How to Make Classroom Procedures Stick

Why Procedures Are Important

from The First Days of School by Harry Wong

A procedure is not a discipline plan. Neither is a procedure a threat, a rule, or an order. A procedure is simply a method or process for how things are to be done in the classroom.

Since a PROCEDURE is how you want something done, it is the responsibility of the teacher to have procedures clearly stated. A ROUTINE is what a student does automatically without prompting or supervision. Thus a routine becomes a habit, practice, or custom for the student.

Procedures are necessary for an effective classroom for several reasons.

✔️Classroom procedures are statements of student expectations necessary to participate successfully in classroom activities, to learn, and to function effectively in the school environment.

✔️Classroom procedures allow many different activities to take place efficiently during the school day, often several at the same time, with a minimum of wasted time and confusion.

✔️Classroom procedures increase on-task time and reduce classroom disruptions.

✔️Classroom procedures tell a student how things operate in a classroom, thus reducing discipline problems.

Students are less likely to act up in frustration, trying to figure out what the teachers wants, if the classroom procedures are clearly stated.

Tell your students that classroom procedures are for their benefit. Following procedures will help them do their work with less confusion and thus help them to succeed. Knowledge of classroom procedures tells your students such things as these:

What they are to do when you want their attention

Where to find the assignment

How a paper is to be done

Where you want the paper placed

What they are to do when they enter the classroom

How to respond when they hear an emergency alert

What to do if they want to sharpen a pencil

Every class needs to have a set of procedures. Procedures allow a class to operate smoothly. A smooth-running, effective class is free of confusion and is a pleasure to teach and to learn in.

A smooth-running class is the responsibility of the teacher, and it is based on the teacher’s ability to teach procedures.


Coaching Moment:

For Those Who Believe They Don’t Have Time to TEACH Procedures:

In the past, I have met teachers who said they don’t have time to teach procedures because they have so much curriculum to cover. I understand. The demands put on teachers and students seems to be growing every year.

My response to those teachers is, if you have that much curriculum to cover, you can’t afford NOT to teach procedures. The instructional time you gain when your class understands expectations and has set routines pays off every single day for the entire year. Gone is the stress of controlling a class and the time lost to multiple warnings and repeated requests. When students understand and follow procedures, you create a culture of learning and actually have time and energy to teach and respond to students’ learning needs rather than behavior problems.

For Those Who Believe They Want Students to Feel Comfortable Without a Lot of Restrictions:

I have also heard teachers say they want students to feel comfortable and relaxed and not have such a structured environment. I understand. The research tells us that students who feel relaxed and not filled with anxiety actually learn better.

My response to those teachers is, students feel safe, comfortable, and ready for what comes next when they have structure. There is freedom within the framework of procedures. Once students have routines, small group work, creative projects, and movement around the classroom all become less stressful because everyone knows what to expect and how to behave. The culture of learning becomes respected and even revered. Students need and want specific guidelines. When they have a target behavior within a procedure, they can more easily self-regulate and feel good about themselves and the class when they hit that target behavior. So, teachers who truly want to create a relaxed learning environment can’t afford NOT to teach procedures.

For Those Who Didn’t Explicitly Teach Procedures at the Beginning of the Year, But Want to Implement Them Now:

If you did not spend much time on procedures at the beginning of the year and you feel your classes would benefit from them, it’s not too late. The best time to introduce new procedures is at the beginning of a new week, a new unit, a new quarter, or a new semester.

On the day you introduce the procedures, consider having a learning target like this:

I can understand why we have new procedures and how to follow them and demonstrate my understanding as I practice and follow all of the procedures.

Before introducing and handing out your procedures, let students know that you’ve been studying highly effective learning environments and you’ve learned that having explicit procedures helps students learn better. Because their learning is your number one priority, you’ve developed a few procedures that will help them be more successful in your class. These procedures are non-negotiable and will create more equity and fairness in the class because it’s not fair when just a few people are disturbing or ruining the learning environment for everyone else.

Regardless of when you introduce your classroom procedures, be sure to follow the Three-Step Approach to Teacher Classroom Procedures. If you talk about the procedures one day and don’t complete the process of teaching, demonstrating, practicing, and reinforcing, you can expect that your students will behave however they want instead of how you want.


The Three-Step Approach to Teacher Classroom Procedures

Most behavior problems in the classroom are caused by the teacher’s failure to teach students how to follow procedures.

The Three Steps to Teaching Procedures

  1. Explain: State, explain, model, and demonstrate the procedure.
  2. Rehearse: Students rehearse and practice the procedure under your supervision.
  3. Reinforce: Reteach, rehearse, practice, and reinforce the classroom procedure until it becomes a student habit or routine.

Step 1. Explain the Classroom Procedures Clearly

Effective teachers know what activities need to be done and have worked out the procedures for each of them. These procedures are posted or distributed to the students early in the school year or when the activity surfaces in class.

It is urgent that you have procedures for each opening of school activity ready for the first day of school. Revise and hone these procedures year after year until they become models of efficiency.


✔️Define the procedure in concrete terms.

✔️Demonstrate the procedure; don’t just tell.

✔️Demonstrate a complex procedure step by step.

Step 2: Rehearse Classroom Procedures Until They Become Routines.

Effective teachers spend a good deal of time during the first weeks of school introducing, teaching, modeling, and rehearsing procedures. Do not expect students to learn all the procedures in one day. Behaviors must be taught, modeled, practiced, monitored, and retaught.

Watch a good music, athletic, or foreign-language coach. Such people are masters at the rehearsal technique. They tell and show you a technique, even have you watch a video of the technique. Then they have you do it repeatedly while they watch you. Some people call this technique “guided practice.”


✔️Have students practice the procedure, step by step, under your supervision. After each step, make sure that the students have performed the step correctly.

✔️Have the students repeat procedure until it becomes a routine. The students should be able to perform the procedure automatically without teacher supervision.

Step 3. Reinforce a Correct Procedure and Reteach an Incorrect One

Again, watch a coach because good coaches are the best teachers. As the coach guides a tema, class, or student through practice, corrections are made instantly. They tell, show, demonstrate, cajole, and even yell, “Do it right!”

And when it is done right, there are words of praise, hugs, pats, and smiles. But good coaches don’t stop there. They reinforce the correct technique by having the student do the acquired technique over and over again, each time exhorting the student to do better.


✔️Determine whether students have learned the procedure or whether they need further explanation, demonstration, or practice.

✔️Reteach the correct procedure if rehearsal is unacceptable, and give corrective feedback.

✔️Praise the students when the rehearsal is acceptable.

Using the Three-Step Approach to Teach Procedures

The following are examples of how some procedures are taught. You may not need or want them, but note how each procedure is taught. Then substitute your own procedure, using the explain, rehearse, reinforce technique described.

✔️How to dismiss a class.

✔️How to quiet a class and have their attention.

✔️How to have a class working when the bell rings.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.