Quick Tip Tuesday: Tweens and procedures

July 14th, 2009

Tweens are unique creatures. Not yet teenagers but no longer kids, they usually pose a special challenge for teachers. In his book Writing Through the Tween Years, author Bruce Morgan describes how he and his colleagues celebrate tweens’ unique voices during writing instruction. In this week’s Quick Tip, Bruce shares some practical advice on how he keeps his classroom running smoothly with the help of tweens. After reading this excerpt, leave a comment about what kinds of procedures or rituals you use to keep your classroom in order.

Procedures

Established classroom procedures allow me to teach effectively. As we start the year, the students and I chart procedures for everything we do, from going to the bathroom to sharpening pencils. Before we embark on anything, we review the procedures relating to that activity. For example, we read the chart posted above the hallway door about expectations before going to lunch. As we begin the writing block, we review expectations for use of time, procedures for setting up a conference, conference length, location of supplies, and what to do when you’re finished with a piece of writing.

We never think of all the things that will require procedures before we start a new year, so the first couple of weeks, any time we see something that might become a management issue, I add it to a list of concerns to be brought up in a whole-class meeting. It’s surprising what we forget.

For example, instead of being shocked or going ballistic when a student gets up during read-aloud to throw away a snack wrapper, I add it to a list of procedures we need to revise. Delegating as many responsibilities in the room as possible not only gives the kids responsibility for running the room, it also frees me to interact with kids and be available to them. I assign jobs every month or two because I want to give them time to get accustomed to the job. I also let them speak to the class when there are issues related to the performance of their respective jobs.

Examples of students’ jobs and responsibilities are:

– Botanist: water and care for plants.
– Food-Service Manager: take lunch count, give attendance to teacher, bring lunch basket to the lunchroom.
– Supply Manager: stock writing cabinets and put sticky notes on teacher’s desk when supplies are low.
– Librarian: organize the library during Roto-Rooter time and talk to the class when there are issues.

The students’ responsibilities include taking action when things are not running smoothly. When the class starts getting lax with caring for our library, the class librarians raise the issue with the rest of the class and ask for help. When kids are forgetting to check in for their lunch choice, the class food-service managers voice their frustration, and so on.

Students have a role and have a vested interest in classroom structures and procedures. Tweens love the responsibility of running the room, and I love to turn over control to them. Anything that takes me away from teaching (e.g., taking lunch count, stocking the writing supplies, keeping the schedule of who will share writing) can be turned over to the kids. Taking the time to establish procedures at the beginning of the school year is important. Rushing through procedures and processes to get to the content will cost dearly because you have to spend bits of time here and there all year going over procedures. Moving on before procedures are internalized will require constantly reinforcing routines instead of teaching; both teachers and students suffer when instructional time is spent reinforcing procedures and putting out fires. And it tends to make us cranky.

It’s important to be aware that some kids feel more comfortable running the room, my life, and the world and have little time to be a kid. One year, Tracey, who had to get her three younger brothers up, dressed, fed, and on the bus, was so involved in running the room that I had to put limits on her. I finally put her in charge of the school calendar on my desk, and that was all she was allowed to do.

Tracey would remind me of upcoming meetings, as well as add assemblies and appointments as the school announcements were made in the morning. As payment for her time that year, she received Scholastic Book Order vouchers. It was the only year I actually made it to all the school assemblies. Not once that year did I wonder why the school was so quiet, only to realize later that we had missed a Jump Rope for Heart assembly.

Procedures

– keep a sense of predictability and order.
–  prevent wasting time on activities that don’t contribute to learning.
– contribute to a sense of community by delegating and sharing responsibilities.
– prevent small needless irritations and keep the atmosphere pleasant.

Entry Filed under: Classroom practice,Quick Tip Tuesday

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Mrs. V  |  July 14th, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Before being hired in my new position I had visited the school a couple of days. While there I took notes of procedures, and I realized that it appeared there were many school-wide procedures already in place. For example, all of the classrooms had a class list with boys on one side and girls on the other and a clothes pin for each side. Whenever students needed to use the bathroom, they moved the clip to their name. If someone was already out of the room, they knew they had to wait.

    Beause I had noticed this on my visits, I scheduled a meeting with the team of teachers below me to talk about procedures such as this that were school-wide and/or used on 4/5 grade that worked well.

    Even though I had never used some of the procedures, such as the bathroom procedure, I decided that it would be beneficial to maintain consistency with a procedure that was already established and working well.

    I also have jobs. I add additional jobs as I notice them. For example, at my old school the custodian always emptied the pencil sharpener every day, so I found that this year I would always forget to check it. I decided to add it to our list of jobs and someone emptied it as they were cleaning up after breakfast. I also had students who were not riding the bus clean up the classroom at the end of the day before we went outside to the pick up line.

    I also try to always remember to reteach when students stray from the procedures, rather than get frustrated. With reminders they go back to the established procedures, especially at the end of the school year when they are excited for summer vacation.

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