Over the years many methods of controlling classrooms have emerged. Currently, one the most effective is that program of classroom management proposed by Harry K. Wong, put forward in The First Days of School. The focus is on creating orderly classroom routines that help children understand what is expected each day.
Each day, the children from Room 203 line up outside the classroom and wait to be greeted by their teacher. When they enter the room, they place their homework in the basket marked "homework," hang up their coats, and empty their back packs. Soon, the class is busy recording the day's assignments in their assignment book, and when completed work on the spelling puzzle they found on their desks.
Every day, the children in room 203 follow the same routines, routines they have learned. Flexibility comes in instruction, in meeting individual needs or challenges as they arise. The beauty of routines is that they are "What we do" not "Who we are." A child can be reminded that he or she forgot to complete a routine. He or she will not be told they are bad for breaking a rule.
The investment in time, creating the routines, is well worth while, since it means that children know every day what is expected, where to find the resources they need, and the expectations for behavior in the hall and the classroom.
A second investment in time is teaching the routines: sometimes over teaching them, so they become second nature.
The beginning of the year is the best time to establish routines. The First Six Weeks of School, by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete, lays out a course of six weeks worth of activities that teach routines and create meaningful ways for students to interact and create community in the classroom. This approach is now trademarked as The Responsive Classroom.
You need to carefully consider the routines you will need.
A classroom teacher needs to ask:
- How will the children enter the room?
- Where will they place their backpacks? Their homework?
- Who will take the attendance? How will the students record their lunch choices?
- What does a child do when his or her work is completed?
- How does a child record his or her independent reading?
- How are seats chosen at lunch time?
A resource room teacher will need to ask:
- How will the children get from their general ed classroom to the resource room?
- How will the children know when it is time to move from their desk to the teacher's table?
- What role will a classroom aide play in the structure of the classroom?
- Who records homework? Work on computer drill programs?
These, and many other questions should have an answer. Children from communities without much structure will need a great deal of structure in their day. Children from more orderly communities will not necessarily need as much structure. Children from inner city communities may need routines for getting their lunch, for where they will sit, even boy, girl, boy. As a teacher, it is always best to have too many routines and too much structure than too little-you can more easily take away than add.
There is still a place for rules. Keep them simple, keep them few. One of the should be "Treat yourself and others with respect." Limit your rules to 10 at the most.
If you try the meeting format of the Responsive Classroom, avoid using "rules" to describe the behavior contract you may write, say for a field trip. Think about using "procedures" instead, and be sure to decide who is responsible for which "procedures."