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NYC Helpline: How To: Manage Your Classroom
View Instructional Videos for Teachers about Classroom Management

Classroom Management (Secondary)

A high school science teacher demonstrates how her structured and routine-based classroom environment is the key to success.

Classroom Management (Elementary)

An elementary school teacher guides us through her daily classroom routines and shows how consistency and structure are essential.

Classroom Management through Cooperative Groups

View two elementary school teachers demonstrate how they engage their students through group work to help them learn.

How to Home
NYC Helpline: Manage Your Classroom
NYC Helpline: How To Get Started

Setting Up Rules and Routines
Carolyn Hornik & Bonnie Glasgold

In order to establish an effective learning environment, class rules and routines need to be set into place. The keys to setting up rules and routines are anticipation, consistency, and reinforcement.

As a teacher, you need to anticipate what could go wrong and establish the appropriate routines so that instruction flows smoothly. Rules and routines begin on the very first day of school and need to be reviewed and reinforced throughout the school year.

Let’s begin with the first day’s morning line up. When you first greet your class and introduce yourself at lineup, choose two monitors to be line leaders. Instruct the line leaders that they have a very important job and need to listen for your directions so that the class will safely arrive to the classroom. Advise the line leaders that they will be stopping at each door and each staircase landing they encounter. They should wait at each stopping point for your directions to continue. Wait for the attention of the entire class before giving the signal to continue.

Once you arrive at the classroom door, greet your students again and have them greet you. This is a good way to get their attention. Let your students know what you expect them to do once they enter the classroom. For example, you might allow the students to take any seat or you may direct each student to a seat.

The next routine would be wardrobe rules - emptying book bags, hanging up outer clothing and book bags. Assign each child a wardrobe hook. Hooks may be labeled by numbers, pictures, or letters. Consider how the students will use the wardrobe. What path will they follow to get to and from the wardrobe in a safe and orderly manner? Who closes the wardrobe? When may students go to the wardrobe during the school day? Once you’ve established the procedures for using the wardrobe, practice them.

Another useful technique is to assign each student a “student number.” This number will be used for labeling student textbooks, test and collectable homework papers. The student number should correspond with the wardrobe number. To accomplish this, arrange students’ names in alphabetical order in your record book. Then assign a number for each name. Have students record their number in their homework planner.

Further rules and routines may be formulated and discussed at a class meeting. We find creating classroom rules with your students gives them a sense of ownership and responsibility and lets them know their ideas are respected. (For more on establishing rules with your students, see Setting Norms with Your Students by Judi Fenton.)

Routines might include:

  1. Students raising their hands to speak or get teacher’s attention.

  2. The teacher may shut the lights, raise one finger, or clap hands may be used to signal the need for the students’ attention. Some teachers clap or snap out a beat and have their students mimic the beat.

  3. Students may use a silent signal such as raising two fingers for permission to use the bathroom. Students should use a sign-out book indicating the time they left the room.

  4. The teacher may use a silent signal such as a pull on his/her ear to remind a student to listen carefully. Students might use a silent signal such as tapping heads to indicate they agree with another student’s response.

  5. After students put away books and materials, there should be an assignment such as a “Do Now,” journal writing, or books on the students’ table that may be read as the teacher does clerical or administrative work.

  6. Choosing monitors can be done on a rotating weekly or monthly basis. A chart would indicate what job each student has. A discussion of the duties of each monitor should take place. Jobs may include: wardrobe, chalkboard, line leader, paper, homework, sweeper, basket, office, library, and the teacher’s assistant.

  7. Homework should be assigned daily. A section on the chalkboard or chart should be set aside to write down the day’s homework assignment. A homework assignment book may be kept. In this book each night’s homework assignments would be recorded so that students who are absent can get any missed homework assignments. Model how you would like the assignment done and presented. A policy for late or missed homework assignments might include allowing one day for the homework to be submitted to the teacher.

  8. Create a set procedure for student lineup. Size, alphabetical or random order may be used. Designate where each line stands in the room.

  9. Set a time when students are allowed to use the classroom pencil sharpener. Also set up the number of students who may be at the sharpener at any one time. For example, students may use the sharpener by 9:00 A.M. and in the afternoon right after lunch.

  10. Classroom libraries should have a sign out book and a chart documenting the number of books each student has read.

These are just a few ideas for establishing a well-run classroom. Once the routine has been decided on, it is important to model expected work habits and behaviors, and reinforce the rules and routines constantly and consistently throughout each school day.


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