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Where and When to Teach Rules and Procedures
Judi Fenton

I recently received an email from a first year teacher who asked how to factor routines and procedures into her lesson plans. It was a great question, and one not often explicitly addressed, so I decided to share some thoughts about how and where to best fit in teaching routines.
When I work with my new teachers, I tell them to think about where it would make sense in the day to teach a rule or routine.  For example, something that is really important to teach right away is the way in which you will get the attention of your students. I always taught this as routine #1. Tell your students how crucial it is that they respond to this signal the moment they hear and see it. (A signal should be visual as well as auditory so you'll get everyone's attention whatever they are doing. I like saying, "Hands like this" while putting my hands on my head or shoulders. Students have to stop what they were doing and look at me in order to do the same thing.)  Let them know that this is a safety issue as well as an academic issue and then practice, practice, practice!

Another procedure you may want to teach immediately is how your students will enter the classroom. This should be done when they actually enter the room. You can bring their attention to how they perform the procedure each morning for the first few weeks. After that, comment on how they are doing once a week or so. If students begin to slack off on how they come into the classroom, practice more overtly with them for a few days. Will they all hang up their things as they walk in or do you expect them to go to the closet by the table? Do you want them to do something with their homework? How do you want them to empty their book-bags? You need to have this all clear in your mind before attempting to teach it to your students.

What other structures will you need to teach your students so that the class runs smoothly? How will students access supplies and materials? How will they move into work groups? How will they transition from one activity to another? All of these procedures should be taught at the time of use, and then consistently reinforced whenever students move into the activities.

Procedures should be explicitly planned for in your lesson plans. You should never be figuring out a procedure as you go along. You should model the behavior (or have a pre-selected student do so). You should also share the rationale behind the routine. By doing both of these things, students hear the underlying reason, as well as getting a visual model of the routine in their heads.  They learn exactly what they are expected to do and why they are expected to do it. Spending time on explicitly teaching routines and procedures at the beginning saves so much time later in dealing with disruptive behaviors that occur by not teaching them. Any questions? E-mail me!

See alsoJudi's articles Aligning Routines with Your Values and Teaching a Rule or Routine James E. Dallas


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