system for that. (See https://www.coolcatteacher.com/effective-blended-learning/ )
Now, the fourth thing is the students know how to clearly turn in work in your classroom. Both paper and their online work, because as I’ve shared in so many webinars and speeches, every classroom these days is pretty much bricks and clicks. So it’s online and it’s face-to-face.
And students should know how to turn in work in one simple place in both of those. So I have all of my classes color-coded – I love the day that I color-coded my class, it makes everything run so much better and I have cute little laminated names for all of my students and every student has a number so that it makes it easy to go into alphabetical order and part of that number is the period number so I can keep those straight.
So I know that if they put it beside my desk in a special vertical file that it needs to be grade. And my goal is to keep that vertical file empty so when I have a planning period I can grab that and put it back over in their spot so they actually have an inbox as a class, they look at the information and then if they don’t need their folder for a little while they put it in the file drawer. So they know that they’re only turning what needs to be graded. We don’t keep information in that folder. If they want another folder to keep it in the file drawer I’ll give them one, but I want the folder that goes to me to just have the work that they need to have graded.
So the fifth thing is that you have a simple way to get your student’s attention. Now, I do one, two, three, look at me. I cannot remember the give me five, I know I’m a high school teacher but I just need a simple way to get all of their eye contact. Now, a lot of the time I’ll say get in teaching position, that means knees to me, look at me because kids pay attention to where their needs are pointed. This is an old Fred Jones’ Tools for Teachers http://amzn.to/2p9zb0V trick so I won’t even start speaking if I have to speak without their knees pointed to me. But I also use my Apple watch and I set a timer on myself otherwise I may go too long.
Now, this time of the year in the spring here in the Northern Hemisphere of the United States I have to use this trick every so often. It’s called “reboot your classroom.” Teachers are repeaters and I know you’ve told them a million times that this is how you come in the room, this is how you exit the room, this is how you need to do this or that. Kids are kids, especially teenagers, and they want to know why. I don’t have many rules in my classroom but I just need a few simple procedures so that my classroom will run well and it makes life easier for everybody.
So I will raise my hand, “One, two, three, look at me.” I’ll say okay guys we’re going to reboot the classroom, where are a few things that need to run differently when you come in the classroom tomorrow. And I’ll state clearly the procedures they’re not following and I will say, “We will reboot and we will restart and it will be like a first day in school and expect you guys to come in perfectly and we’ll regain our procedures very, very quickly.” It works so well.
Now, the other point I wanted to make is one I got from my friend, Angela Watson. https://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/ She has so many great tips. It’s that spring is a great time to test procedures. So why do you want to test something in the fall which may or may not work? Why not test it when you have a week or two, or three or four, or six weeks to go and say, “hey guys, I’m testing a new procedure to see if I want to try it in the fall. I need your feedback, here’s how I want it to run, let’s work on it until we’ve got a great procedure in place to solve such and such problem.” And then you test it and you get it working and you add it to your procedures for the fall and it such a great way to solve problems. Sometimes I’ll ever brainstorm with my students.
For example, again, I said I’m so weak on the auditory and I never could keep track of somebody had asked permission to go to the bathroom. So I actually have a sign-out board, and they pick up the clip board and they just hand it to me, they don’t even ask, it’s really not anybody’s business, where they need to go and why. They’ll just hand it to me and I’ll look at their reason on there and I will just sign off on it and then I can look on the board if I need to know where I tell them that they could go.
And the last tip that I’ll give you is if you’re really have a problem, like for example, my station cards actually came from a wonderful teacher, Andrea Stargel that teach with at Westwood. We were meeting with our PLC, we were talking about procedures and I said, “Oh, you know what? It’s so hard for me because we don’t have enough computers sometimes and the kids want to come in my room and don’t know how many computers ar available.” And talking back and forth and back and forth we came up with the station card idea. So those station cards actually sit outside my room in some old timecard slots that a factory was getting rid of that was local, that I found and I snatched them up. And they put them in there.
And also my homeroom even flips their cards for whether they’re eating or not and that’s an elementary school trick but I use it with my high school homeroom because a lot of time people will interrupt me or they’ll say Power School is down or Ms. Vicki I need you to do this or that and it just makes things a lot more peaceful.
So I hope you’ll check my blog. I’ll give you links for these 8 great tips for class procedures. And, really, these are tips I’ve learned from other teachers along the way, I don’t even know where I’ve picked some of them up besides the one from Andrea.
But I will tell you this, in my 15 years, when I really got these procedures down about four years ago, that was the first time I was ever able to start leaving at a normal hour is the first time when I was ever able to start leaving and actually having a weekend.
Eleven years was way too long to spend not having a life. And it was because of my own inefficiency and not having classroom procedures. So at the end of the day my students should be more tired than I am and that’s just the way it should work. And I love those kids and I want to have a great classroom. And by having wonderful classroom procedures, it’s not a lot of rules but it works very well. And you know, I don’t have to get on them a lot because I actually use Classcraft https://game.classcraft.com/share/wDGcv6FpAWAyrrBhe which is actually sort of a game-based tool. And if they don’t follow then their avatar just gets damaged in the game, I’d never do points or anything like that so it really makes it a lot of fun.
So I hope you get some ideas, let me know your ideas by leaving a comment on the show notes.
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