Jaime Patterson | October 2015

Top 5 Strategies for a Smooth Structure

After a month in my new position, I’ve had the opportunity to observe many classrooms each with varying teacher personalities and even more student dynamics.  But with each classroom, I found that there are a few things that work in just about every situation.  I have compiled the top 5 strategies, for new and veteran teachers, to building a smooth structure in the classroom.

  1.  Every Student Every Day

    The first, and most important, strategy for a smooth structure in the classroom is meeting your students at the door everyday.  As we greet students in the first week of school, it helps us to start learning names.  But once the months go on, this gives us a chance to learn a little more about our students each day.  It is also a great way to gauge the temperature of our students.  By meeting every student at the door, we can see who is having a good day, who is having a bad day, who got enough sleep last night, and who needs an extra minute to finish breakfast.  This is especially helpful with our challenging students.  Rick Smith, author of Conscious Classroom Management, suggests a 2 x 10 approach, spending 2 minutes 10 days in a row with these challenging students, and if we are greeting students at the door everyday, we have that opportunity.  If we make greeting every student everyday at the door a priority, students will be verbally and visually reminded about how much we care.

  2. Student Leadership

    Building student leadership is essential to helping students take responsibility and ownership of their education (see Building Leadership).  Although this takes very clear procedures, once student leaders start to run the class we are free to facilitate curiosity and inquiry.  Student leaders can do everything from setting up technology, hanging work, reading powerpoints, writing on the board, handing out paperwork, etc.  Just about anything can be handed over to the students, and the class jobs give students a purpose in the classroom community beyond what they perceive as just sitting and listening.

  3. Teach from the BackOnce student leaders are running the class smooth structure, we are free to teach from the back, after all we are teachers not preachers (see Preacher or Facilitator)Once student leaders are running the class smooth structure, we are free to teach from the back, after all we are teachers not preachers (see Preacher or Facilitator).  By teaching from the back we are giving students a visual representation of their ownership in the classroom.  Students should be at the the front, writing on the board or reading to the class.  Also, the back of the room gives us a nice view of everything that is happening in our classroom.
  4. Lesson Plans

    Our lesson plans will also be a determining factor of classroom smooth structure.   Our lessons need to be full and engaging, not to mention there should always be a plan B, just in case something doesn’t work as planned.  Build teaching or reviewing procedures into the lesson plan and have some fillers ready to use if a few extra minutes present themselves.

  5. Student Engagement

    The more engaging the lessons the more intrigued the students.  Try Project Based Learning (see What the Heck is PBL), or go back to our EdCloset home page and take a look at STEAM and Arts Integration.   Assess how you are checking for understanding, because we can deepen student engagement just by altering the way we ask questions (see Thinking Through Quality Questioning).  If your procedures are in place, you can also implement movement.  Get the students up out of their seats through stations, gallery walks, or group work.  Get the students active through class discussion or debates.  Build obstacle courses or classroom competitions.

Structure and procedure is the number one priority to ensuring the effective delivery of content.  Rick Smith uses the analogy “Procedures are the tracks, content is the train.”  If we drive our train without tracks we are destined for failure, and these 5 strategies have been the most helpful and effective with my teachers.  If you are not sure whether your tracks are full laid, download this list: Procedures, if you and your students can articulate the procedure for each of these items then your class is on the right “track.”  You will notice that getting students attention and where are you are mentioned multiple times throughout the list to reinforce the most used procedure, getting students attention, and keep us consciously aware of where we are standing in the classroom.

Piquès & Pirouettès

Next Week:  Fillers
Have you ever finished your lesson, looked at the clock, and realized you still have about 5-10 minutes before the bell rings??  Next week we will take a look at many activities that can be used for class fillers.  These will be available in a downloadable ready-to-use format.

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 Executive Director of Academic Affairs, Dr. Harris maintains courses, conferences, and the accredited certification program at The Institute.