Classroom Procedures and the First Weeks of School

Classroom procedures and routines are the key to effective classroom management.

One of the earliest and best lessons I learned as a teacher was the importance of classroom procedures above and beyond classroom rules. All teachers have rules in their classrooms, but many teachers waste time and energy enforcing rules instead of practicing procedures until they become routines. There is no better place to learn this than Harry Wong’s book The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher.

What is the difference between classroom procedures and classroom rules?

Rules are meant to guide student behavior. Procedures tell students how to do certain things. Rules have consequences (penalties and rewards). Procedures have no penalties or rewards.

Sample Classroom Procedures

Entering the class

  • Walk into the classroom quietly.
  • Remove your jacket or coat. Hang it up.
  • Sharpen your pencils.
  • Read the materials listed on the board and place them on your desk.
  • Read the agenda (advanced organizer) for the day.
  • Begin bell work.

Taking attendance

  • Distribute folders with each student’s name on it that includes the day’s assignments or bell work as they enter the room. Use the remaining folders to mark absences for taking attendance.
  • Have students take a clothespin or popsicle stick with their name on it as they enter the room and use those that remain to mark absences for taking attendance.

How to quiet the class and get their attention

  • “Clap three times if you can hear me.”
  • When the teacher raises his/her hand, raise your hand and listen. (Give Me Five)
  • When the teacher counts down from five, stop, look, and listen.
  • When the teacher taps the bell, stop, look, and listen.

When you have a question, emergency, or request (i.e. Can I got to the bathroom?)

  • Raise your hand to request permission to get out of your seat or use the bathroom.
  • Remain seated unless permission is given to do otherwise.

When work is finished early

  • Work on unfinished assignments.
  • Read a good book.
  • Work on an ongoing assignment/project.
  • Study your vocabulary.
  • Make a card for someone who needs one.
  • Draw a picture.


  • The headings of all assignments must be in the upper right-hand corner of the paper with your name, class, date, and assignment name.
  • Homework should be placed in the Homework Box as you enter the class.
  • Make-up work after absences should be placed in the Make-up Work folder as you enter the class.

Concluding the class

  • Pack up when given permission—not at the bell.
  • Place desks in their original positions.
  • Return all materials to their places.

Traveling from one place (e.g. classroom) to another (e.g. cafeteria)

  • Line up in single file, alphabetical order.
  • Keep your hands at your sides.
  • Stay quiet so other classes can concentrate.

Procedures Must be Practiced and Practiced and Practiced

Practice truly makes perfect. Remember that procedures are not rules. There are no punishments or rewards. These expectations should become so routine that the students just do them. Consider the following tips:

  • Start on the first day of school. Discuss the reasons behind each one of your procedures. Give them copies (along with rules)—one to keep and one to sign and return. Display the procedures prominently in the room.
  • I never teach a full lesson on the first day. I may start with an inspirational or awe-inspiring activity, but my primary objective on day one is working towards mastery of procedures.
  • Have the students practice. For each type of procedure, you must have the students actually carry them out. They must be practiced. Simply telling them about the procedures is not enough.
  • Reinforce the procedures on day two. Remind the students on the next day about each one of the procedures. Practice (again). Remember that you are focusing on mastery.
  • Practice until they follow the procedure just to make you stop forcing them to practice. They will humor you at first, but eventually they will get so sick of practicing that they follow along in fear of practicing again.

What classroom procedures do you implement in your classes? Share your most effective procedures by commenting below.


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  1. This got me thinking… I started my second year heavy on the rules. My first year expectations were not clearly defined and the classroom became a run away train! This year I didn’t read your post about procedures until after I started. My curriculum (Morality) involves a lot of role playing so I thought it might be fun to have the procedures in place and in writing and then let the students alternate playing the teacher while some of the students don’t follow the procedures… It’s one month into the school year now, and I think they could use a refresher on the procedures. This week is Homecoming and it might be a good week to try it. Wish me luck!

    • You mentioned in your reply that you do a lot of role playing in your Morality class. I was wondering if you could give me some points about doing this with your class. I have tried it but I need more ideas about how to organize the role playing, expectations and content.

      Thank you

  2. Good luck! It is always important to practice and remind students of procedures. Most of the time students aren’t intentionally disobeying the procedures, they just forget that they were supposed to do things in a certain way. Practice makes perfect!

  3. tsanko says:

    Wonderful ..thanks a lot for posting a good informitive blog

  4. roclafamilia says:

    Helpful blog, bookmarked the website with hopes to read more!

  5. Hi Jared!
    I’m looking for your post ‘The best classroom management technique I ever implemented’. I’d like to post a link to it from my blog but I can’t find it…

  6. Hi Allison,

    The post your thinking of was actually exclusively for subscribers to The Religion Teacher Newsletter. So anyone who signs up for the newsletter will get that tip. Feel free to quote it and let people know where it came from. I’m glad you found it helpful!


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