Every year in September, I teach my students certain routines and procedures. I also find that there are certain things that I wish I had better routines or procedures for. So this is a place for me to name the ones I like and to list the things I wish I had better.
- Passing in papers: in my old classroom, my students desks were in “default” position of rows, and when they were, they always passed papers to the right. Then I (or a student whose job it was) would walk up the aisle and collect the stacks from each row. Then we would binder clip it and stick it in the mailbox system in the back (though I don’t have a mailbox like that anymore, because it was my old school’s furniture!). If students were in groups of four/five, they would stack their papers in the center of their desks, and I would go around to each group and collect the papers. I think I’ll probably do something similar this year too.
- Bathroom, nurse and water fountain requests were all made using letters from the sign language alphabet. One of my biggest gripes is when a student raises their hand and interrupts a class discussion to ask about the bathroom. I instead teach students the signs for the letters R, N, and W and they must raise those signs to go to the restroom, nurse or water fountain respectively. This way, I can hand signal them back about whether or not it’s a good time to go.
- Electronic devices – off and away in bag unless given permission to use. If I see it out or I hear it, I confiscate it and return it to students at the end of the day (locking it up in the closet). If it happens a second time, I contact their parents. A third time, and it went to the school dean and was only returned to the student’s parents – but I don’t know my new school’s policy about them.
- HW Checks – HW handouts/notebooks should be out on the desk immediately after entering. While students work on the warm-up (do now), I go around and check HW for completion on my clipboard.
Mostly Good, but need some improvements:
- Absence center – a bin with ten hanging folders – one for each day of the week for two weeks (and a tab that says “last week”). Within each hanging folder are three (now four!) colored folders, each labeled with the class number. At the end of each day, I’ve filled the absence center with all handouts from that day – warm-ups, CWs, HWs, etc. Students should go directly to the absence center on the day they return and check it for all assignments they’ve missed. I like it in that it gives me one place to store everything. I dislike it in that students (especially kids with executive functioning difficulties) didn’t always think to look for themselves (which I’m okay to teach them to do!). I also was always the one who had to fill it – I’d like to make that a student job, but I don’t know how to do that or who to assign. Additionally, it works when there are lots of handouts, but not as well if there are notes on the board or if the prompt/problem is on the board and we’ve written our own thoughts in our notebooks. So I need to figure out what to do in those cases…
- Give me Five procedure for getting student attention/quiet. I say “Give me Five” and raise my hand. Students raise their hand when they see me (or a peer) and are quiet (there are five specific things – they’re silent, their ears are open, eyes on me, sitting still, nothing in hands). I found that this last year, this didn’t always work because students didn’t follow the procedure. I had some extra defiant students last year, so I don’t know if it was a problem with the routine itself or a problem with the way I implemented it, or the lack of practice or what, but I know (especially by the end of the year!), it was not working the way I wanted it to.
- Starting class: take out last night’s HW, planner (to copy down tonight’s HW shown on the first slide), notebook (to start today’s warm-up). I hate having students copy AIMs or Focus Questions, but I have had students create table of contents in the past and have given them an “abbreviated” topic to copy down. However, I noticed (quite honestly) that the stronger students use their table of contents, and the weaker ones don’t usually have one at all. It often takes my slower students extra time to copy that stuff down, and I wonder whether or not it’s actually worth it. I almost want to do interactive notebooks, but I don’t want to spend enough class time on them to do them right because I want to spend classroom time on learning new math and problem solving. So I don’t think I’ve figured out how to balance this yet.
- Lining up: I always had students make two lines next to my closets because my room wasn’t long enough for 33 students to make a single file line without wrapping around the room. I think that will still be the case, but I often noticed that we still wrapped – and the people who were near the exit or entrance of my room could wrap around the closets to hide out of my view. I don’t know how to better manage where they line up so I can see everyone – perhaps in the back of the classroom so we’re heading out the exit door? I don’t know.
Tasks that need better routines:
- Pencil borrowing! I’ve tried it all – giving pencils out to students myself, having a pencil bucket for students to borrow from, lending pencils in exchange for collateral (shoes, metrocards, keys or cell phones!), and signing them out. Nothing seems to work in terms of both being low demand on me, allowing students to self-advocate and actually resulting in pencils being returned to me! I need to think about this one.
- Pencil sharpening – I use handhelds only (no electric ones!) because they don’t make noise while people are talking, and that’s my biggest pet peeve. I also have a set of sharpened pencils that students can trade with. I find this problematic now because in the last two years, I’ve had students who were self-harmers who stole my blades to cut themselves with, and because my sharpeners seem to be crappy! So I don’t know what the perfect solution is!
- Lending out materials to students, like markers, rulers, etc. In certain years, I’ve had students who couldn’t handle office supplies being available because they would use them as weapons or entertainment/distraction – throwing staples or paperclips at each other during class. In other years, I’ve had students who didn’t put back supplies or who accidentally took them. In my old classroom, I had a class set of calculators to track, but it sounds like my new school requires students to bring their own. Even still, I want to have a supply area where students can have certain things accessible to them daily (so they’re used to having rulers around, and don’t think “Oh, now it’s time to take out the ruler – we’re going to measure or draw straight lines to solve this problem!”), but I don’t know how to manage the returning/clean-up of it all.
- Passing graded work back to students. I haven’t always been great about grading work immediately or giving good feedback quickly enough, but I would like to give students an opportunity to see how they did on anything I collect. I know part of this is being judicious about what I collect (and what I plan to give back), but I’m still not sure who/how or when to hand back stuff. I’d like to get students to do it, perhaps at the warm-up time.
- HW checking – For credit, I check HW for completion, not accuracy. However, I think it’s important to give students feedback on the quality of their HW in some way too. I sometimes had students work in small groups of 4 to read answers aloud and check their work/understanding on HW assignments. Other times, I had them trade and grade from an answer key shown on the board (or even have them check their own papers occasionally).
- Calling on all students more regularly (i.e. hearing from a wider set of names). In the past, I have either called on hand-raisers OR I preview/warn students that I’m going to call on them (when I sequence them after a good math task), but I don’t like to do popsicle type random calling usually because I don’t like giving students anxiety about being called on unexpectedly. However, this can sometimes mean that I hear from certain students more regularly than others and I never get a chance to call on certain students. I want to ensure equitable voice for all students in my class this year, and I need to think about routines or procedures that will help ensure this.
New Routines I plan to incorporate:
- Using the “same” hand sign from ASL for “I agree” between students. I like the idea of using some non-verbals to allow students to show their agreement without needing to call out or talk over each other.
Any advice about your favorite routines or procedures? Anything I missed that you think I probably need a routine for?