The students in Maureen Conley’s first-grade classroom in Islip, New York, illustrate that even the youngest pupils can follow procedures.

Conley’s classroom flows smoothly. The children are learning, they respect their teacher, and Conley goes home knowing she has made an impact.

“Many people don’t believe young children can follow procedures. My classroom is proof that it works,” Conley says. “This is something I stress to parents and caregivers — all children are capable of following procedures in the classroom as well as at home.”

As soon as students arrive, they start on the procedures that make up their morning opening routine.

  • Backpacks are emptied.
  • Traveling folders are emptied.
  • Notes and lunch or milk money are placed in appropriate baskets.
  • All lunches and snacks are placed on the back counter.

After students unpack, they are ready to follow the morning work procedure. This is typically a page that can be done independently. Students are allowed to work together quietly. If they complete the assignment early, they do silent reading.

While students are following their morning routine, Conley takes attendance silently. After reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, students recite the classroom rules, which they have created.

The helper of the day chooses an assistant to aid with tasks like leading the line and reading the morning message. Helpers are chosen alphabetically by last name and on a rotating basis; this alleviates the time-consuming task of creating job charts.

Creating a classroom like Conley’s takes time and effort, but it gets easier as you become familiar with how to structure a classroom management plan, regardless of grade level or subject.

To see how to structure a successful and stress-free classroom, refer back to the previous five articles we have written in this series. Remember, classroom management is not about discipline; it is about organization.

Our first article (Back to School 2014) described the necessity of having a management plan. We advised teachers to ask themselves two questions when creating a plan: What do I expect to accomplish this year? What plan do I have to achieve my goals?

Our second column (Fall 2014) discussed how children crave consistency; they like a classroom where they know what is going to happen every day.

Our third piece (Holiday 2014) explained how to teach procedures so students will know what to do. Our fourth column (Winter 2015) illustrated how a proactive teacher prepares the classroom for learning.

Finally, our fifth column (Spring 2015) explained how the same principles of planning and management apply in the classroom of a special ed teacher.

With all the vital components of a classroom management plan in place, learning can begin. With learning comes achievement, and when achievement occurs, success is sure to follow for teacher and students.

Question for our columnists?

Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong are coauthors of the best-selling book The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher and the recently published The Classroom Management Book, which includes a section on the special education classroom.


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Illustration: Chris Gash