How do you develop an effective behavior management plan?
Page 5: Procedures
In addition to creating rules, effective teachers develop procedures–the steps required for the successful and appropriate completion of a number of daily routines and activities. Procedures are particularly important for routines and activities that are less structured and during which disruptive behavior is more likely to occur (e.g., entering the classroom, dismissal).
Rule number one: Keep it simple. Teachers should develop easy-to-follow procedures for only those routines and activities for which it is necessary. Excessive or cumbersome procedures can be confusing and counterproductive. To help determine whether a procedure is warranted, teachers can consider the questions in the table below.
is this procedure needed?
is this procedure needed?
is the procedure?
are the steps for successful completion of the procedure?
needs to be taught this procedure?
will teach this procedure?
is this procedure needed?
will the procedure be taught?
will the procedure be practiced?
will you recognize procedure compliance?
Following are some common secondary routines or activities that might benefit from procedures. Click on the links below to view sample steps for each.
As you might expect, different teachers and grade levels will have different classroom procedures. In secondary classrooms, individual teachers may create procedures that are content-specific (e.g., getting/putting away art supplies, using lab equipment). Regardless, these should be realistic and age-appropriate.
Entering the classroom
Enter the classroom quietly
Grab warm up activity on the table
Pick up student notebook on the shelf
Sharpen pencils; borrow pencil or other materials from the “community materials” basket
Store unnecessary materials in or under the desk
Sit down and begin working on warm up activity
Silently pack up your belongings
Check the floor around your desk
Teacher will call on row (or group) that is packed up, silent, and ready to leave first
Push in your chair and grab all belongings as you leave
Walking in the hallway
Teacher designates student as line captain (e.g., line leader)
Teacher tells line captain to stop at certain increments, (e.g., stopping at the end of the hallway)
All students are facing forward
Students walk silently on the right side of the hallway
If students are not following directions, the teacher will stop the line and wait until all students are following expectations
Turning in Assignments
Check to make sure your name is at the top
Silently drop off in the homework basket
Return to your seat
Using the restroom
Raise hand with fingers crossed
Wait for teacher to nod yes
Write name and time leaving on student sign-out sheet
Take bathroom pass
Walk to the restroom quickly and quietly
Return to class, sign in, and begin working again quietly
Throwing away trash/recycling
Gather your trash into a pile on your desk
When the trash monitor comes around, gently push the pile into the trash can
Asking for help
Silently raise hand
Wait patiently for teacher
If teacher is busy, try working on the next question or problem
Exiting the classroom
Pack up materials when teacher signals
Clean up area around desk
Teacher will call on row (or group) that is packed up, silent, and ready to exit first
Place notebook back on the shelf
Place student work in the “turn-in” basket
Return any borrowed pencils or materials to the “community materials” basket
Getting/putting away laptops
Quietly wait at your desk for your teacher to call your number
Walk to the computer cart
When it’s your turn in line, find your laptop
Gently unplug/plug in your laptop and quietly return to your desk
Wait for teacher to signal your row
Push in your chair
Walk to door and stand in line facing forward
Going to lunch
Clean up area and pack up materials
Teach will call on row (or group) that is packed up, silent, and ready to line up first
Walk down the halls quietly, keeping feet and hands to self
Enter cafeteria; students with packed lunches, sit down; students getting hot lunches, get in line
Once served, sit at your assigned table
Remain seated until signaled to clean up
Throw away trash on way to lining up by exit door
Silently hold up one finger
Wait for your teacher to nod yes
Silently walk to the pencil sharpener
Sharpen your pencil and return to your desk
If the sharpener is full of shavings, empty it into the trash
Fire and disaster drills
Immediately stop working
Look to your teacher for the signal
Quickly and quietly line up at the door
For best results, write each procedure in the form of a numeric list indicating the correct sequence of steps.
It’s important to remember that although certain procedures might work in some classrooms, they may need to be changed or modified in others. It’s completely normal (and recommended) to adapt a procedure to best meet your needs and the needs of your students.
Listen as Andrew Kwok discusses developing procedures that are culturally responsive or sustaining.
Andrew Kwok, PhD Assistant Professor, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Culture Texas A&M University
The main goal for procedures is ways to expedite regular processes within the classroom and being able to maximize the time students have to learn and to engage. I think that requires student input not for all procedures, but for certain ones that are particularly difficult or challenging or may just benefit from having other perspectives in order to solidify some of these classroom procedures. The one that really stuck out to me is the idea of tardies or absences because it’s going to happen within the classroom and teachers need to really consider what that may mean for student learning. Oftentimes, teachers just outright penalize students for coming late to the classroom. But I think it’s different when you start considering the student and the root of that challenging action. Maybe their parents are working multiple jobs and getting them to school in time isn’t a possibility, or there’s just some lag in terms of the priority of being right on time. And so being able to work with that student and work with the family to share your view of punctuality but also being flexible and saying, “Well, I understand you just can’t come on time because you’re getting off of a night shift.” Is there a way to not penalize the student? Can we spend additional time after school? Can we spend time during lunch in order to make up for the missed learning or the curriculum that is occurring? I don’t think students should be penalized for things that are definitely out of their control. And so the more the teacher can work with them in order to solidify things and understand the background of what’s happening will allow for structures within the classroom to be more culturally responsive.
