"Prime time in school is the first few moments in a class.

If you blow these moments, you blow the impression,

the sale, and the success of a class."

- The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong

Establishing Rules, Goals & Expectations

Determine Classroom Procedures Before School Starts

Use This Checklist to Set Your Classroom Climate

From LessonLab Skylight

Have you determined the procedures you need to set your classroom climate?

For example, if a student gets up to sharpen his pencil while you are teaching, is that all right with you?
Is it okay that the whole class jumps up and races for the door as soon as the bell rings?
Establishing your classroom climate – setting and practicing classroom procedures – early in the school year is one of the best time-saving strategies around. It sets up routines that help you and your students focus on the work at hand.
And it creates an environment that is less stressful for everyone.

Classroom Procedures -- Do Students Know What Is Expected of Them for Routine Operations?

Review the following procedures and check the ones your student will need to know and practice.

A. Beginning the class
• How should students enter the room?
• What constitutes being late (in the room, in the seat)?
• How and when will absentee slips be handled?
• What type of seating arrangements will be used (assigned seats, open seating, cooperative group seating)?
• How will the teacher get students' attention to start class (the tardy bell, a signal such as a raised hand or lights turned off and on)?
• How will students behave during Public Address (PA) announcements?

B. Classroom Management
• How and when will students leave their seats?
• What do students need in order to leave the room (individual passes, room pass, teacher's permission)?
• How will students get help from the teacher (raise hands, put name on board, ask other group members first)?
• What are acceptable noise levels for discussion, group work, seat work?
• How should students work with other students or move into cooperative groups (moving desks, changing seats, noise level, handling materials)?
• How will students get recognized to talk (raised hand, teacher calls on student, talk out)?
• How do students behave during presentations by other students?
• How do students get supplies they are missing?
• How and when do students sharpen pencils?
• How will students get materials or use special equipment?

C. Paper Work
• How will students turn in work (put in specific tray or box, pass to the front, one student collects)?
• How will students turn in makeup work if they were absent (special tray, give to teacher, put in folder, give to teacher's aide)?
• How will students distribute handouts (first person in row, a group member gets a copy for all group members, students pick up as they enter room)?
• How will late work be graded (no penalty, minus points, zero, "F," use lunch or recess to finish, turn in by end of day, drop so many homework grades)?
• How and when will students make up quizzes and tests missed (same day they return to school, within twenty-four hours, within the week, before school, during lunch or recess, after school)?
• How will late projects such as research papers, portfolios, and artwork be graded (no penalty, minus points, lowered letter grade, no late work accepted)?

D. Dismissal from Class or School
• How are students dismissed for lunch?
• When do students leave class for the day (when bell rings, when teacher gives the signal)?
• Can students stay after class to finish assignments, projects, tests?
• Can the teacher keep one student or the whole class after class or school?
• What do students do during fire and disaster drills?

E. Syllabus or Course Outline
• How are students made aware of course objectives?
• How are students made aware of course requirements?
• Are students given due dates for major assignments several weeks in advance?
• Are students told how they will be evaluated and given the grading scale?

F. Other Procedures
You may need to introduce procedures related to recess, assemblies, guest speakers, substitute teachers, field trips, fire drills, teacher leaving the room, etc. List other procedures that are needed.

From What To Do With the Kid Who…: Developing Cooperation, Self-Discipline, and Responsibility in the Classroom, 2nd ed., by Kay Burke.

© Copyright 2000 by SkyLight Training and Publishing Inc. Reprinted by permission of LessonLab, a Pearson Education Company,

With procedures firmly in place, you will have time

to devote yourself to the art and craft of teaching and

become the effective teacher your students need and deserve.

Success Begins With YOU!

The short clips below demonstrate some strategies that our colleagues use in their classrooms. Check them out!

1st Grade Lunch Bugs

2nd Grade Lunch Count

3rd Grade Morning Routine

3rd Grade Lunch Count

3rd Grade Lunch/Attendance Strategy

More Great Ideas!

