The bigger question is “Why do I need to set up classroom systems at all?”
Classroom systems are nothing more than a followed routine. A “classroom work manual” that helps you to be more effective in the classroom and save time. What you do with that time is completely up to you.
You might shave a few minutes here and there which add up to hours. You can use those extra hours to complete all your grading at school to free up time spent with your family at home. Perhaps you prefer to use your extra time to chat with colleagues and create connections that make your workplace somewhere you look forward to coming to each day.
Or you could use your extra time for something crazy – like more teaching. Something I know you love, otherwise you wouldn’t be in a classroom. 🙂 Those rewards are worth it!
When do you need a classroom system?
Basically anytime you do a task more than once. Having a set system that is predetermined and repeats itself like clockwork will save you precious seconds and minutes.
Not to mention, students crave consistency. Behaviors usually improve dramatically when classroom systems, such as clickers, are in place. When students know exactly how something will happen and what their individual role is in that routine, there is less chance for distraction or acting out.
Think about your own personal morning routine from the time you wake up until the time you walk into your classroom. I bet it is a habit to do those same steps every morning. When you are brushing your teeth, do you do it differently each morning? Probably not. You have found the most efficient way to brush your teeth, you do it, and you keep moving.
Classroom routines should be no different. You want to have routines that become a habit not only for you, but for your students. The sign of a really great classroom system? If you left the room, it would keep humming along without you there at all.
Of course, that takes time. You have to start with the awareness of all the classroom systems you have (or need) to put in place. Then, you need to break the system into smaller steps so you know where efficiency can be improved. And finally, you work on implementing the routine – working out the bugs as you go along.
What works for one teacher or group of students, may not work for the next. There is no one-size-fits-all model. Which is great in my opinion. Who wants a classroom full of robots? The routines will change from teacher to teacher depending on variables such as class size, the size of the classroom environment, student needs, personal preference, and more. But – once you get your routine mastered, your classroom becomes an inviting, safe place for students. And that creates an environment of learning and teaching where true connections happen.
Thinking About Solutions
Now that you know what classroom systems are – and why they are important, let’s take a look at 10 elementary classroom systems you need to be using right now and some questions you should be asking yourself when analyzing your current routine:
- Pencil Sharpening: How often do my students need a pencil sharpened? Are they allowed to sharpen while I am teaching? What sharpener do they use? What if the student has no pencil?
- Lining Up: How can I have my students line up without mass chaos? Do I call them by tables or by something else such as shirt color? If I call by tables, is it by quietest, first ready, or just in order from the door? How do we model how to stand in line once there while waiting for the others to be called in line too? If we are heading to or from the library, what do we do with the books?
- Getting the Teacher’s Attention: Do the students raise their hand during class activities? Perhaps they silently get out of their seat and stand next to me to get my attention? Do they use a number signal (1 finger means question, 2 fingers means bathroom, etc)? Should they use a 4 color sheet of folded paper which alerts me to what they need? Are there certain times of the day when they are not allowed to interrupt me? Do I use PBIS strategies to get them to participate more?
- Packing Up for the Day: How do I have smaller groups get their materials for dismissal so it is not madness? Should they pack up their backpack at their desk or at the lockers/cubbies? How do I make sure any extra papers to go home are distributed? What do the children do once they are packed up and ready?
- Filing: Where do my papers that need filed “live” until they are ready to be filed? Do I file things immediately or once a week? Do some papers get filed right away and some later? Where can I store my files that is secure, yet still accessible? Do I have a digital filing cabinet or a traditional paper filing cabinet? Where can I store papers if I don’t have a traditional filing cabinet? How often do I score the assessment grading?
- Writing Your Lesson Plans: What materials will I need to plan next week? Do I have a copy of last year’s plans to use as a starting point? What manipulatives, games, or extra resources do I have available for next week’s topics? Are my TEs online or only as a hard copy? What can I have pre-filled that never changes from week-to-week?
- Preparing Absent Work: How do I make sure my absent student gets all the materials he or she missed? Where will I keep the stack until his or her return? Should I write the child’s name on the papers? How do I count it for grading purposes or even know that the student was out that day?
- Taking Attendance: Roll call? Silently look to see who is (or isn’t) in a desk at the beginning of class? Have students move a magnet with their name on it to a different part of the board to see they are “checked in”?
- Bathroom Breaks: Do we go as a class? What if a student needs to go at a different time? How can they quietly alert me without interrupting class time? Does the child need a special hall pass to leave the classroom?
- Passing Out Handouts: Are the papers passed by the teacher or students? Does one person from the row or group go get the materials and pass out? Is there a group role which is assigned to do this?
Of course, each system can have many, many more questions involved when you are trying to figure out your classroom “manual.” It does take time to really think about how your perfect routine works, but when you have it in writing and can replicate it again and again with the students, you suddenly feel so much more in control of your day (and career choice as well).
Want a list of 10 more must-have classroom systems? Grab it here.
What are some of your most used classroom systems? I would love to hear in a comment below!
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