In general, being culturally responsive towards aspects of classroom management really comes down to understanding the root of these behaviors or potentially misbehaviors. To you, it may be a misbehavior, but the more that the teacher can dig in and understand why things are happening, that can allow for changes to happen within the classroom that are more responsive to those students. So part of it is an individual consideration, but it can be a cultural difference that is occurring that certain groups of students are acting a certain way. And so it’s up to the teacher to understand why, as opposed to forcing those students to learn or to engage in the way that only the teacher wants. And so the more that they can find out the why of things happening, the better they will be at being able to manage the classroom.
For Your Information
Throughout the school day there are many transitions, both big (moving from the classroom to the library) and small (moving from group work to independent work). Unplanned or unsuccessful transitions can lead to disruptive behaviors and lost instructional time. Much as when they develop procedures for routines and activities, teachers should provide clear, consistent steps for transitions. Below are some possible steps and examples to help successfully prepare students to transition to the next routine or activity.
Movement between any two activities.
Signal for students’ attention.
“I need all eyes on me in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1.” (Hand raised in air, counting down)
State the activity the class will transition to.
“In one minute, we will go to lunch.”
Give specific directions for the transition.
“When I say ‘start,’ I need everyone to close your notebooks and pack up your materials. When I point at your row (or group), push in your chair, and silently line up at the door.”
Call on a student to repeat directions.
“Shelby, will you please repeat my directions?”
Signal for the transition.
Monitor the transition. If directions were not followed, or the transition was not successfully completed, ask students to try again.
“Thank you to my students who were silent as they lined up. Unfortunately, a few students were talking. I also see that a few chairs are not pushed in. Please go back to your desks. Let’s try lining up again.”
The Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports (PBIS) has developed a guide that recommends teachers use student specific transition signals (e.g., use of home language, call-and-response). This practice ensures that all students’ cultures, lives, and home languages are reflected in the classroom each day.
Procedures cannot be taught (and memorized by students) in one day or even one week. Because there are multiple steps required to successfully complete a procedure, learning them takes time and practice. Teachers should review procedures throughout the year, but especially when one or more students are having difficulty following them (e.g., “Remember, our procedure for turning in homework is to put it in the basket.”)
Although developing procedures that appropriately allow students to complete daily routines and activities is an important first step, teaching procedures is critical to the creation of a calm, consistent classroom environment that maximizes instruction and minimizes disruptive behaviors. Below is a list of recommended steps for explicitly teaching classroom procedures:
Step 1: Introduce — Outline the steps necessary to successfully complete a routine or activity.
Step 2: Discuss — Talk about why the procedures are important (e.g., to make sure everyone has the supplies they need at the beginning of a lesson).
Step 3: Model — Demonstrate the procedure using examples and nonexamples.
Step 4: Practice — Have students practice the steps needed to complete the procedure, prior to the activity or routine.
Step 5: Review — Once you have taught the procedures, frequently review them.
Use behavior-specific praise to positively reinforce students who are successful (e.g., “Sam, thank you for walking on the right side of the hall quietly.”).
A positive, declarative statement directed toward a child or group of children that describes a desirable behavior in specific, observable, and measurable terms; also referred to as descriptive praise.
Sometimes even the best thought-out procedure does not work as planned, even if it worked with students in previous years. It’s all right and even normal to revise a procedure at any point during the year. If you do, be sure to explicitly teach this revised version to your students, making sure to introduce, discuss, model, and practice it.
Lori Jackman describes thinking about the steps required to successfully perform a procedure (i.e., task analysis) and how procedures should be refined as needed. Next, Melissa Patterson explains how creating a procedure for entering her classroom helped students know what to expect and in turn helped the learning environment run more smoothly.
Process of breaking down tasks into smaller, sequenced components.
Lori Jackman, EdD Anne Arundel County Public Schools, retired Professional Development Provider
How to decide when to put a procedure in place: If there is a process that would make your teaching life easier, would help things run smoother in your classroom—for example, you know, a student getting permission to use the restroom on an individual basis—if you can think about the task analysis of what you would need to have done as a classroom teacher in order for a child to be able to let you know, sign out, use the bathroom, check back in again, and return to their seat, that can save you a lot of time throughout your teaching day.
So if you see there’s a way to come up with a process to make your life easier, let the kids know the steps that need to happen, that’s a good place for the procedure. Some real common procedures are having kids use a pencil sharpener, using the lavatory, how to sign up for lunch, checking in for attendance in the morning, turning in homework—are all things that if you can come up with the steps and sequence to have it happen successfully, once you work with the students to help them understand it then it just becomes automatic, and it saves you actually a lot of correcting of behavior and earns you back some teaching time, because they know what the process is. They know what the steps are. If you’ve already started your school year and maybe had a procedure for walking in the hallways or signing up for lunch and realize that things are not going as smoothly as you’re transitioning from one class to the next, or that getting them lined up at the end of the day to walk the hallways to get their buses isn’t going as well as you think it could, that would be indication of that it’s time for a procedure.
