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How to Teach Classroom Procedures

Learn how to teach classroom procedures from education consultant Grace Dearborn in this Howcast video.


Classroom procedures really are taught basically in the same way that content is taught. Envision as a whole, break it down into parts, teach the parts while connecting those to the whole, check for understanding.

And while we all as teachers kind of understand that process as it relates to teaching content, we don't always put that much time and effort into teaching our procedures. Because we're often working under the assumption that the kids already know how to raise their hands appropriately, come in and get working silently.

And while they may intellectually already know those things, they still need to practice those things, the same way they practice reading, and writing, and public speaking. So my suggestions for teaching procedures are start by introducing it. Get specific about what the expectation is for that procedure or routine. And then model it. You go through the steps of the procedure. Or fishbowl it. Bring up some students and they go through the steps. So that the kids see it in action, but in a mini, microcosm kind of way.

Then have the class actually practice it. If you're practicing, or teaching the routine of how to come in and get started for the day, then have them stand up. Pretend that the class has just begun. And have them go to their seats. And start the warm up, or start their routine the way you want every day. And debrief that. And then have them do it again. And then debrief it again.

This kind of practice, the same way we would teach them how to do questioning in a reading, or how to summarize a piece of content, we can spring that same structure and that same practice and reinforcement to the teaching of the key procedures in our classroom that we really need them to do appropriately and effectively every time we ask them to do it.

You might also want to add in a visual or non-verbal reinforcement of some kind. So if what I need from them is to raise their hands when they want to ask or answer a question, and they're not doing that, I might teach them that procedure, practice that procedure with them. And then have an image or a visual of a student doing it correctly that I can reference when they're doing it incorrectly, as a reminder, a visual reminder of what it is that I want from them, and what it is we've practiced. So that they can self-correct their behavior around that procedure.

Also, when you're practicing the procedure with students, you want to start off practicing it in an accountability-free environment. Which means that there would be no consequence for not doing it correctly. For example, if I'm trying to teach my students how to respond to a particular sound signal, which means get quiet and bring your attention back to me, when I introduce it and practice it initially, there won' be any consequence for those students who don't do it correctly. Because they're still learning what I want, and how I want it.

But after a few practices, maybe after an hour, or a period of your teaching secondary, the next day, or in the next hour of instruction, I have to be clear with them what the consequences will be for students who don't comply. And then I have to consistently enforce those consequences so that students understand that I'm serious about how I want this and the way that it's going to be, so that they all comply the way I want them to comply.

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