I just completed year four of teaching which means I have said, “I am going to read The First Days of School” four times. Finally, finally, I read the book, and I am glad I did! For those who don’t know, The First Days of School is a book famous for being recommended to teachers who need help with their classroom management. This book outlines every routine and procedure that you must teach and practice with students during the first days of school. Below, I have outlined some essential middle school routines to teach. Some, I have seen effective teachers implement as well as ones that magically existed in my classroom. (Sometimes routines are born out of necessity)
20 Must Teach Middle School Routines
1. Warm up
Where do students get the warm up? When should they start on it? Are they allowed to talk during this time?
2. How to Enter the Classroom
This fell into the – surely I don’t have to teach students this – category. Turns out, I did. It is better to be proactive than reactive as a teacher or you will have students who run in and out of your classroom or fake trip and fall or are switching up chairs or a variety of other things that are not what you want. My expectation is that they are silent once they walk through the door. This helps my class get off to a calm and focused start.
3. Sharpen Pencils
When students need to sharpen their pencils, they raise their hand and make the letter P in sign language, so I can simply nod or tell them to wait. That is one procedure that has worked for me. Students know that they must always ask permission which eliminates any rude interruptions while I am teaching.
4. “I don’t have a pencil.”
There is no combination of words strung together that I despise more than these (except perhaps ‘I don’t get it’) Seriously, can someone solve this problem for me? My sister and I joked about buying these for every table in my classroom. What is so hilarious, is that I frequently go to meetings where I have to ask to borrow a pen. #teacherfail
5. Trade and Grade Papers
Once your students have mastered this procedure, you get some of your weekend back and students receive immediate feedback. It is a win for everyone. When teaching this procedure, make sure to chunk instructions. This is how I might walk students through this. “You have 5 seconds to have a red pen from the supply bin. Do this silently. 5… 4… Nice job Table 2… 3… Everyone on this side is ready… 2…. And waiting on one more person…1. Nice job! When I say go, you are trading with your shoulder partner. Do this silently. Go. Perfect job! You have 10 seconds to write graded by and your name at the bottom of your shoulder partner’s paper silently. 10..9..8..”
When are students allowed to use the restroom in your class? Do they sign out? Do you sign them out? Check out the brilliant procedure Noelle used in her classroom.
7. Hand Signals
When students raise their hands, you are subjecting yourself to a pandora box when you call on them. By using hand signals, you are placing a filter on some of this ‘spam.’ Similar to my pencil sharpening hand signal, I have a hand signal for needing a tissue, asking to go to the restroom, asking a question, answering a question, and sharing a comment. This will save you so much energy. While working with my small group, I would stop what I was doing to walk across the classroom to address a raised hand, only to be asked to go to the restroom. Stop the madness! Use hand signals!
8. When Someone Enters
Do your students talk to office aides or other teachers when they enter your classroom? Yep! Me too. Teach them that only the teacher addresses guests and if they have something they must add, they have to put up the hand signal for comment or question.
9. Emergency Procedures
Most schools are different, but one routine has remained the same during every emergency procedure, students are silent.
10. Band aid/nurse/i have a headache
To get a bandaid in my class, you have to be bleeding, and I keep bandaids in my room so they don’t have to miss class time to retrieve one. For headaches, I ask them to take some deep breathes and drink some water. I rarely allow students to go to the nurse because then it will never stop. Get into the habit of sympathizing with your student and telling them that they are strong enough to tough it out. Then walk away. Exceptions: vomiting and blood.
11. Dismissal procedures
There is a lot that goes on at the end of the school day which means there are a lot to forget. I was notorious for forgetting to stack chairs at the end of the day, so that my classroom floors could get cleaned. I designated one student as the official reminder person. She reminded me everyday at 4:03 that we needed to stack chairs. Here are the questions you must answer with what I have found works the best.
How many chairs get stacked? No more than 5
Where do they get stacked? Short side of the table
Who stacks absent student’s chairs? Shoulder partner
What do you do when you are done? Stand next to your table
Learning with technology is a privilege. When you threaten that you will take away the iPad or computer, make sure to follow through. Have a packet of work copied and ready to hand out to students who are choosing to be off task or treat the technology with disrespect. Other procedures to think about is how does the technology get passed out and put away.
13. Cell phones
My school has a strict policy that if you have your cell phone out or if it goes off, teachers collect them, and parents have to come pick them up. Most schools are not like that though. While phones can be tools, they can also serve as a distraction. You could try this or try this.
There are many procedures that must be taught regarding this equipment especially if they belong to the school. I found that having calculators on the wall and students picking one up on the way in seemed to work pretty well. Make sure that you have a routine in place when calculators stop working or run out of batteries.
15. Passing In Papers
Do students make a pile at their table? Do students get up and turn in the assignment to a tray? What about tests? If you have individual desks, do students pass the paper up, back, or across?
16. General Group Procedures
How do students get into groups? What is the expectation of the group members? Do you have roles? My students sit at tables, so they naturally have a group to work with. When, I had desks in pairs we addressed how to move the desks, where to move them, and what the expectations were of the different people. I personally reserved roles for larger assignments/projects. This is a great idea!
17. Small Group Procedures
Check out this post for some of the routines I have used.
18. Attention Getter
When you get students attention, what are they supposed to do? Get silent? Stop moving? Look at you? They probably need to do all of these things, so be prepared to practice this with your students several times. Make sure that you wait for 100% success before making your announcement or giving direction.
19. Quiz and Test Procedures
This is a procedure that you do not have to teach the first few days of school, but you need to teach the first few times you give a test or quiz, so make sure to allow enough time for that. Make sure to teach how you want students to turn in their tests, what they need to do after they have finished, and how to treat testing folders (if you use them).
20. Supply Procedures
Routines in place – what to do when my glue stick runs out? What if I need to sharpen my colored pencil? Who picks up trash? I use table bins with just enough supplies to keep things manageable, and I have a student organize them at the end of each day. The table bins are only out on tables when we are using glue, colored pencils, or scissors, so students aren’t tempted to play with the materials.
Whew! That is a long list! Remember, teaching these middle school routines on the first day is near impossible, but teaching this over the first week is doable. I like to teach my lessons like normal, but keep each day with 5-10 minutes of flex time to teach and practice a routine when it comes up. What middle school routines are the most important in your classroom? What procedures would you add to this list?