A good structure is the foundation for a good year.
The posters are hung. The rosters are printed. The lessons are made. The classroom is ready for the school year. Are you?
Teachers—new and veteran—spend hours poring over lesson plans to perfect them, choosing the perfect décor for their classroom, and setting up the best learning space for their students. Most of us consider these responsibilities the fun part of preparing for the school year and we enjoy time spent on them. But don’t forget the less fun, but extremely valuable, work of creating structures for your classroom.
Having good, consistent structures in place in your classroom will ensure that the lessons are more successful, the décor is appreciated, and your students learn. Ultimately, spending time to plan and implement good structures for the class will improve the classroom management, and improve the classroom experience for you and your students.
Start with envisioning your perfect class. Do you imagine neat rows of students, quietly working independently? Or, do you imagine collaborative groupings of students, with tables or desks together, chatting and moving about the room to solve problems? Or, maybe your ideal is some combination of whatever you visualize as your perfect class. Use that to assist you in your development of structures. You will want structures that reflect the desired outcome.
If you want neat rows, orderly activities, and independent work, you will want to consider how to maintain this order throughout the day. You can’t just set up desks in rows and expect order. Consider everything you want or expect students to do in your class: Get out books and supplies, turn in completed work, ask for assistance, and visit the restroom. You need to develop systems for these actions that maintain order.
After choosing the structures you’ll use, plan to teach them to your students. Every teacher organizes his or her room slightly differently. As a result, students learn a new system every year. If you teach upper grade levels, students may be learning up to eight or nine new systems each semester. Be patient—that’s a lot of systems to keep straight. If you are consistent and clear with your expectations, they will catch on quickly. Speed this learning by placing posters and notes on the walls and on the board to help students remember the systems.
The payoff for taking time to teach systems early is immense. Once your students know how to behave and learn in your classroom, the actual learning easily follows, which means the management of learning will be much easier for you.