Making It Work: Positive Procedures (updated)

positive procedures

Positive Procedures

As you anticipate returning to the classroom this fall, do you find yourself  wondering how to better manage student behavior? Are you asking yourself  how to get your students to stay engaged with your lessons and stop all of that  talking and goofing around? Harry Wong states in his book, ​The First Days of  School,​ “the number one problem in the classrooms is not discipline; it is the  lack of procedures and routines.” Positive procedures can transform your classroom and the way you feel as a teacher.

When you teach procedures to your students, you are teaching them how things are to be done, not announcing rules. Procedures need to be taught and practiced. And practiced and practiced. Teaching procedures is an investment in time, not time wasted. As Fred Jones shares in his book ​Tools for Teaching, “Investing time in teaching classroom rules, standards and procedures is a  classic example of proactive versus reactive management. Prevention is cheaper than remediation. But prevention is not free. You must invest ‘up front’ if you want to reap the dividends for the rest of the semester.”

I spend most of the first two weeks of school teaching procedures and establishing expectations. I don’t spend time lecturing about the procedures, my lesson content is purposefully designed to include the procedures that need to be practiced. I’m sneaky like that.

Design your procedures by first visualizing the end result. Work backward and break the procedure into steps. Go through these steps yourself or with a colleague, following your instructions as if you were a student. You may want to establish routines and procedures for the following:

● Entering the classroom
● Exiting the classroom
● Transitioning to/from different areas of the room
● Waiting times (when the teacher needs to talk to a student or there is an emergency)
● Getting into groups
● Getting tissues
● A visitor in the room
● The teacher needs your attention
● Passing out/collecting

A common procedure in my general music classroom is distributing bell sets. When it is time to get bell sets the first row is invited to stand, follow the leader to the windows, walk along the windows, take the first available bell set, walk along the back of the room, continue along the far side of the room and back to their place in their row. The subsequent rows are trained to be ready  when it is their turn. Students may open their bells sets, but I make it very clear that if they choose to play their bells before they are invited, they will close their case and not be allowed to play. This routine may seem strict and a little mean, but it actually ​keeps ​me from having a teacher freak out! After this procedure is learned and practiced (many times) it allows the distribution of  instruments to go very quickly, avoids student tantrums about who cut somebody in line, who took someone else’s bells and little Sally crying because nobody ever gave her an instrument! And we can all live happily ever after and get on with the good stuff – making music!

I use Love and Logic as my classroom management philosophy. Love and Logic has taught me to use positive techniques to establish a calm and effective classroom in which I strive to prevent behavior problems instead of react to  them. I try to offer students choices that are within limits that are OK with me.  I model problem solving and if a student causes a problem I give them a chance to fix it before I step in (if I have to intervene they are guaranteed to not like  the outcome!) These strategies take careful training and consistency – on the  part of the​ teacher. ​If your expectations, procedures, and systems are  consistent students will feel safe, respected, calm and motivated. That may  require hard work on your part.

My mom used to tell me that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar. There are times when swift consequences for unacceptable behavior  are called for. However, using routines and procedures often allows us to stop  the continual discipline struggle and have the freedom to compliment and enjoy our students and their music making. Students themselves are more  comfortable with predictability and routine. In his book ​Tools for Teaching​, Fred Jones says “The teachers with the best run classrooms spend most of the first two weeks . . . teaching procedures and routines . . . ​do it right or do it all year long.​”

Holly Walton
Fort Island Primary School
Copley-Fairlawn City Schools

Holly shared her ideas for teaching procedures, please share yours in the comments below. Your ideas might be just the thing someone needs to Make it Work in their classroom.


About Holly Walton

Holly Walton

Holly Walton teaches general music and is an assistant marching band director for the Copley-Fairlawn City Schools. She holds certification in Kodaly and Orff. She is in her 21st year of teaching.

3 Comments

Jaime Young

I would love to hear your specific procedures for: entering, exiting, transitions, and wait time. I find that as soon as I turn my back to start a recording, I lose attention. I have also experimented with allowing 1-2 minutes of “chatting with a neighbor” as part of our entering procedure. Some would call it a “soft start” and then we end with a silent signal. I feel like it works with upper grades, but lower grades are hard to reign back in.

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Jane Corbin

Modeling in “Responsive Classroom” has saved me from hours of confusion. This program is constantly being researched and is a great reference.

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Faith Cuminato

Oh my goodness! It is so great to see someone else using Love and Logic in the music room. It really causes students to have to think about who they could be bothering and how they will solve the problems on their own. I rarely have to referee anymore, even in my Title 1 school. I have read all the books you mentioned, and when I am consistent with applying the techniques, life is just SO much easier.

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