Make Meaningful Classroom Procedures for Older Students

I thought of meaningful classroom procedures last night. (I’m a teacher and I do such abnormalities.) Teaching procedures and routines can help in the secondary classroom. How, and why?

I saw a pin of this article from Scholastic. It is largely geared toward younger classrooms but with a few alterations, many tips would work for high schoolers. Older students benefit from classroom procedures, even if they feel like they have outgrown them.

Before I took graduate classes, I didn’t have classroom procedures outside of tornado, fire, intruder, etc. I created some for an assignment and never looked back. Teaching procedures and routines became a norm in my secondary classroom. My classroom management was better, and my relationships with students were better because of classroom routines. Parent questions plummeted, and administrators knew what to expect from my classes. Implementing basic classroom procedures and routines for high school bettered my day-to-day activities. 

After implementing procedures for basic classroom activities, my room was neater, and I wasted less time quieting and corralling students. Substitutes wrote in their daily notes that the students knew what to do—making their jobs easier. Finally, my students knew what to expect. Older students appreciate that, even if they don’t verbalize it. While you may not need a procedure for basic activities such as getting a tissue, other procedures can help your classroom run smoothly.

Make meaningful classroom procedures for older students to better classroom management. Build relationships with students by teaching procedures and routines. Classroom procedures and routines for high school can be simple and effective so that students understand what to do each day in class. Teaching classroom routines and procedures does not take long, but teacher and student relationships will grow & students can meet high school standards with basic routines and procedures.

First, decide what needs a procedure. Don’t simply make classroom procedures to say that you have some! Take into account what you want to accomplish from the procedures. That being said, here are several common instances where classroom procedures work nicely.

How do you want students entering the classroom? Should students begin working or wait for your direction?

Possibilities for the start of class include students starting work when entering (such as writing in journals); students gathering an assignment, book, or notebook from a predetermined spot; or student sitting and opening the previous day’s work.

When students don’t know your expectations, class is started in a mishmash way. Students will find their own sense of “regular” which might include chatting, hanging out in the hall, or playing on phones.

I typically start class with an assignment. I write the first activity on the board and put details in Google Classroom. But! Students know they may look for a book in my classroom library. Normally at the start of class, my students begin their assignments while a few look for books. A few others are filling out requests for First Chapter Friday. (I have material for organizing First Chapter Friday as a free download.) I take attendance and begin walking the room to greet students and start them on the day’s work.

Decide if your transitions during class could use procedures.

If students switch supplies or spaces, students may work better if they know your expectations.

Some teachers play music during transitions. Students grow accustomed to the songs and know how much time they have until they should be working on the next activity. I typically give students a time, like 47 seconds.

Then, I help students move their material or set up the next activity. Working physically in the classroom space contributes to the message that we are all on the same team.

Examine how students leave your classroom.

Are you happy with their exits? If you are picking up papers or supplies, design procedures so students clean after themselves.

Personalize what works for your classroom. For instance, a pet-peeve of mine is students lining up before the bell rings. Other teachers want their students to leave only after they have verbally dismissed the class.

An orderly dismissal also prevents chaos. A physical stampede can actually be dangerous. Tell students you are concerned for their safety, because you are!

Look at basic neatness.

How should students tidy the room? Part of building a classroom community is taking ownership of the physical room. You could make other classroom procedures for turning in papers, making up assignments, submitting late work, and getting/ returning supplies. If you electronically communicate with students, consider guidelines for that too. Look at special circumstances; do students ever share books or electronic devices?

If an area of your room is problematic, discuss it with students. It is their classroom too! What would make this issue better? Do they need a bin for placing materials? The trash can moved? Once you’ve established routines, you can ask students to contribute ideas.

Finally, how many classroom procedures for older students are too many? You can always start with 2 or 3. Students expect directions, and many students find comfort in knowing – not having to ask.

Add more if necessary; review procedures with students when necessary. Make meaningful classroom procedures for older students and watch your classroom soar.

Benefits

By teaching classroom routines and procedures, you will build relationships with students by teaching procedures and routines. Some students easily adapt to changes in their lives. Other students appreciate structure and routines. When students know what to expect every day in class, they are not focused on acclimating themselves. Instead they can begin work and behave the way you taught them. 
Next, classroom procedures and routines for high school will ease absences, yours or students. When students understand how to begin class and where to find their work, a substitute teacher’s job is easier. When a student is absent, that student knows the expectations. 
Finally, teaching classroom routines and procedures made me and my students happier. I didn’t expect them to know every expectation I had. Do I have a routine? Have I explained my procedures? More times than not, when I teach my procedures and routines with secondary students, they are happy to oblige. They simply want to know what they should do. 
Ready to get started? The first day of school for secondary classrooms bundle cover procedures, routines, and organizes you from day one.

