Establishing Procedures for School Success

As the new school year begins teachers and students alike are anxious and excited, hoping for a positive and productive year. Teachers are ready to get to work, teaching lessons that incorporate IEP goals and/or the Standards of Learning. It seems important to get right to work on the content and not spend a lot of time getting acquainted. Content cannot be the only consideration for classroom success, however.

Significant amounts of time and teacher attention are required to establish procedures and routines for classroom conduct. This is time well spent when the result is an efficient classroom where teacher and student time can be devoted to learning instead of classroom management and organization. It is important for grade levels, teams, and co-teaching partners to agree on classroom and school routines that all students will learn and follow. Teachers of self-contained classes may need to make minor modifications to routines. However, by sticking as closely as possible to routines used in general education classrooms, students will have an easier time "fitting in" the general education classroom. Care must also be taken that special education classroom routines do not stigmatize students with disabilities, but seek to normalize their school experience as much as possible.

It is important to note that, as a result of their disabilities, students in special education may have difficulty picking up on or remembering classroom routines. As a result, teaching of routines and procedures needs to be explicit with modifications where required. For example, students with organizational difficulties may need a checklist taped in their notebook or locker to remind them of the materials required for each class. Students with auditory strengths may benefit from learning a rhyme or mnemonic to remember important procedures.

The following list includes just a few of the areas in the daily routine that require explicit procedures determined by the teacher or team and taught directly to students.

  • Instructional Procedures
    • Requesting assistance from teacher during instruction
    • Participating appropriately in classroom discussions
    • Turning in assignments
    • Maintaining an assignment notebook and/or planner
  • Movement Procedures
    • Entering the classroom
    • Leaving the classroom during class
    • Dismissing from class
    • Working in groups
    • Sharpening pencils or getting other supplies during class
  • Schoolwide Procedures
    • Checking into the office after absence or tardiness
    • Participating in fire or other emergency drills
    • Switching classes or changing locations
  • Courtesy Procedures
    • Greeting classroom and school visitors
    • Responding to questions from visitors
    • Assisting others
    • Requesting assistance

The following example specifies a procedure for the movement of paper (Wong & Wong, 1998 p.189) which eliminates the excess movement that occurs when students get up to turn in papers in a central location.

  • Step 1: Have the students place their papers on the desk next to theirs, starting with the student at the end of the row.
  • Step 2: The next student is to add his or her paper to the stack and place the papers on the next desk. Do not have the student pass the papers from hand to hand. This will eliminate flicking of papers as they are passed.
  • Step 3: As the students pass the papers from desk to desk, monitor the procedure, making adjustments and corrections when necessary and praising when appropriate.
  • Step 4: Walk to the side of the room and look across all the rows to monitor the procedure. This allows you to see across the rows, whereas you cannot see behind the backs of students when you stand in front of the room.
  • Step 5: Pick up the papers, or ask a student to pick up all the papers.

Adapted from Wong and Wong (1998). How to be an effective teacher: The first days of school. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications.

Date: September/October 1999