Classroom Not Running Smoothly? Four Common Culprits.

We all have the perfect image of our classroom in our minds where students are deeply engaged with our material, everyone’s happy, and everything goes smoothly. In reality, though, we all have days with pockets of confusion and wasted time. If you’re new to teaching, this can happen pretty regularly and it’s often a faulty routine or bobbled procedure. Take a look at these common culprits to see if one may be causing the glitches in your day.

Not teaching the routine. Often we go over all of our classroom systems during the first few days of school and then expect kids to remember all those routines on their own. We have to teach routines and procedures just like we’re teaching a lesson, though, including giving students lots of practice time to master the systems. And if many students are continually not following our routines and procedures? It’s not time for consequences, it’s time to reteach and practice some more.

Assuming older students don’t need a routine. Especially in high school classes, it can be uncomfortable to spell out exactly how they should enter our classroom, go to the bathroom, pick up supplies, etc. We want to assume they don’t need a lot of structure because they’re sixteen, but the truth is, even adults need clear procedures to follow for things to go smoothly – just ask your attendance clerk. Or think about some of the meetings you’ve been in – if the presenter isn’t clear about not having smart phones out or how you should be sitting, half the group will be texting from the back row. It’s the same with our students. It’s only after they internalize our class routines that you get the smooth, adult-like behavior you’re hoping for. If you’re hesitant, here are a couple of things to try:

  • Include rationale. Teenagers may scoff if they think they have to do something just because you said so, but if you explain why it’s important and how it will help them, it’s easier for them to get on board.
  • Allow choice when you can. Some procedures can be done in different ways without causing confusion, for example their system for organizing their binders or how they take notes. Whenever possible, allow older students options. They still need guidance, though. If you want to let them organize their binders however they want, you still want to teach them 2-3 different good options they can choose from. If you leave it a free-for-all, the disorganized students will be stuffing papers in their pockets and not thanking you for it when they don’t have anything to study from before your exam.

Not enough procedures. Next time you’re exhausted from redirecting students all day or constantly repeating directions, stop and try to identify when most of the confusion or disorganization was happening. Was it at the beginning of class, transitioning into group work, turning in their papers, packing up their stuff? Whenever it is, chances are you need to more clearly determine how that task should run and then teach or reteach the process to your students. If you can’t identify the issue on your own, video your class or ask a trusted colleague or coach to observe your class.

Overlooking one-time procedures. There’s nothing worse than trying a new lesson idea and having it flop because you spent the whole class trying to manage the process for the activity instead of them actually getting to do the activity. When you’re trying something new, be sure to walk through the lesson carefully to ensure you know exactly how everything will run. This takes time on the front end, but means students will actually be able to focus on the content instead of being confused by the lack of procedures.

What are your favorite, time-maximizing routines & procedures? Share them in the comments so your colleagues can steal them!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *