Routines for the students
Students like routine. That is not to say that there is no place for exciting lesson plans with surprises and discovery. It just means that having basic routines in place lets students know what you expect.
This leads to a safe, calm environment where the focus is on learning and nothing else.
When students arrive – lining up
Your school may have a process in place for this. Whether they do or not, the students are not allowed in the classroom without you (health and safety) so it makes sense for a calm beginning with them lining up outside your room.
Before they go in, you have a chance to ensure they are quiet, to check their uniform and to make sure any excitement and chatter has finished before they walk into your ‘learning zone’!
Have a seating plan – and stick to it
It is good practice to have a seating plan, and many schools insist upon it.
Don't feel restricted by this - you can occasionally alter your seating to support learning and behaviour – but having a plan in place, means that the students will come in and know where to sit at all times. It puts the control in your hands, which is a good behaviour strategy.
Seating plans work when you are flexible - you may decide that two students don’t work well together and change the plan for the following lesson – and from then on. And if a student tells you they can’t work with someone on their table – listen to them. Check with their tutor later, but giving them the benefit of the doubt at the time will lead to a better lesson than debating it!
As a behaviour strategy it works because it doesn't open up an opportunity for debate - it is like a silent strategy! Once in place, you can focus on the learning. If someone is not happy, ask to speak to them after the lesson and discuss the issues then.
Seating for learning - You may decide that depending on the style of the tasks, there would be a different seating plan. For instance, you may have a plan for independent working; for group working (sometimes teachers call this working in home groups), for differentiated group working (a one-off where you may sit based on ability) … and so on.
NB - If you teach a practical lesson, there are other ways to make sure students can come in ready to work. In my drama lessons for example. the students were used to coming in, putting their bags and coats against one wall, and sitting on chairs in a circle.
When students come in have a task laid out as a starter
You may have an image or question on the board, or an activity on their desks for example.
This allows them to engage with the learning as soon as they are in the door. There won’t be any messing about, carrying on conversations, or asking what they will be doing today.
Students bags and books
Students should always get their books and necessary equipment out of their bags and on the table, placing their bags under their chairs. This is a health and safety requirement and could cause problems if not part of a clear routine. Check out policies at your school and watch how other teachers do this. (Needs referencing as evidence for your portfolio)
Handing in homework
How do you collect in their homework? You could:
Find your own way – but
Giving homework and tests back
Students will want feedback on their homework. So not only must you mark it, but you need to allocate time for them to see their comments and respond to them. Your school will have a marking policy which will include a process for ‘students’ response to feedback’. Make sure you plan time for this in your lesson!
Exiting the room
How do your lessons end? This is usually a target for trainee teachers while you are getting used to accurate timing of your lessons!
Try to avoid rushing the last task as you run out of time, overlapping the bell and then letting the class go all together – leaving a mess of books and paper on the tables and floor for you to clear up!
Planning for how you dismiss the class is as important as the beginning.
A good routine may be:
Students clear their tables totally and stand / sit behind them so you can see if any aren’t packed away.
Then dismiss them a row at a time – usually those who are silent can go first, and those who are chatting go last!
Routines make the world of difference both to you and to the students.
During your lesson observations, look out for other routines you could benefit from putting in place.
If you missed the latest post - check out Routines for you - keeping yourself sane!
Dr Sharon Williams