Systems in the classroom. You either love them or hate them.
But in the world of teaching?
You need to start acting like the most organised person in the room.
The Need for Systems in Your Classroom
There’s only one fictional character that can help us out here…
Your pupils need to enjoy their learning and make progress, but in order to do that you need to have systems in your classroom.
As Chandler says, “Hey! Monica can be cool and fun at organised indoor events.”
Now of course you don’t need to be a complete control freak like Monica Geller, but having systems set up can really help the days run smoothly.
Most importantly, setting up systems from the very first day will ensure the children respond well to them, as well as respect them.
10 Systems to Have Set up in Your Classroom
1. Reward system
Design your reward system around a team approach.
An example of this could be: each table is a team and think of their own team name. Each team has a captain and vice-captain that change each week.
The job of the captain is to facilitate how the members of the team work. They must work together effectively to ensure that the table is tidy, they are ready to learn, and they follow the class rules.
The teams could compete to win marbles to put in their team jar. The team with the most marbles at the end of the week can be awarded ‘table of the week’ stickers.
A tally chart is just as effective and doesn’t need to be fancy.
2. Seating plan
A seating plan can ensure effective learning takes place.
Base the seating plan on your knowledge of the children or notes from the previous teacher. Organise the tables so that no one will have their back to you or the board.
Write names on Post-it notes to stick on tables so children know where to sit on the first day. Let them know that they will stay in these seats for the first week.
You can then move them based on your observations and understanding of the individual children.
They don’t have to stay in these seats all year; you can even swap them each half term to give children opportunities to work with a range of peers.
3. Random name generator
This tool is a generator that randomly picks a child’s name and flashes it onto the interactive whiteboard or computer screen.
That child will then answer your question or share their ideas with the class.
As well as a good Assessment for Learning (AfL) strategy, this is a good tool to use to ensure that the class are always focused on what you are doing, as they never know if their name will be chosen.
There are lots of random name generators online – try www.superteachertools.com
4. Classroom Roles and Responsibilities
These could include register monitors, homework monitors and book monitors.
Explain to the children what these roles entail so that they can do the jobs effectively.
Also make sure that every child gets a turn at something throughout the year – children are very aware of this element of fairness, so keep a list of who has done what as the year goes on.
5. Class rules
Think about what you want the rules to be prior to introducing them to the children.
You don’t want to have too many, otherwise it will be difficult to remember them all.
Aim for six rules – there will be school rules for the children to be aware of too, so don’t overload them.
Children should be actively involved in creating class rules, but guide them to the principles you think the class must have.
It’s never too late to have class rules set up – most teachers do it on the first day, but if you find your class’s behaviour isn’t what you want it to be, you can go back and look at them again.
6. Carpet spaces
These are particularly useful for younger children as you can place pupils where you need them to be on the carpet.
If there are children who find it hard to concentrate, have them near the front so that you can manage their behaviour easily.
It can also be a good strategy to ensure mixed ability learning.
7. Morning routine
What are you expecting from your class when they first arrive in the morning?
Have something for them to do rather than letting them mill around until it is time for you to do the register.
This activity, of course, will depend on their age. But with training, you can introduce a variety of activities that ensure children are ready to learn at nine o’clock.
These could be responding to marking, reading, or answering a ‘daily challenge’ or a question that will extend their higher order thinking.
8. Lining up for moving around the school
When children line up for lunch or assembly, or to come back into the classroom, you need to tell them what your expectations are.
Some teachers develop a specific line order, deliberately putting (or not putting) certain children together, to ensure that they move around the school silently.
Other teachers line pupils up in register order. With the older children, it can be fun to mix this up a bit — for example, sometimes lining them up by first name and sometimes by surname.
It gets their brains working and keeps the idea from becoming tedious.
The idea of ‘boy, girl, boy, girl’ can work effectively, provided you work in a mixed school, of course!
A quiet line when returning to the classroom will ensure a calm start to each lesson, with all children ready to learn.
9. Stopping the class
There is a range of methods for this, from cowbells to counting down from five to zero.
Clapping rhythms, songs, and tambourines can also be used effectively.
Whatever your method is for stopping the class, keep it consistent and let the children know what to do when they hear that cue.
Practise it explicitly on the first day so that you can make sure it is done as well as you expect.
Make sure that all of the children follow the rules for stopping.
Don’t let one person get away with not doing it properly, as this can spread.
Ensure that other adults in the room use the same strategy as you to ensure consistency.
