Why Procedures Reduce Discipline Issues

One of the most perceptive comments ever made to me was stated in an elevator. I was at a conference and the person sharing the elevator with me said, “We run our life by procedures.”

I immediately thought about the procedures I use in my personal life and then reflected on procedures I used as a classroom teacher (primary, upper elementary, and every grade 7-12).

Whenever a student(s) did something that irked me, I would establish a procedure. For example, when I suddenly heard the pencil sharpener being used while I was talking, I taught a procedure. I simply had the student place the pencil in a raised hand. This indicated to me the desire to sharpen a pencil. When I was finished with the idea I was teaching, I nodded to the student indicating that this would be an appropriate time to sharpen the pencil. Similarly, when I heard the crumpling of paper, I asked myself, “What procedure can I establish to halt this bothersome noise?” I settled on teaching students to fold the paper lengthwise, like a hot dog. This procedure makes no noise, takes up no room on the desk, and takes up less room than crumpled paper in the waste paper basket that was circulated before the end of each period.

In the realm of classroom teaching, those teachers who are most successful establish procedures, practice them, and reinforce them to the point that they become routines.

A major faulty assumption of many teachers, especially middle and high school teachers, is to assume that students know WHAT and HOW TO DO what teachers desire. The following are examples of classroom procedures that teachers should consider establishing. They should be prioritized and not attempted all at once, but they should be a major part of lessons for the first few days of school.

Topics that I established include:
1. How students enter the classroom.
2. Activities when first entering the classroom. (Students should ALWAYS do something that raises curiosity; piques interest; reinforces/reviews; or practices a skill, e.g., journal writing. DEAD TIME IS DEADLY TIME.)
3. How to take roll while students engage in some activity.
4. How to obtain students’ attention in 10 seconds or less.
5. What to do when it is necessary to use the restroom.
6. What to do when an assignment is finished early.
7. How to find directions for each class activity center.
8. What students do when they have questions or want assistance.
9. How papers will be collected and where to put them.
10. How to smoothly transition from one activity to another.
11. How to work in groups, who has which responsibility, and how to change groups.
12. How and when to move around the room.
13. How to use classroom materials and where to find them.
14. What to do when tardy.
15. What to do when returning from an absence.
16. How to get materials without disturbing others.
17. How to discard papers without disturbing others.
18. How to get ready for the library and other locations.
19. How to get ready for dismissal.
20. How the class will be dismissed (bell or teacher).

When students know what to do and how to do it, discipline issues reduce significantly.

A note of clarity for those using the RRSystem: Following procedures is motivation on Level C: Cooperation, the behavior of which is positive and expected.