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If you are looking for more ways to start the school year organized, check out what to expect the first day with high school students.

12 comments

  • rlubianski

    I totally agree! I teach at the high school level and we have a Quote of the Day and Warm-up for our entry routine and we have a Ticket Out the Door (TOD) exit routine. The TOD is usually a simple question about what we covered in class that day, that can be answered in a couple of words. Sometimes the TOD is asking for an opinion or sometimes there is a right answer, if they stay back till they get it wrong. I didn’t realize how much my students liked routines until I had “one of those days” and didn’t come up with a TOD. The students actually made a comment about it asking why I didn’t have one and what was wrong. So now if I can’t come up with an educational TOD I’ll ask for a high five or something silly for their ticket out the door.

    • lauraleemoss@gmail.com (author)

      They really do like the routine. It may sound silly, but older kids thrive on routine. They enjoy knowing what to expect. Plus? When a sub is there, they fall into the routine. It takes some of the guess work out of the way.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • jo

    I am teaching 6th grade math after 20 years of elementary and I agree they need a routine and direction. I am slowing working on my procedures basically trial and error this first year. I have a question when you do a ticket out the door – do they write that in a journal of is it something they give you. I have many ideas just need to work through them and procedures into place. Thanks for your ideas.

    • lauraleemoss@gmail.com (author)

      Good luck! That’s a big switch.

      When I use exit tickets, I have students write on note cards. They hand me the note card as they leave and I can read them quickly as I walk back to my desk. I keep them filed – and I ask students to date them. This sometimes is helpful when I need to talk to a counselor about a specific student.

      I have seen other teachers do this on slips of paper and discard them. I think both ways work. Personally, I like keeping a record (and I don’t do exit tickets every day) so I can see patterns. I’ve also used them with parents, or when parents ask me to complete a form for a doctor.

      Again, good luck and I hope this helps.

  • Liz

    I’ve just taught my Year 8 class the sign language to ask to go to the bathroom. After 20+ years of teaching, I wish I had thought of this earlier. So much quicker and less disruptive than the hand up etc. They can make the sign and I can nod, plus its an acknowledgement of other ways of communicating.

    • Lauralee (author)

      Hey Liz,

      That is a great idea. I like the other ways of communicating concept too. So important!

      Lauralee

  • Mya

    I teach the 8th grade, and in our schools schedule we have 45 minutes in the morning before any classes start. It’s perfect to sort of wake up all the kids and start them for the day. This year I started doing a procedure- I wrote a new quote on the board and the class would answer my question about it in a paragraph form. We would sometimes share our answers and they would also sometimes be marked. After two weeks of this my students got really bored of doing the same thing everyday. So I came up with the idea to have a set procedure for each day of the week:
    Monday- Journaling (about the past weeks events or using a writing prompt)
    Tuesday- Quote
    Wednesday- Group discussion (talking and debating the topic written on the board with your table group)
    Thursday- Class discussion about current news events (this is my favorite because I think its really important for kids to be up to date with world news)
    Friday- Quiet independent work (I just give them time to work on whatever work they have, study and review or read a book)

    This schedule has been working wonderfully, and even more amazing when they’re left with a sub.

    • lauraleemoss@gmail.com (author)

      Thanks so much for detailing your schedule. It seems sensible! I think you will have other teachers copying that. 🙂

  • SONYA

    I bought a time punch machine for the classroom. I would put a timer on the board and the students had to have their assignment punched and put in the basket before the timer finished. I had a 95% turn in rate for this little trick. Even when I had a sub, the students knew that their work had to be punched for credit.

    • Lauralee (author)

      Do they love the machine? I bet that is fun for them.

  • Penny

    Excellent. Yes, even high school students need structure and routine. If they don’t know what you expect, then you shouldn’t be disappointed when you don’t get it.

  • Mr. Prince

    9th grade English here. This year, I do not open the door until the room is completely ready, then I stand and get a high-five, fist bump, etc. as I verbally welcome each student. It really has transformed the attitude of students at the very beginning of class. They act as if they’re entering a workspace and get right down to it. And their moods are better, too. It’s hard to be sullen after a first-bump and sincere welcome from the teacher.

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