I deliberately put the reward system at the top of this list because I think your systems need to be based on rewards.
However, with a reward system must come a sanction system. As well as the school’s sanction system, put some sanctions into place in your own room that match your principles and style.
One example is the Three Strikes Rule.
The Three Strikes Rule
Using the Three Strikes Rule in your class can serve you well. It is simple for the children to understand and for you to follow.
Each of the three strikes is more serious than the previous one.
This enables you to build up to a sanction without leaping straight into the most serious option.
STRIKE 1: The Look
A warning look is, by far and away, one of the most effective strategies in a classroom.
Often it is all that is needed, and you won’t need to go on to Strike 2 or 3.
The trick behind ‘The Look’ is to make it deliberate.
You might hold eye contact with that child for just a second or two longer than feels comfortable.
Pause what you are saying, just briefly, to emphasise the point that they are interrupting the lesson.
The Look can sound quite ominous, but actually it isn’t. It’s a way of managing a situation without using your voice. Too much of that and the children switch off.
STRIKE 2: The Warning
A verbal warning is the next strike.
It can often be accompanied by another instance of The Look. Use a low and measured tone of voice. If you start squeaking or rushing your words, you will appear out of control.
Start your warning with the words, “I’m sorry, children, but X is interrupting our lesson, and I’m going to have to stop what we’re doing.”
Then address the child directly and say something like, “Is there a problem?”
What happens next depends on the response to this question.
If there is a problem, don’t attempt to solve it there and then (unless it is a simple solution, like moving the child away from someone nearby who is being annoying)
Assure the child that the two of you will speak about the problem at the end of the lesson, but not now, as there is learning to do.
Make sure you do follow up so that the child feels valued and listened to.
More likely, the response to ‘Is there a problem?’ will be a shake of the head. In that case, request that the child apologise to the class for the interruption, and then wait.
Thank the child for the apology and finish with, “If you continue to interrupt, you will need to speak to me at break” (or lunchtime).
The warning is there — it is up to the child to make the right behaviour choices after that.
STRIKE 3: The Choice
This is the easiest way to deal with persistent low-level disruption: put the behaviour back on the child and make it his or her responsibility.
You will give the child two choices for how to behave.
For example, suppose Fred is persistently talking or distracting others at the table. Crouch down next to him and speak quietly but firmly.
Don’t humiliate a child in front of the class. We’re here to encourage the right behaviour, not humiliate and embarrass children for the wrong behaviour.
The conversation with Fred could sound something like this:
“Now, I have already warned you about your behaviour. I am going to give you two choices, and I encourage you to choose the right one. The first choice is that you stop distracting those people around you and get on with the work I have asked you to do. The second choice is that you carry on distracting them, but then I will tell you to move to another place. Which choice is it?”
Other possibilities for the second choice might be that the child must move to another classroom or continue working during break or lunchtime.
Now, to be honest, I have never had a child say, “Option 2, please, Miss. I am going to be a distraction to everyone.” Choosing that option would be fairly bold!
Fred will hopefully ‘sense the tone’ and will most likely select option 1.
Ask him to repeat the chosen option back to you so that he is completely aware of what you are expecting. Give him the chance to carry out that option.
Now here’s the important bit
However, if he persists with a poor choice of behaviour, despite the word you have had with him, it is time to do the most important thing in behaviour management:
FOLLOW THROUGH WITH WHAT YOU HAVE SAID.
If you have said Fred will work in another classroom, take him there with his work and leave him to get on with it.
If you have said he will need to come back at lunchtime to complete the work he has missed, ensure he comes back at lunch.
By not following through with the second choice you is offered, he will know that he can get away with that behaviour on another occasion – as will the other children.
I will say it once more, just to clarify:
FOLLOW THROUGH WITH WHAT YOU HAVE SAID.
Got it? Good.
You can use the term ‘Three Strikes Rule’ with the class so that they know this is the sanction system.
Explain it clearly and calmly on the first day.
When you give verbal warnings, tell children that this is Strike 2, so that they know where they are in your class behaviour system.
With certain older classes, you could add the tag line, ‘Three strikes and you’re out.’
This doesn’t mean that they sit outside the classroom door, staring into space.
Move them to another learning environment to continue their work.
If that is the deputy head’s office, then so be it. But they won’t be able to continue their work in your classroom.
Be tough on that, and your pupils will soon get the message.
What systems do you have in your classroom that work well? What doesn’t work?
Leave a comment below and let us know!