Hi there! Shyra here from Junior High Core Values A lot of times, we assume that routines and procedures are taught and mastered in the younger grades, but that’s not always the case. I always tell my sixth grade parents at Back to School Night that sixth grade is like “Kindergarten, the Sequel”.
Consistency and repetition are incredibly important at the beginning of the year in order to have a successful classroom system. Here are some systems that I use in my sixth grade classroom to make sure that we are maximizing every moment of learning time.
Build a Classroom Community
A lot of this depends on how much freedom you have at your school site. However, it can be done. In my classroom we use three classroom norms: Attentive Listening, Mutual Respect, and the Right to Participate/Pass Depending on the class, I may leave off that “pass” part. Throughout the year we participate in several team building activities to foster a sense of trust and community in the classroom. Since time is always in short supply, I try to bridge these in to whatever curriculum we are focusing on in the moment.
Stick to Routines.
It might sound boring, but for the most part, my students know exactly what to expect from the moment we enter the school building to the time that instruction begins. Our end of day procedure is also the same from day to day.
Nonverbal cues are the icing on my cupcake, the ice in my iced tea, and the chocolate to my difficult day. My students use signs for asking a question, sharing a comment, asking for the bathroom, showing sympathy/agreement, and giving support. I, in turn, use signs for silence, for getting in line, for transitioning, for sitting, and for waiting. Establishing, practicing, and being consistent with classroom signs saves a LOT of time and makes the classroom run much more smoothly.
Student Buy In
One of my favorite ways of maintaining an organized classroom is to use a classroom economy. Hello, why didn't I start this at the BEGINNING of my teacher career? Students are much more engaged and invested when they own their classroom...and it makes a lot less work for me! There are many ways to set this system up all over the internet. In fact, Mylie wrote about her system in detail just a few weeks ago. In my classroom what works is having students apply for a job at the beginning of the trimester. They keep the same job for the entire grading period. Every student has a job, and every job has a salary that can be used for our monthly classroom auction. Now of course, there are going to be students who don't/can't remember your expectations. The way I handle that in my classroom economy is a Behavior Log. Entering your name in the behavior log (missing work, talking, not showing mutual respect, etc) is a $25 fine per infraction. The first two weeks of school this year there were over 25 entries in the log. Yikes! Last week, there were only five. Now that's some improvement and organization!
What are some systems you use in your classroom to make it smooth and organized?