Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Procedures & Routines

At our last meeting we had some technical difficulties and were unable to view the entire video from Dr. Harry K. Wong, entitled "Procedures and Routines." We did have a great discussion about classroom management, however.

One of Dr. Wong's ideas is that teachers should manage a classroom by teaching and rehearsing procedures & routines.  Doing so, he says, makes the idea of "discipline" almost unnecessary. Teach the expectation, rehearse it, help kids understand very clearly what it should look like, sound like, and so on. Once taught, we treat it like any other skill: if it is not demonstrated appropriately, we stop and reteach as needed. No yelling, no red-faced gnashing-of-teeth, etc., over student behavior. If the behaviors & expectations are not learned appropriately after these attempts, the student(-s) need more help than we classroom teachers are able to give them, so they must be removed from the educational environment for more one-on-one reteaching by the administrator, etc. However, we must make sure we have taught the expected behavior clearly and rehearsed it with appropriate frequency before that.

During our discussion, I mentioned that any classroom's discipline plan or set of procedures MUST include three things: Expectations, Consequences, and Rewards. These are my personal opinions and are based on 13 years of K-12 classroom experiences and things I've read and stolen along the way.

Tips for Expectations
  • Three to five Expectations. Period. They won't remember a list any longer than 5. Give them a list and you're setting both kids and yourself up for failure and a really rough year together.
  • Post Expectations in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read.
  • Word Expectations in positive language (Avoid starting with "No.." and "Don't...") describing what you expect students to do or what students can do in the classroom.
  • Use Action Verbs, so kids can more easily visualize what they should Do.
  • Teach the Expectations at the beginning of the year/term. Discuss them with the students. Talk with kids about what the Expectations are and what the Expectations are not (examples & non-examples). This will save you time and headaches in the long run.
  • Make a two-column or T-Chart: Have kids come up with what the expectation "Looks Like..." and "Sounds Like..." and tell them that is what you'll be looking for and listening for during class.
  • When kids "step out of line," treat it as an unlearned skill that needs to be retaught. Avoid singling out a kid in front of peers - that could backfire on you. You as the classroom teacher should always stay in control of the situation and be very clear with students about your expectations and how kids should respond to questioning. Instead of asking "What are you doing/thinking?" ask, "What's the expectation?", "Are you following it?", and "What should you do next?", etc.
  • Team or Grade-level Expectations are extremely powerful. School-wide Expectations even more so.  However, make sure they don't work at cross-purposes or contradict one another.
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.
Tips for Consequences
  • Keep Consequences simple and progressive. For example, first infraction = warning, second = 10 minute detention, third = 20 minute detention, fourth = ejection.
    • 3-4 levels is a nice balance between reactionary and overly-tolerant. (Depending on your students age and abilities)
    • Remember: the more steps you have, the longer the misbehaving student remains in the class.
    • Build in an escape clause - something like "extreme disruptions = immediate ejection," etc.
  • Post Consequences in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read. Put it right next to the Expectations poster mentioned above.
  • Be consistent and follow the plan.
  • EVERYONE GETS A CLEAN SLATE EACH TIME THEY WALK THROUGH YOUR DOOR. Kids screw up - once we accept  that we can move on. We're adults and we're professionals. We don't hold grudges. We model what we expect from our kids.
  • Team or Grade-level Consequences are extremely powerful. School-wide Consequences even more so.  However, make sure they don't work at cross-purposes or contradict one another.
  • Notes on Detentions:
    • Especially for the younger teachers: Being alone in a classroom with a student can pose certain risks. If you must be in a classroom in a 1-on-1 situation with a student, if possible do so near the entrance to the classroom with the door open an in full view of anyone who might walk by. 
    • If you assign the detention, the detention should be carried out with you. Otherwise, the detention is meaningless as a tool to reinforce your expectations.
    • Detentions should be meaningful and should be thought of as an opportunity to reteach the expectations that were not learned and resulted in the detention in the first place. During detention, talk with the student about the expectation and how their choices did not meet the expectation. Discuss what specific behaviors the student can and should exhibit in the future.
    • Copying sentences, writing essays about behavior, etc., are meaningless busy work. You'll just throw them away, and the kids will forget about them as soon as they walk out the door. What' they'll remember is that you made them do something distasteful, unpleasant and unnecessary. They'll resent it and they'll resent you, too.
    • Give kids at least 24 hours to serve the detention if after school so they can arrange a ride.
      • Duration of detention = time you must serve, too. Be reasonable.
      • Who says kids can't serve detention before school the next morning?
      • Kids HATE missing lunch. YOU MUST MAKE SURE A KID HAS A CHANCE TO EAT LUNCH, but they hate missing the opportunity to sit in a less-structured environment and talk with their peers.
      • Same goes for Recess at the earlier grade levels.
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.

Tips for Rewards/Incentives
  • Post Rewards or Incentives in the front of the classroom, in very large print on a colorful poster that kids will want to look at and read. Put it right next to the Expectations and Consequences posters mentioned above.
  • Think of both short-term and long-term Rewards/Incentives for kids to work toward.
  • Make Rewards/Incentives achievable for each and every student in your classroom.
  • Ask students what they want to work for, and work their ideas into the plan. Ownership means a lot.
  • Rewards don't have to cost a lot of money. Maybe kids want an extra recess or free-reading time. Let them listen to a classroom radio during seat-work - They choose the station but you choose the volume, etc. Food doesn't have to be the reward, but popcorn parties with a video can be pulled off for a couple bucks... literally:
    • Many video stores will rent videos to teachers for classroom activities for free or for a very small fee. Some may let you keep the video for as long as you want. Make sure it is age-appropriate, though!
    • You can get a huge bag of already-popped popcorn from concessions suppliers for a very small amount of money. You might have to pick it up the night before or the morning of the Reward/Incentive to make sure it's fresh, but that's a lot easier than using a microwave or hot-air-popper. They will often throw in individual paper sacks for you, too. Ask if they make deliveries; you might be able to sweet-talk them into dropping it off for you on their next run!
  • Steal ideas from experienced teachers. Ask your principal what works and is acceptable, and what doesn't or isn't.

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