A lot of teachers have already lost the class before it’s even begun. Entering the classroom is an absolutely critical first step to a productive and calm period. Students arrive at your door with a lot of jitters and excitement. It’s really important that they pass through the door’s frame with only the energy level that you’re going to be able to deal with for the day. Which brings us to our first step:
Steps to Entering the Classroom Peacefully
1. Line up
No matter how long it takes, your students must begin following commands before they enter the classroom. If you let students in who refuse to defer to your requests, you can go ahead and call it a day. On the other hand, though, nothing you ask should ever be a surprise to your students. You will never be accused of being unfair if you are consistent. Students should know what this classroom entrance process looks like and what your expectations are. You will teach this from Day 1, or from the moment you read this blog post. There will never be a day that these exact procedures are not followed.
I have an entire presentation that I use to review expectations as often as possible. Weekly, daily, or even every 10 minutes. Whatever it takes to ensure my students are aware of what I require. This is the slide that I use to teach how to line up outside the classroom.
Since there is no projector in the hallway, I often reinforce expectations and praise students who are following them by saying phrases like “Thank you Ahmad for keeping your hands to yourself.” I do not raise my voice. I do not call attention to students who are not following expectations.
2. Let Students Enter the Room
Once most or all of your students are following expectations for lining up in the hallway, you can begin to allow some students to enter. My recommendations for letting students enter the classroom are as follows:
- Have in your hand a clipboard with an up to date seating chart on it.
- Have projected on the screen in the classroom a slide about expectations for entering the classroom, if you can stand to wait a few minutes on the daily agenda.
- Allow students who have been following the “line up” expectations the longest and most consistently to enter the classroom first, in groups of no more than 5. You do not have to allow students in based on the order of the line. Narrate your decisions: “I’d like to allow Talal, Zayed, and Hamad to enter the room now because they have been standing in a straight line the longest.”
- Wait until the group you have previously allowed into the room to get completely settled before choosing the next 5.
Here’s the slide I project with classroom procedures for entering the classroom.
If the class is having a particularly difficult time, I take phones as students enter the room. That has usually not been necessary for me when I’m implementing the rest of these strategies well.
As you can also see, I don’t do any kind of bellwork. When all the students have successfully entered the room, I enter and jump directly into my lesson. For me, this has always been the best solution. You could change your slide to include a “begin bellwork” expectation, though, if that’s something that means a lot to you.
As I enter the room, I again narrate and praise students who have their supplies ready. “Look at Bob. Bob has a pencil!” “Thank you, Lucy, for going directly to your seat without disturbing anyone!”
What to Do if a Student Never Complies
If you’re drowning, I know this is your main question right now. What if they refuse!? I’ve taught my classroom management strategies to a new teacher in my building and this was her first and only response to my methods. I said, honestly, “I don’t know.”
The next day, she came to my office with the biggest smile on her face exclaiming, “IT DID WORK!!!!”
I find that the pressure of being somewhat “left out” in the hallway due to the lack of earning their way into the room not only takes the spotlight off your “bad” kids (they tend to straighten up once no one is left to impress), but it also gives you a chance to have a short, private conversation with them. Ask them sincerely, “How can I help you help me have a good day today?” and treat them with dignity no matter what their response is.
If That Kid still insists on being disrespectful to you, at least it will be in a relatively private space, as opposed to your own sacred classroom. Hopefully you can page an administrator to pick them up from the hallway, rather than allowing the energy of your learning environment being disrupted.
You Got This!
It’s never too late to learn something new! Succeeding in classroom management does not mean that nothing ridiculous ever happens in your room. It just means that you’ve learned how to respond with patience, a calm disposition, and consistency. If it’s your first year or your thirty-fifth, I’m with you in this journey of trial and error. Stay in touch if you’d like to learn more with me.
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- Classroom Management Strategies: Build Relationships - June 8, 2020
- Classroom Management Strategies: How to Win Over the Bad Kid - June 1, 2020
- Classroom Management Strategies: Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately - May 25, 2020