Sunday, August 26, 2012

Simple Systems Create Independence, Build Confidence

Good teachers know that simple systems and patterns are essential to classroom ease and success. Systems like this let students manage their environment even when the teacher is not there, and this builds independence and confidence.

I've been teaching a long time, and there are some systems that I've never attended to with care. I tend to jump right into the teaching, and then regret that I didn't spend the time up front each year teaching, practicing and refining our classroom systems. Hence, I've taken the time this morning to outline the systems I will introduce, teach and refine in the early weeks of school.

I have created a space in the back of the room for these systems.  In that space there will be a place where students pass in their homework folders, check lists and collect papers.  There will also be a place for class announcements and news as well as a place to move to magnet to your lunch choice.  Then at the front of the room, I've made a place for "morning work" assignments--the early day warm up exercises and preparation that will help students plan for the day.  A morning work assignment will look like this:

  1. See the teacher if you have any questions, comments or requests.
  2. Prepare your supplies: sharpen pencils and organize desk.
  3. Do your morning job if you have one. 
  4. Start working on ____________________________________ with ___________ voices.

Following Ruth Charney's advice in Teaching Children to Care, we'll spend a considerable amount of time at the start of the year learning the morning check-in system (and revising where necessary):

Morning Check-In System
  1. Remove homework folder and other daily materials from your back pack.
  2. Hang up your back pack and outerwear.  Organize your boots and lunch bags neatly.
  3. If you have a lunch bag, put it in the lunch bucket.
  4. Move your lunch magnet.
  5. Read the class news board.
  6. Read the homework folder board and follow those directions. Place homework folder in basket by number. 
  7. Organize your learning tools and desk area.
  8. Do your morning job if you have one. 
  9. Start your morning work. 

Students will have similar routines and systems to learn related to recess, transitions, lunch and end of the day dismissal.  These systems are essential for safety and organization.

Outdoor Recess
  1. Quietly walk into the hall to get your outdoor gear and snacks.
  2. Line up at outside door.
  3. When teacher announces, walk outside--play and have fun. 
  4. Follow the recess rules: no "body contact," kind words and actions, stay on the playground and use materials the way they are meant to be used.
  5. When teacher blows the whistle four times, walk inside, put away outdoor toys in hall bin, neatly and quietly place outdoor gear on rack, return to the classroom and get started on the assignment written on the board. 
Indoor Recess
  1. Quietly gather snacks.
  2. Return to room and make an indoor choice i.e. blocks, characters, games, legos/k'nex, arts and crafts, reading. . .
  3. Follow indoor recess rules: use materials the way they are meant to be used, no throwing any objects, walking (no running), kind words and actions.
  4. Play quietly since children in classes next door will be learning.
  5. When teacher flashes the lights, clean up your space, return to your desk and get started on the assignment written on the board.
  1. Gather lunch money (if any) from back pack.
  2. Put on your outdoor gear. (if it is outdoors)
  3. Play.
  4. Clean up when lights flash if indoor (5 minutes before line-up).
  5. Line up silently.
  6. Walk to lunch, enjoy eating with friends, clean-up and follow instructions for dismissal.
  7. Line up for dismissal and walk silently down hall or walkway to classroom.
  8. Enjoy 10 silent minutes at desk reading, writing, drawing, thinking or any other silent, restful activity after lunch. See teacher at this time with any questions or concerns.
End of Day Routine 
  1. Clean up desk area, put materials in back pack and bring back pack into room. 
  2. Gather in designated place for end day read aloud or mini lesson.
  3. Stop and Listen silently to principal's end-of-day message.
  4. Leave quietly as teacher announces your end-day group (bus#, transportation type or afterschool program).
Restroom Routine
  1. Raise a "thumb up" when you need to use the restroom.
  2. When the teacher gives you the okay signal, sign your name and time out in restroom book.
  3. Use the restroom as it is meant to be used, be neat and polite.  Report any restroom actions that are inappropriate as we want to keep that a safe, clean area of our school.
  4. When you return, write the time-in and return to the class activity.
  1. Silently wait and listen for your name, number or other way of being called to line up.
  2. No talking once you have lined up.
  3. Silently walk through the halls.  The silence is due to the fact that we have a busy school and we'll be passing many students who are in the midst of reading, listening, writing and doing other learning tasks.
  4. Quietly find your spot in the new class, wait for the teacher's directions or follow the routine for that class. 
Class Jobs
Students will have the same job all year.  Students will choose or be chosen for specific jobs at the beginning of the year and throughout the year as job needs arise.
  • Lunch Bucket - bring to lunch room at 8:50 each day, return to classroom after lunch.
  • Attendance: Review magnets, complete attendance roster, show teacher and bring to front office.
  • Lunch Count: Review magnets, complete lunch slip, show teacher and bring to lunch room
  • Class Manager (weekly job-each student gets a chance to do this): helps teacher with messages, paper passing and other necessary jobs. 
How do you create, manage and revise systems in your classroom?  In what ways do you give students' ownership for these systems?  What systems do you use that I do not have listed here?  An important part of elementary school is teaching students the habits and routines that foster independence, confidence and success.  As Charney notes in her books, we can't expect students to come knowing our expectations or systems, instead we have to teach and practice these systems in deliberate, thoughtful ways with students in order to build successful routines, patterns and habits.