Words of Wisdom #5: Classroom Procedures




Classroom ProceduresNo doubt you have a picture in your head of how an effective classroom should run.   You have an ideal image of what things students should be doing – and how and when and where.  The goal is to get that same image in your students’ heads.  And believe me, none of them have yet passed Mind Reading 101.  These ideas are realized through your teaching of classroom procedures.



I blush to admit that the following story is true…


It was the second day of class.  Students were to turn in two papers signed by their parents/guardians.  “Pass your papers in,” I said at the beginning of the class.  I then watched in horror as papers came rustling forward in a variety of ways.  Some students handed them to the person in front of them and some to the person behind them.  Others got up from desks and walked across the room to place papers in my hand or in the basket labeled “IN” on my desk.  A few just sat and looked at me.

Shocked and aghast, I loudly demanded, “What do you think you are doing?”  Students froze and faced me as I continued the diatribe.  “I have been teaching you for years how to pass in papers!”  And as I stared at them and they stared back at me, it suddenly dawned that I had not yet taught the classroom procedure for passing papers to this class. (And true to form, not one of them had passed Mind Reading 101.)



So how do you make visible to students those expectations you have for how they are to do the many needed classroom procedures?  The first step is to make them visible to yourself.  Take – or make – the time to brainstorm all of the areas where there is a specific way, time, and place that you want students to do things.  Your class procedures can include things like the following:


  • Classroom Procedures

    Classroom procedures let students know what to do when the bell rings, when it’s time to turn in papers, or when they need to sharpen a pencil. Classroom procedures keep your class room running smoothly and effectively!

    Heading papers

  • Passing in/out papers
  • Getting a turn
  • Assisting another student
  • Going to/returning from restroom
  • Leaving for/returning from lunch
  • Using/storing cell phones
  • Using computers
  • Distributing materials/equipment
  • Sharpening pencils
  • Putting away materials/equipment
  • Transitioning to a new activity
  • Rearranging desks to support a different type of instruction



Although written with an elementary focus, ideas found on the websites below can be useful for secondary as well.



The next step is to make class procedures visible to your students.  Consider that TELLING IS NOT TEACHING.  (Imagine I told you how to drive a car.  Doesn’t quite get it, does it?) Look back at your list of possible procedures. Make sure students understand the steps involved in each of these.  Consider which of your students might benefit from…

  • …having students make a flow chart for each step in a process (note that there are multiple studies indicating graphic organizers are especially helpful for students with learning disabilities – e.g., Dexter & Hughes, 2011)
  • …displaying a list of steps in a set of directions
  • …having students tell you in their own words what and when and how they are to do something
  • …your demonstrating how to follow the steps involved
  • …having students demonstrate how to follow the steps involved

Finally, consider the use of cues to let students know that now is the time to do X.  Cues can be auditory or visual.   For example, sound a timer to indicate two more minutes finish up and get ready to transition.  Stand a large red cardboard hand in the whiteboard rail to indicate now is the time to raise hands to ask for a turn.


Of course, another way to get at this idea of making visible your invisible expectations is the old adage ASSUME NOTHING.  (You know that thing about the word assume, don’t you?)


Until next week – may you experience success in all your academic endeavors!



Dexter, D.D. & Hughes, C.A. (2011).  Graphic organizers and students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis.  Learning Disabilities Quarterly. 34 (1) pp. 51-72.