  1. BEGINNING NEEDS OF STUDENTS. Students want to know seven things on the first day of school: 1) Am I in the right room? 2) Where am I supposed to sit? 3) What are the rules in this classroom? 4) What will we be doing this year? 5) How will I be graded? 6) Who are you as a person? 7) Will I be treated as a human being? Have answers to these questions ready and use them as part of your welcome to the students on the first day of school. Help can be found in our August 2000 column, “There Is Only One First Day of School,” and in The First Days of School, page 105.
  2. CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT PLAN. Sarah Jondahl began as a first-year teacher six years ago, with a binder complete with a classroom management plan. She had a plan for how she wanted to operate her classroom. She knew the procedures she wanted her students to follow. With procedures in place, she says, “The educational experience in my classroom is extremely effective.” Use Sarah’s plan to help you plan for your student’s success. The plan can be seen in our September 2005 column, “A Successful First Day Is No Secret,” and at
  3. SCRIPT. Diana Greenhouse, third-grade teacher near Fort Worth, Texas, starts her school year with a PowerPoint script of her classroom management plan. It’s ready to show to students who miss the opening of school and is a terrific Show and Tell for Back to School night. Diana says, “When I look back at all I’ve accomplished in one school year, it takes my breath away. My students learned. I loved every minute of teaching, and it all started with that very first minute of the first day of school.” Her PowerPoint can be seen in our October 2005 column, “Classroom Management Is Not Discipline,” and for more information read The First Days of School, page 95.
  4. BELLWORK. Chelonnda Seroyer, English teacher in Alabama, says that she spent two months preparing for one day, the first day of school. On her first day as a first-year teacher, her students entered her classroom and began to work immediately, and every day thereafter. She has an assignment posted and it is posted in the same location every day. There is a consistent procedure in her classroom and the students know that when the bell rings, they are to get to work immediately. Chelonnda’s plan can be seen in our February 2005 column, “The Power of Procedures,” and for more information read The First Days of School, page 124.
  5. ATTENTION PROCEDURE. Barbara DeSantis can bring her class to attention in five seconds by calmly saying, “Give me five, please.” This is because she knows the steps to teach a procedure, which are 1) Clearly state and demonstrate a procedure; 2) Rehearse the procedure; and 3) Assess the rehearsal and reinforce the procedure. All procedures must be rehearsed, until the procedure becomes a routine. Her plan can be seen in our August 2006 column, “Effective Teachers are Proactive,” and for more information read The First Days of School, page 184.
  6. HAND SIGNALS. While students are working, you can reduce the noise level in the classroom by using a set of hand signals. For instance, one finger could indicate a desire to speak, two fingers a desire to leave the seat, and three fingers to request help from the teacher. You respond by shaking your head or waving a hand that responds, “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” This technique can be seen in The First Days of School, page 187.
  7. DISTRIBUTION OF MATERIALS. We know that students learn best with hands-on activities. Do not place materials on a central table and have continuous student movement in the classroom. Rather, place all materials needed for the activity in a container and post an inventory of the contents of the container in the classroom. Assign a student to carry the container to the group for the activity and return it after checking the inventory list that is posted. This technique can be seen in our September 2002 column, “Dispensing Materials in Five Seconds.”
  8. SCHOOL-WIDE PROCEDURES. The most effective schools have procedures that are used consistently by all teachers. These are ready and posted on the first day of school. Students can move from teacher to teacher knowing what to do. For instance, they know that all classrooms have an assignment, so they enter all classrooms knowing what to do and start their assignment. Work with your colleagues to get some general procedures established at your grade level teaching team or your school. A school with such a plan can be seen in our January 2002 column, “A Most Effective School.”
  9. TEACH TO AN OBJECTIVE. The effective teacher tells the class the objective of the lesson. You determine what you want your students to learn, perhaps based on state or district standards, and then you backward design a lesson to begin with an objective or objectives. Objectives are student learning targets. When the students know what they are aiming for, they know what they are responsible for learning.

