With the start of the school year underway, I thought I would share some key things to keep in mind when teaching procedures to students. As an experienced teacher who interacts with new teachers on a regular basis, one of the most common complaints I get is problematic student behavior. This is one of the reasons many teachers choose to leave the profession. It can be frustrating when you feel like no matter what your best efforts are, you just cannot get that class or those certain students to behave. There are many mitigating factors that can affect student behavior, and as teachers we cannot control all of them. Thus, it is important to control what we can: what we teach and how we teach it.
Before I get to the key components, it is important to note that procedures include teaching students how you want them to behave in any given situation. Walk into a school that uses PBIS, or Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports, and you will see expectations for procedures in every area of that school. For example, when you walk into the cafeteria, you will see a chart on expected behavior. The same goes for the hallway, classroom, and other spaces in the school. Thus, teaching proper behavior should be an integral part when going over your procedures. And the good thing is that procedures can be taught at any time during the year!
It is human nature for students to want structure and even test the boundaries of that structure. But you should never assume that students know how to behave or know what we expect from them. You must teach them what this sounds and looks like to you in every aspect.
Think of Everything
When it comes to teaching procedures, including behavior, you must know what you want from the students at any given point in your class. This will require some thinking on your part of how you want to run your class. Some things to consider are listed below, but this is in no way a complete list.
- How they enter and exit the gym
- How to sit when they enter the classroom
- Bathroom procedures
- How to answer questions (hand raised or call out the answer)
- How you want them to get in groups
- How you handle students leaving to go to the nurse or elsewhere in the school
- How they handle using pencils and paper
- How they get and return equipment
- Fire drill procedure
- Attendance procedure
As you can see, this list can go on for quite some length. There are many places where students need to be aware of what to do and how to act, and it is your job to teach them. If you do not teach them your expectations, the only thing you can expect is confusion.
You are not going to cover everything on the first day or even the first week. Getting the procedures down will take time. This is especially true for younger students. The younger they are, the more time and patience it takes. Therefore, you must practice procedures and behavioral expectations with your students often. For example, let’s say you are lining them up to get them ready to be picked up, and students are talking. Instead of yelling, simply have them sit back down, remind them how they are to line up, and let them try again. If one or two students are still not listening, pull them aside and let the class try again. Then insert the students and try with them. After a good amount of time practicing, your students should be able to know what to do without direction. This is a very rewarding experience because it lets you focus solely on teaching.
Remember that some students learn best visually. Visuals can save your voice and offer a representation of what you expect. For example, you can have an image of what a line looks like, a quiet sign, or a stop sign. Visuals can also include hand signals. For example, some teachers have students put one finger in the air to signal that they need to use the bathroom. Some put up two fingers when they want silence. Visuals can go a long way in your effort to teach procedures and manage behavior.
Praise and Explain
When teaching students your expectations, be sure to praise them from time to time. You also want to be specific. For example, if you see a student lining up, tell them that you like the way they are putting their hands to their side, facing the front, and staying quiet. This reinforces what you want, and tells other students what you are looking for. You can also set up some positive behavior reward systems, like the Bucket Filler method.
In contrast, if students are misbehaving and in turn have a hard time getting a procedure down, be sure to point out they missed the lesson due to behavior issues. This puts the responsibility for their choices on their shoulders, and the natural consequence is that they missed out on an activity.
Once you establish and teach procedures for behavior, you can use other common methods to manage a class much more easily. Below are some key resources from S&S Worldwide that can help with teaching procedures.
About the Author:
Charles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 14 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.
View all of his Professional Development courses at the S&S Worldwide online school.