It’s not uncommon when you put a procedure in place that there might be the need for refinement down the road, but doing the task-analysis, working with the students so that they understand what’s expected, having them practice it before they ever need it, and then rewarding it, recognizing when people are doing what you need them to do and in that prescribed order can help smooth things out.
Transcript: Melissa Patterson
Before I started the procedures to entering the classroom, it was kind of a free-for-all. Students came in at different times. So we created one procedure. We talked about it as a class. What would help us come into the room and start strong? I realized that a lot of students were ill-prepared for class, and that was creating at least a five-minute gap. At the beginning of class, “I need paper,” “I need pencils,” “I need this,” “I need that.” Classroom notebooks became an everyday, every year thing. Those notebooks never left the classroom, so there was no losing our work or forgetting it at home or no dogs eating it, because they had that classroom notebook. That provided them paper. That provided them any notes that we had taken weeks before. There was always a space in which each class put their notebooks. Their notebooks were labeled on the outside of the notebooks so that they knew this is my notebook right away. They were always color-coded so that each student knew which color was theirs.
At the very beginning of the year, we take the first two weeks really hammering in practicing the procedures of the classroom so that they understand how it’s going to work going forward. When they come in and the bell rings, I start the day over again. We all go back outside. We practice. And it sounds crazy as a high school teacher, but we practice coming into the room. What does that look like? Going to the front desk, grabbing your notebook, sitting down, starting your warmup. If we’re using computers that day, how do we get the computers? At the beginning of the year, I’ll assign them a numbered computer. They will go up. Number one goes first. They sit down. Number two goes. Then we practice putting them back. Even if we haven’t used the computers yet, we’re just practicing that routine.
I’ve had several students by the end of their two years with me or their four years in high school, come to me and tell me, “Those first few weeks or that first quarter, I really hated you because you were so annoying. You were doing too much whatever,” because I would practice those routines. But then at the end of those two years or four years, they’ll come to me and say, “I really appreciated that. It really made me understand what I was going to do every day. It really helped me to know what to expect from you.” They were all things that were super annoying for them at the beginning of the year but then after that first quarter really helped the classroom learning to flow. Whether it was 45 minutes or an hour-and-a-half for that class time, they knew how to accomplish what they needed to do.
It sounds very elementary, but procedures and routines don’t change just because kids get older. In fact, those procedures and routines should continue so that they have some kind of predictability as the expectations that they’re going to have to follow. Again, it sounds very elementary, but after those first two weeks kids came in quietly. They grabbed their notebook. They opened it up to the left-side page and they started their warmup. If they didn’t have a pencil, they weren’t asking their neighbor or asking me. They weren’t asking to sharpen. They knew they had that five-minute window to come in, grab a pencil from the back that was their pencil forever, and sharpen it and get started on their warmup.
Classrooms with predictable procedures and routines have lower rates of challenging student behavior. (Simonsen, Putnam, Yaneck, Evanovich, Shaw, Shuttleton, Morris, & Mitchell, 2020)
Procedures are most effective when students are explicitly taught how to engage in specific activities and, when necessary, provided with corrective feedback. (Simonsen, Yanek, Sugai, & Borgmeier, 2020)
Specific and constructive comments offered as soon as possible following the performance of a task to help an individual improve his or her performance.
When teachers explicitly teach and model classroom procedures, students are better able to monitor their own behavior, which leads to increased compliance to routines and processes. (Harbour, Evanovich, Sweigart, & Hughes, 2015; Simonen, Putnam, Yaneck, Evanovich, Shaw, Shuttleton, Morris, & Mitchell, 2020)
Now it is your turn to create some procedures for your classroom setting. You can develop rules for your classroom (current teachers) or for the grade level you hope to teach someday (future teachers). Using the questions outlined in the box at the top of this page—Why? Where? What? Who? When? How? —identify at least three (3) procedures that should be taught to your students to help the classroom run smoother.
Because health and safety protocols may be in place, the school environment will most likely be different from years previous. For this reason, teachers may need to teach their students new school-wide procedures for activities such as eating in the cafeteria, walking in the hallways, going to the bathroom, and being dismissed from school at the end of the day. Additionally, they may need to modify classroom procedures or perhaps create new ones. For example, teachers may require procedures for sanitizing hands or maintaining social distancing while moving about the room. These procedures should be taught, modeled, and practiced repeatedly. To best provide these much-needed supports, secondary teachers should:
Be familiar with district and school safety protocols.
Teach new school-wide and classroom procedures for health and safety (e.g., distance between students, maximum number of students in the bathroom, using water fountains only to fill water bottles).
Ensure that students have their own materials to accommodate new safety protocols (e.g., wearing mask, bringing water bottle).
If possible, assign socially distant work areas for individual and group activities.
Work with colleagues to coordinate transitions in common areas such as hallways, bathrooms, gyms, cafeterias, and recreation areas.
Note: Students have been working independently for the past 18 months because of at-home learning and social distancing, so give extra attention to developing, teaching, and reinforcing procedures that require personal interactions (e.g., small-group work, partner activities).