Back to School: Reviewing Procedures and Routines for Your Middle School Classroom







Hey, y'all! I'm back today for post #2 of the Back to School series, this time about Reviewing (or setting up, if you're a new teacher!) Procedures for Your Middle School Classroom!

Teaching my students my procedures and expectations is one of the cornerstones of making my classroom work. The importance of this cannot be overstated. I think sometimes, those of us who teach older kids (I have 8th graders) assume kids should know how to operate in a classroom by now through experience, or at least common sense. Well, about 2 minutes into class, those of us who have ever thought that have immediately regretted it :) All students (whether the best or worst  behaved!) need (and want!) to know how they are supposed to operate in your classroom, and what is expected of them. In this post, I'm going to outline a list of procedures to think through for your own classroom. This is by no means an exhaustive list, especially if you teach a lab class or special class like chorus or art, but is a base list. I'd love to hear others you come up with in the comments!

Whether you're a brand new teacher, or a seasoned pro, it is definitely worth your time to review your classroom procedures and expectations in the summer (and reflect more on them in the school year, but that's another post!). Your style changes, your students change, your room or set-up may change. What has always worked in the past may continue to work, or maybe you had a particularly challenging student that made you realize you needed procedures for certain classroom things. Either way outlining exactly what you want clears your head before the school year begins.

One of the most helpful things I saw when I first became a teacher was a teacher's procedures laid out in an A to Z format in one document. Committing your procedures and expectations to paper makes certain that you have in your mind what you want exactly. In my opinion, it is always best to have more procedures than needed thought through and ready to implement versus trying to get your students to buy in after the fact.

Now, let's get to the A-Z Procedures list with questions...

