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Starting Their Day or Period with Training and a Smile

written by: Barbara Capps • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 9/6/2013

Do the beginning of your teaching days seem rushed and disjointed? Are students paying attention and completing their bell-work? If your answer is, "No," these unique steps may help you create a more smoothly run classroom.

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    Enter. Rush. Rigor. That’s how disjointed the beginning of a classroom day can be. Students enter their room. The teacher tries to rush through the school’s business. Finally, the rigor of the education process must begin. But wait. Can there be a gentle, seamless transition from “enter” through to “rigor”? When I taught in a middle school for six years I didn’t think so at first. Yet, as with all worthwhile efforts, I was able to evolve into being a teacher that left the “rush” at the door.

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    Rush without Rigor

    shutterstock 104734136 What threw me a curve ball in middle school was students coming in the room and seemingly refusing to immediately do the work on the whiteboard while I entered the attendance and tardy counts into the computer. Even though they knew the rules to stay in their seats while I was visually taking the seating chart attendance, students would decide it was urgent to be out of their chair to sharpen or borrow a pencil. This, of course, made the count take longer and the entry process just went south after that. By the time I was finished with my five minutes of business these middle schoolers were just finding their writing utensils or simply waking up. Very few had the bell work even started much less finished.

    Changing the Rules

    First, I analyzed and prepared to teach new steps to my classes. I determined that our morning entry would require four instead of the two steps I’d taught them. Now they would line up outside the door in team or row order. Each team/row had a coach/leader/captain for the week. Before I opened the door, at the final, tardy bell, all were now practically at attention, at least in a relaxed way. If their team wanted points they would enter appropriately (with a smile and greeting to me) then continue into the room.

    Students would be seated and do…..nothing. Did I just say students in school would do nothing? Yes, that’s right. Instead of immediately initiating the protruding of their heads into their backpack to even get out a pencil they were to continue to earn points by looking at the document camera screen area and wait for me to arrive at the front of the room. When I did arrive I walked there by way of the end of the whiteboard where each period’s team names were previously typed on cardstock and taped to the board. I’d stand with my smile, my eyes circumnavigating the heads. Each row that was completely heads up and looking at me received their coveted tally and I walked to the screen.

    On the screen was a premade typed list of four actions. I laid my pointing pen next to number one and everyone proceeded in unison to accomplish: 1. Get out these three items: a pencil, a highlighter, a correcting colored pen/pencil

    No one was allowed to talk or their row would lose one of their two possible points. I had taught them how to silently function as a team if someone could find/didn’t have something. Meanwhile, I watched intently. When a student had completed number one they would indicate to me (and their team) they were ready by relaxing their chin on folded arms across their desktop. At a glance, it was easier to see which team had accomplished the task first and add their tally on the board. Then I’d move my pointer to item number two and so on this went until all were silently and earnestly engaged in the appointed entrance activity/bell work. With practice, the total time evolved into a wonderful three minutes. Then I walked over to my desk and effortlessly entered visual attendance into the computer.

    So enough with the noisy entrance. Let routine replace the rush. Analyze, teach, prepare, and take class time to practice a new routine. Tell them why. Always smile. Make it fun, they always respond to fun. Edit the list of actions for each period to suit your needs if you teach more than one subject as did I. Let the rigor of each day begin... Oh, what are the points for? Well, that’s entirely up to you. Questions, ideas? Let’s share here!

    Click here for a sample “enter and begin” editable class document.