Jaime Patterson | September 2015

Practicing Procedures: Part II

Practicing rocedures are essential to the structure of the classroom. Without them, the majority of our time will be devoted to putting out fires instead of igniting curiosity.  If you find yourself running into some procedural roadblocks, it’s not too late to develop and practice the class structure.  Last week we looked at some ideas for procedures in Practicing Procedures Part I.  This week we will continue looking at the 10 procedures presented in Back to School.

How do we prepare and experience a class discussion?

Class discussions can be an amazing way for students to converse, and an even better way for the teacher to assess student knowledge.  However, they can go terribly wrong if the proper procedures are not in place.  First of all, students should know and be able to create the proper environment for a class discussion whether it be a circle, square, horseshoe (see last week’s article on designing space, Practicing Procedures Part I).  Second, they need to know what to say and how to say it.  Practice Accountable Talk Stems with your students, ways to initiate and continue discussions.  Design academic controversies that spark discussion.
Academic Controversies Overview
Accountable Talk Stems
Sample Academic Controversy Topic

How do we look at the end of the class to show we are ready to go?  How are we dismissed?

We are all familiar with the teacher quote “the bell doesn’t dismiss you, I dismiss you.”  This is a very important procedure.  The last thing we want is for students to pack up, check out, or the worst of all, stand at the door.  This is a procedure that is essential to maintaining bell-to-bell instruction.  Determine you personal preference.  Should students be in their seats to be dismissed, once the bell rings can they pack up and then wait for your dismissal. Are they dismissed once they hand in something?  Whatever your expectation is for dismissal, teach it to the students and stick to it.  All it takes is one time to go back on this procedure, and it will be difficult to reign it in.

What happens if a student is late?

Inevitably students will be late to class.  So what happens next?  This too, is teacher preference, however, it is important that you establish the procedure and stick with it.  Some teachers like a little inbox for passes, so that a student enters places the pass in the box and joins the class, this way it is not a disruption, and once students have moved to independent work the teacher can check the passes and adjust attendance.  If the “Do Now” or “sponge” activity is essential to the lesson, be sure it is on chart paper rather than a powerpoint, that way students who enter late can complete the activity.

Maybe, you prefer to have a notebook that the student can refer to with the “Do Now/Sponge” activity listed so that they can complete it at a later time.  Although this seems like a minute detail, tardy students can become a disruption so it is important to decide your preference for lateness and teach the procedure to the students.  Post this procedure in class so there is no disruption and you have a non verbal way of handling late students.

What happens if a student is absent?

This is another procedure that is based on teacher preference, but must be established and taught to the students.  Try a 3-ring binder that houses the lessons, notes, handouts for the day.  Have students refer to this notebook during independent work.  Maybe a posted calendar would work better for you class.  List the information on the calendar and have files right below the calendar to house any paperwork.  Just like the lateness procedure, the absent procedure is imperative to avoiding disruptions in the class, so be sure to create a protocol and ensure the students understand this expectation.

Consider the procedure for late work as well.  If a student is absent, how long do they have to turn in the missing work?  Is there a form they need to fill out and attach to the work so that you know they are turning in work from a day they were absent, not just making up missing assignments?

How do we turn in paperwork?

Turning in work also seems simple, but can take up unnecessary time.  Establish how work gets turned in.  Is there a box for the class, do students pass work forward, are there table captains or class leaders who are responsible for collecting work?  Passing out paperwork should also be considered.  Although these seem like simple tasks, establishing procedures for these situations will help your class run smoothly, speed up transitions, and allow more time to be devoted to content.

Practicing Procedures

Once you have established your procedures (and these are just a few, be sure to add in procedures specific to your class/content area), practice them over and over so they become routine.  Theatre teacher Martha Kelly created a wonderful way to not only teach the procedures but also teach the parts of a script to her beginning acting class.  This was an engaging and entertaining way of presenting the expectations, teaching script reading, and involving the students in their first acting experience.  Obviously, you will need to change the names and adjust the procedures to fit your classroom, but you can download her Procedures Play here as a sample. The Procedures Play

There is no one way or specific right way of doing procedures, most procedures are teacher preference and based on the needs and environment of your classroom.  However, it is essential that you know your expectations and that you articulate and practice these expectations with your students.  The more detailed and explicit your procedures, the smoother your class will run.

Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week: Building Leadership

Someone once told me “don’t do for the students what they can do for themselves.”  I have tried to keep this in mind in every class I have taught.  If we are serious about students being responsible for their own education and if we are serious about students taking ownership in their knowledge, then we need to be serious about handing the class over to the students.  This is not easy…and will backfire if procedures are not in place and expectations are not established, however when it works it is beautiful and we as educators can truly step into the role of facilitator.

About the Author

Dr. Typhani Harris, author of Putting the Performance in Performance Task and Stop Teaching, brings over 2 decades of educational experience to The Institute. Originally a high school English Language Arts teacher, Dr. Harris transitioned into a dance educator who cultivated an award-winning collegiate style dance education program at a public school in California. Prior to joining the Institute, she was an educational leader and instructional coach specializing in preparing new teachers in secondary urban schools.  As the Chief Academics Officer, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.