Julie Johnson of Minnesota structures her lessons as follows: 1) She determines what she wants her students to learn; 2) She shows them what they are to learn; 3) They practice what they are to learn; and 4) They are tested on what they are to learn. She says, “There is no secret as to what is expected of them. When I do this they all succeed.” If students know what they are to learn, you greatly increase the chances that the students will learn. Julie’s technique can be seen in our April 2006 column, “They’re Eager to Do the Assignment” and in The First Days of School, page 241.

from Effective Teaching by Harry & Rosemary Wong, Ten Timely Tools for Success on the FIrst Days of School, September 2007


  • Characteristics of good students. Arrange students into small groups. Have each group come up with a list of characteristics of a good student. Give the groups 10 to 15 minutes to create their lists. Then bring together the groups to share and create a master list of the qualities of good students. Use those as the material for creating your class rules.

Kindergarten Bucket Fillers

  • Establish the need for rules. Arrange students into groups of four. Give each group 15 blank index cards and a pair of dice. Give the teams 15 to 20 minutes to create and play a game that makes use of the dice and the cards. When time is up, have a member of each team explain the game the group invented. The students will share the "rules" of the game. Discuss why rules are necessary. Then segue into creating your list of most necessary class rules.

  • Solve the equation. Write on the chalkboard r - r = r and r + r = r and then ask students what they think the equations mean. Tell students they have something to do with the rules of the classroom. Arrange students into small groups, and ask each group to think of a list of words that begin with the letter r that might relate to classroom rules. Then students use their list of words to come up with expressions that might fit the formula. For example: respect + rewards = rules or rules - respect = rebellion. Other possible r words might include the following: regulation, relationships, reflect, routine, resolution, regard, read, react, ratify, reason(ing), reckless, and recommend.

  • Under-the-desk Q&A. I found this fun activity posted by Andrea, a fifth-grade teacher in Florida. She uses this activity to share classroom procedures. Before the students arrive, she tapes an index card under each student's desk. A numbered question is written on each card. When it's time to talk about class rules and procedures, the teacher asks students to check under their desks. The students find the index cards, and the teacher calls on the student who found the question with the number 1 on it. The student reads aloud the question. For example: "Mrs. S, when can I sharpen my pencil?" The teacher excitedly replies, "Oh, John, what a wise question!" or "Oh, Tricia, I'm so glad you thought to ask that question!" Then the teacher shares the procedure, rule, or information prompted by the question. Continue around the room until all the questions have been asked and answered.

  • Attitude is everything. Write the word attitude on the board or a chart in this way:
A = _
T = _
T = _
I = _
T = _
U = _
D = _
E = _
Have students write the same thing on a small sheet of paper. Then instruct students to write on the line the number that corresponds to each letter's position in the alphabet (for example A = 1, B= 2, C = 3 ...). Finally have students add up the numbers on the lines. What is the answer? The answer is 100, proving that attitude is 100 percent -- attitude is everything! Use this activity to lead into a discussion about the importance of attitude. Why is having a good attitude important? How do you recognize a "good attitude" in a person? Create a poster that has the ATTITUDE addition problem on it in large letters and numbers; the poster will serve as a constant reminder of the importance of a good attitude in your classroom.

  • The perfect classroom. Ask students to write a paragraph that tells what they think the perfect classroom should be like. (This is not fiction/fantasy writing; they should describe the atmosphere of an ideal real classroom.) Arrange students into groups of four. Ask each student to underline in his or her paragraph the "most important words or phrases." After students have done that, they should pass their papers to the person in their group who is seated to their right. Students should continue passing papers and underlining important words until the original writer has her/his paper back. At that point, students will share with the group some of the important words and phrases in their own writing; a group note taker will record the words and phrases that might best describe a perfect classroom. Group members will review the list and decide on five words or phrases to share with the class. When the class has a fully developed class list of words and phrases, they will use some of those words and phrases to write a "class statement" that will be posted on the wall for all to see. When things are not going "perfectly," it is time to review the class statement.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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