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Teaching students rules and procedures is a skill in itself. You have to learn to teach it and then reinforce them while doing it in an engaging way. In this article, I’ll give you some ideas of how to teach your students your classroom routines and expectations in a fun and engaging way.

Access Prior Knowledge: Record Student Ideas

Students will have a general idea of what rules and expectations there might be in a classroom. As students offer you ideas, record them! You can do this in front of the class and record it on the whiteboard, or bring them to a carpet area and record them on chart paper. I love to bring kids to a carpet area as you can better manage them and ensure all learners are actively listening and engaged (because if I was a kid and in the back of the room at a table, I would for sure be day dreaming and not listening. Not trying to be bad, but that is how my brain works). Doing this, asking the students to offer what they know, allows them to access prior knowledge (what they already know), and ensures they’re thinking while they learn, not just listening to a teach give a 20 minute speech.

Think-Pair-Share: When you ask students to “Think about classroom rules or procedures that classrooms have”, as them to think-pair-share to allow for total participation. Ask them to first think for a minute of all the classroom rules and procedures they know, then ask them to “share to a partner beside them”. If they struggle to find a buddy quickly, stop them. Say “Stop and Listen (wait for all kids to stop what they’re doing and look at you). Look around. Does everyone have a buddy? Did YOU try and ask someone to be a buddy? Can everyone help us solve this problem? Each of you have the power to take initiative. When I say go, make sure every person has a buddy to talk to; even if you need 3 in a group. Ready? Go.” Kids should now all get a buddy and then share what they know about classroom routines and rules. After they share to a buddy, ask them to put up their hands and share to the class. As they share out to the whole class, record their ideas on the board. This ensures everyone has thought and has something to share.

Call and Respond: For Your MOST IMPORTANT rules

For your most important rules that you want students to follow, use whole body learning “Call and Respond”. This means you and the students will stand up in the room when you want to teach a rule or procedure. For example, you might use this for how to wash and dry paintbrushes. You will want to have a pre-thought about what you will say and the actions you will use to teach it. Call and Respond instructing means you are teaching lines with actions that the students will copy. They will then teach each other to ensure they understand.

  • Begin the lesson by having all students stand up. Explain that they will be learning how to: ______________________. (ex: washing a paintbrush)
  • Teacher: “When I wash a paintbrush” (call out and give it an action, like a washing an invisible paintbrush)
  • Students respond and say the same line and do the same action. “When I wash a paintbrush…”
  • Teacher says the next step in the expectation or procedure with a new action: “I wash out all the paint” (action might be throwing hands to the side like there is nothing left)
  • Students repeat action and words
  • Teacher continues to do say all steps and actions
  • AFTER IT IS DONE: Have students find a buddy and they will teach the steps to their buddy so they practice recalling the steps, have it reinforced, and they take control of their learning. Once they teach their buddy, have them switch roles (other buddy teaches)

Model Classroom Rules, Procedures, or Expectations:

Teacher Models: When you instruction a new rule or procedure in your room, make sure you SHOW students what it looks like (never assume they know. If you want it done a specific way, show them what you want them to do. They are little learners and they’re in your room to learn.) First, explain the rule or procedure. Then SHOW them! If you are teaching how to wash a paint brush, your model might be like:

  • Teacher: “First, before I stand up out of my seat, I will pick up my paintbrush with one hand and then place my other hand under the bristles to catch any paint that may fall on my way to the sink.” While you say this, you are sitting at a student’s table, holding a paintbrush.
  • “Next, I slowly stand up out of my seat.” Teacher stands up very slowly (always exaggerate the slowness so they understand the point). “Now how do you think I should walk to the sink?” Ask your students and get some responses. Then when you hear something like “Walk slowly and carefully”, you say “Okay, I will walk slowly and carefully to the sink. Here I go!” Model how you hold the paintbrush and walk slowly and carefully to the sink.
  • “Now that I am at the sink, I am going to rinse my brush under the water with the bristles swirling in the palm of my hand until there is no more color and the water runs clean. I know that if I leave paint on the brush, the brush will be ruined forever…” Model washing your brush in the sink.
  • Continue to model until all steps are done.
  • AFTER ALL STEPS ARE SHOWN:  Ask your class if a student would be able to show the steps. You can select 1-3 students to now re-teach the steps to the class to reinforce what they just learned. As well, this will help anyone who may have been day dreaming and missed a step. Always reinforce.

Student Models: Have students model any suggestions they can model (ie: how they walk in the classroom, what it looks like. What lining up at the door looks like) (Oh thank you for the idea. Do you think you can show me what that looks like?). This empowers the kids. Unless they’re in K and 1, they SHOULD know a lot of the routines. 


Drama Skits: After you Teach & Model Rules and Procedures

After you have taught and modeled your expectations, write them down on paper slips and give them to the students who are all in groups of 4-5. They will now go into different areas of the room and will have 15 minutes to come up with a drama skit that shows the class how to do a rule or procedure. They can make it fun and exciting and put in their own twist, as long as it teaches the rule. After the timer goes off, let each group present their skits. Of course, they are being reinforced on how to do the rule/procedure when they are thinking about how to teach it to their peers, when they present themselves, and when they’re watching other presentations. This will ensure all learners are engaged. As well, if anyone missed a day of class, this is yet another opportunity for them to learn.

Turn it into a Game:

After everyone has learned, make it a game! Next class, have kids get into a team. Start each class (or end if you want them to do clean up for real properly and quickly) for the next few days with a game. Have a “mess” at each table that they need to clean up properly, or show a procedure properly. Table that can wash and clean paint brushes properly and the fastest first, table that can get out sketchbooks and pencil boxes first, table that can wash up after clay first, table that can put away supplies and line up silently first….. WINS. Of course the prize can be something like “5 minutes of do nothing/small eraser/listen to music/candy/etc”

Procedures and Routines You Should Teach Your Students: Always Model!

  • Start of the Day (how do you want your students to get ready and start each class
  • Waiting for Class (how should they wait outside your room?)
  • Working Time (what does work time look like and sound like?
  • Cleaning Paint brushes (SHOW them how to do this and have kids do this! Maybe even a small prize for the first time they clean and have the bristles up when put into the jar)
  • Putting away mediums and materials (label your art room! It makes it so much better)
  • Where to hand in completed work (I use an “Inbox”)
  • Where to hand in notices that were signed by parents (I have a hand in notice bin)
  • Where to get work they missed when they were away (I have a bin for this)
  • How should they ask for help in your room?
  • How should they clean up? Does everyone have a job or should you set a timer and EVERYONE cleans the room perfectly (if done in 5 minutes perfectly the kids get a point. At 10 points the class gets a prize (play time/cute erasers/a tiny candy/etc)
  • How should they line up?

Try out these suggestions when you teach Back to School Classroom Rules and Procedures this year and see if it allows you to have a strong, efficient class through the year.

PS: Whenever the kids begin to test the boundaries (they will. Most likely in late September, early October) and try and NOT do your procedure or expectation. Stop them. Talk with them privately, or the next day, have kids model the expectation again (“I noticed yesterday that some of us have forgotten to ……(no names) so we are going to practice _______ again.”).

Love from, 
Ms Artastic

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