Every teacher knows that an organised and well managed classroom is vital to a successful school year. The key to a well managed classroom is the establishment of routines and guidelines that are methodical and explicitly taught to students. Teachers can spend as much time as they like on planning, tidying, arranging desks and making rules, but if students are not on the same page disaster will ensue. I am not going to lecture (anymore) about the importance of rules, routines and procedures. I am going to tell you that the best tool to support your routine establishment and organisation is the humble poster/ chart.
Posters, signs, labels and charts are great reminders for students and even teachers in the classroom. Every routine that you have, should be written down somewhere. The most important routines you want your students to learn should be posted somewhere in the room. These posters/ charts might not stay up all year, but they should be there when you are establishing new routines. The best way I can think of to lead you through this is by showing you the visual aids that I use in my classroom specifically: to support routines and behaviour in my classroom.
Let’s Start with Rules!
We won’t get into the argument about classroom rules vs. classroom norms or broad values. I have used both ideas in my classroom and I have found that either way, I need to be explicit about my expectations and remind my students of these often.
Here are my classroom Rules and my Consequences Charts.
My school has a School Wide Positive Behaviour System, which we call Aim High. There are 3 overarching principles that we fit all the behaviour expectations into: Respect, Responsibility and Co-operation. Our school has posters for each area and they are displayed in every learning/teaching space in the school. You can see the posters below. The quality of the photo isn’t brilliant, but you get the idea. The same four posters are used all over the school. The library has posters that look the same at first glance, but have a few minor differences to make them more appropriate for the Library context.
Whether it is year 1 or year 9, I have 3 simple rules:
1. Follow Directions 1st time
2. Hand up – WAIT- to speak
3. Stay in your own space (hands, feet and objects to yourself, stay in your seat to avoid distracting others).
I never exceed 5 rules and I find that 3 is a good number. It is easy to remember 3 simple rules. I have these posted on a single chart. I recently typed them up (one to each A4 page) and posted them across the top of the whiteboard. If I wasn’t having so many problems with technology this week I would attach the A4 rules charts to this post for you to see, but you will have to use your imagination. Having a separate sign for each rule allows me to have one rule as a focus and move it to a central area easily. It also means that everyone in the room can see the rules regardless of where they are in the room. The consequences show students what happens when rules are being followed and when students are making poor choices.
There is a great deal of time spent on establishing rules and routines in my classroom and ensuring students understand what I expect. I don’t just ask my students to Listen – I tell them and show them what good listening looks like and sounds like – as you can see by my listening monster. You will notice in the photos above, there are some student created charts under my rules charts. The Peace Sign/ Donut graphic organiser forms the basis for discussions about Aim High Principles and what those qualities look like and sound like. We discuss and then the students create. This way, they are contributing to the display and are more likely to check it out and remember the expectations.
Charts and Posters are a great reference (not only for the students) but for visiting adults. Imagine you are a Supply Teacher walking into the classroom and you see – on the wall, plain as day, for everyone to see – not just the rules, but the consequences. How much easier has the day just become for you, the Supply Teacher? Back in the days of Supply Teaching, I much preferred the classrooms that had charts and posters which made procedures and processes clear to everyone.
The Whole Brain Teaching Classroom Rules are popular for many early years classrooms, but I’d wager they would work well with older students too.
Do you have posters and charts in your classroom that support students to learn and follow classroom routines and rules? What do your posters look like? Do you encourage your students to contribute to the establishment of routines or the construction of posters and charts (specifically about behaviour). Please share your routines and procedures in the comments. I will have to find a way of getting you all to share photos of your classrooms. Ideas anyone?