Thinking Through Procedures

Attendance
  • What do you want kids to do if they miss a day? (with Attendance Notes, to get Make Up Work, etc.)
  • What do you want kids to do it they're tardy to your class?
Attention
  • How do you get the attention of students in your classroom? 
  • What does "being attentive" look like in your classroom if just being quiet isn't enough?
Bathroom
  • What do you want kids to do when they need to go to the bathroom? (How to get your attention, getting a pass, signing out, etc.)
Binders (or Folders)
  • If your class has binders, are they left in your classroom or do kids take them with them every day? 
  • Do you want them out at all times or under their desks? 
  • If they stay in your room how do you want kids to retrieve them and put them away each day?
Computers
  • How do kids check out computers in class if they take them to their seat?
  • How do they need to operate them?
  • How do they need to return them?
  • What procedures do they allow in the beginning of class on the computer so class starts successfully?
  • What if their computer isn't working, needs to be charged, or they need help troubleshooting something?
Electronics (other than computers)
  • Can students ever have electronics in your room (like a phone or tablet)? 
  • If so, how do they know when an appropriate time to use it is?
  • When they can't be used, what do you want students to do with the device?
  • What is the procedure if they have out a device at an inappropriate time and get caught with it? If your school collects them, where are students supposed to put it?
Entering the Room
  • How should kids enter your classroom each day? (Begin from the hallway and work your way to them being seated)
  • Do they need to get something before sitting down?
  • Can they get up to get something after being seated? 
  • Do students need to begin any work immediately? How will they know what that work is?
Exiting the Room
  • How should kids exit your room each day? (Again, think through a few minutes before they leave to walking out).
  • What must be done before they leave?
  • Will you give a "Go" signal and let them do it all or will you lead them through the steps each day? 
Grades
  • How can a kid request to see his grade? By note? Raising his hand? Asking before class starts?
  • How can a student submit late work to be graded?
  • How can a student re-do an assignment? Is that allowed and if so, does the newly completed assignment go somewhere different than tuning in regular work?
  • How will you communicate grades to your students, and how often?
Homework
  • How will students know their homework each day? 
  • Do you require them to write it down somewhere? Do you need to check it?
  • Where do they turn HW in?
  • Do you spot check it before you go over it?
  • What happens if a student loses a copy or the HW?
  • What happens if a student forgets to do the HW?
  • What does a student do with late work?
Independent Work
  • What does Independent Work look like in your classroom? What do you need to teach so this is implemented successfully in your room?
Intercom (had to include this one b/c it is my pet peeve!)
  • If someone comes over the intercom to your classroom, what do you want kids to do? (It never fails that when the front office says, "Ms. Hayes?" that 5 kids answer "YES!" as if their names suddenly changed :) ) 
Lockers
  • What needs to stay in student lockers and can't be in your class?
  • What if a student forgot something in their locker they need for class? 
  • How do they ask to go to their locker?
  • Do they need to sign out?
Make Up Work
  • How does a student know what he/she missed?
  • How long do they have to turn it in?
  • Where does it go in your classroom once it is completed (a special place for make up work?)
  • How long do they have to complete the make up work?
  • Do students have the re-do option on exams? What is that process?
Paper Headings
  • How do you want students to head their papers each day? With just a name? Name/Date? Assignment name at the top?
Parent/Guardian Contact
  • Do you have a system for parent/guardian contact?
  • Do you only want parents to call school or email you to connect or can they call your cell phone? 
  • If they send notes from home with students, where do the kids put those?
Partner Work
  • What does partner look like and sound like in your room? 
  • What do you need to teach so partner work is productive in your classroom?
  • Is there a place students can look to see if it is partner work time and what those expectations are?
Pencils
  • What does a student do if he/she needs a pencil?
  • What if it needs to be sharpened?
  • How do you collect borrowed pencils?
Phone
  • What happens when the phone rings in your classroom? (Do 3 kids run to the phone? :) )
  • Do you have a specific student answer the phone, or can only you answer it?
  • Do students continue working or does everyone get silent? 
Receiving Help
  • How do kids ask for help in your room? Are their things you want them to do before they ask you?
Seating
  • How are kids seated in your room?
  • What do you want ids o do if they have a huge problem with their seat for whatever reason?
  • Do you offer flexible seating? If so, when can they move around during class? How are their seats chosen daily?
Small Group
  • How do you want kids to work in small groups? What does success and participation look like?
  • Is there anything you need to teach them so they can work in small groups successfully to meet your expectations?
Supplies
  • What do students do if they need to get supplies other than a pencil?
  • What do students so when they need to clean-up/give supplies back during class? 
Tissue
  • What does a student do if they need a tissue?
  • Do you want them to step outside to use the tissue?
Trash
  • What do kids do if they need to throw trash away? 
  • Is it okay for them to get up and do it, or are they supposed to wait? Or is their a bin by each table?
Uniforms
  • What do you/ a student do if he/she is not in uniform in your class? Is there a procedure for getting the student in uniform?
Water
  • What if a student wants to go to the water fountain during class? 
Whole Class 
  • What should you teach for whole class instruction to be successful in your classroom? What do the kids look like and sound like?
Visitors
  • What do you do if a visitor comes to your room? Does a particular student answer the door? If someone is coming in for the lesson, do you have a student ambassador to greet them, or see if they'd like a copy of the assignment? Or do you handle all knocks at the door and students are to continue with what they're doing?

Creating Procedures

Once you have thought through all of the procedures above (and I'm sure you even thought of others!) it is a good idea to commit your procedures to paper. When doing so, make sure your instructions are clear and concise (and maybe even in a numbered list format!) so they are easily understood by you and made so you can simply communicate them to students.

Again, each year I go through this process so I can fully reflect on each part of my classroom and make sure that my actions and my classroom environment are all geared to maximize student learning time and to build a culture of achievement in all students. 


Teaching Procedures

Just like a brilliant written lesson plan, you have to now teach these procedures to your students over and over again! When teaching procedures you will have to go over them often, if not daily with many of them, until students get the hang of it. In the first few days of school, you should be teaching procedures (explaining, modeling, practicing, etc.) as they come up in the classroom. Obviously simply going through the list and explaining to students what you want will not be enough and you and the students will end up frustrated!

I've heard teachers say many times "You're spending how long teaching procedures?". I always explain that in the long run the time I spend at the beginning of the year helping students get them down will save much valuable instructional time down the road, and keep me from going grey earlier :)

What did I miss? Do you have any procedures in your classroom that I didn't cover here? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!



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If you missed the first post in the back to school series about setting big goals for meaningful achievement in you classroom, check it out here!

p.s. Interested in starting a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you start and grow your blog!


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