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The learning environment must be properly managed to promote student success. This lesson describes ideas for making clear expectations for classroom schedules, transitions, and routines.

What Is Classroom Management?

Have you ever observed a teacher who always seems to have the class under control but never seems to work at it? The teacher you observed is probably an expert in classroom management techniques, which actually do require some effort and preparation. But they make a more pleasant and productive classroom experience for everyone.Classroom management techniques are tactics a teacher uses to keep students focused, on task, and productive. Many people consider the academic portion of learning, but non-instructional procedures are important to have a well-run classroom where learning can take place. Students need to know the expectations for their behavior in a wide variety of situations that occur in the classroom.In this lesson, we will focus on classroom management related to schedules, transitions, and routines. Clearly outlining the expectations for each of these three classroom management areas helps students learn to solve issues on their own, reducing classroom confusion and distractions.

The Use of Schedules

Clear schedules, which are the timetables for a whole day or specific class, are essential to establish daily procedures.For younger grades, the teacher has much more say in the schedule because the students don’t move to other classrooms or teachers. If you teach these grades, you need a set schedule so the students will know exactly how much time they have for any given activity. For instance, determine what part of the day and how much time you want to focus on each subject, like mathematics and English.This schedule should be visible in the classroom. Make sure there are no holes in your daily schedule; unaccounted time is an opportunity for chaos.

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Ideally, have every minute of your day scheduled, including break times. Stick to this schedule, and your students will always know exactly what will be coming up next.Middle and high school teachers don’t control the daily schedule, because students rotate to different classrooms every 45-50 minutes or so. However, you can still establish a set schedule within your class period. For instance, you can always begin your class with a bell ringer, or a short activity the students must complete upon entering the room.

A quick journal entry or grammar exercise posted on the board will suffice. Having a bell ringer minimizes disruptive behavior and reduces the chances of you struggling to get your students focused. A sample generic schedule for any high school class can look like this:

  • Bell ringer
  • Homework check
  • Direct instruction
  • Independent activity or group work
  • Any leftover time – work on homework or one-on-one with teacher

If you want a procedure for ending the period, use an exit ticket, which involves asking a quick question about the day’s lesson which the students must respond to before leaving the room.

The Use of Transitions

Once you establish your schedule, focus on the transitions, which are any times at which lessons change, activities change, or classes change.For younger grades, moving from one subject to another can be a chaotic time. Students might need to get books from their cubbies or other supplies from other areas in the classroom. One strategy is to play a transitioning song, which might give students one minute to get what they need and arrive at their desks prepared for the next activity.

For older grades, you can use a similar method but have a timer projected so students can see when they must move onto the next activity.Consider the following questions. You should have a procedure for each of these transitions:

  • What do students do upon entering the classroom?
  • If the activity is completed, how do students transition to something else?
  • How do students transition to working on homework? When and how?
  • How do students leave the room? Do they line up? In what order?

For older grades moving to other classes, having procedures for the end of class helps make the most of classroom time. We have already discussed exit tickets, but you want to think about timeframe, too. The last thing you want is for students to start packing up long before class is over. On the other hand, you don’t want your students to stress about being late to their next class.

One strategy is to have a two-minute warning like in a football game. You can even have a timer going, and when there are two minutes left, flick the lights or blow a whistle to signal the warning. Your students can then answer the exit ticket or pack up to switch classes. This will prevent you from becoming the teacher yelling out the homework over a ringing bell while students scramble to collect their things.

The Use of Routines

Beyond schedules and transitions, other procedures for the classroom can be classified as routines, which can be thought of as any established student responses for certain situations. Here’s a list of common situations and possible routines for each:

  • Need/sharpen a pencil – raise two fingers, switch out with a pre-sharpened one
  • Restroom – hold up one finger, for older grades have a certain number of passes per quarter
  • Have a question – Ask 3 Before Me, which is when you ask three peers if you have a question on the activity before asking the teacher
  • Missing work – accessible folder or box in the room to turn it in
  • Absent work – accessible folder or box in the room to find it and turn it in
  • Late to class – have a mailbox where students can write their reason for being late and then discuss with you at a later time

There are many more situations, but these are some ideas for the most common ones. All these routines help to reduce disruptions in class and power struggles with the teacher.

Lesson Summary

Solid classroom management, which are tactics a teacher uses to keep students focused, on task, and productive, requires you to set clear expectations for your students’ behavior in your classroom. Having straightforward procedures gives students power over their actions, which goes a long way to helping them manage their own behaviors. These procedures might vary for different grade levels, but you still need to set the expectation for behavior.This involves having clear schedules, or the timetables for a whole day or specific class for the day or class period; smooth transitions, or any times at which lessons change, activities change, or classes change between classes and activities; and defined routines, or any established student responses for certain situations for everyday situations, whether it’s being late to class or dealing with questions with methods such as Ask 3 Before Me, which is when you ask three peers if you have a question on the activity before asking the teacher. Having established procedures will allow your class to start to run itself. If your students can tell any substitute teacher what they should be doing at any given moment during the day, then you know you have a well-run classroom.

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