What do you do when your students perform an everyday procedure, like entering the classroom, in a way that doesn’t meet your expectations?
How do you respond when they appear to ignore your instructions about how you want a classroom procedure completed?
Less effective teachers typically respond in one of two ways.
They either let it go and move on to something else, or they raise their voice, show their disappointment, and dissect everything the students did wrong.
The former will result in more of the same behavior from students and an eventual loss of control (see article on broken windows theory). And the latter, when repeated often enough, will cause private resentment and make classroom management an uphill battle.
The “Do It Again” Strategy
The best response is to use a strategy that is proven to be both effective and easy on the teacher. It’s called the “do it again” strategy. The way it works is when your students don’t meet your expectations for a classroom procedure, you ask them to do it again.
This is a widely used classroom management strategy, but it’s rarely utilized in a way that makes it most effective.
A common mistake is adding negative commentary while students are doing the procedure over again. The fact is, students understand why they have to do it again and don’t benefit from the teacher spelling it out for them.
You don’t need to make students miserable or fill them with guilt to get your point across. Plus, there’s that whole resentment thing that threatens to undermine the trustful relationship you have with your students.
The most effective teachers are able to hold students accountable without causing friction in the student/teacher relationship.
Another mistake is using the strategy inconsistently. If your students perform a procedure incorrectly or inappropriately and you let it pass without a response, even one time, you’ll undo the work you did teaching the procedure in the first place.
You have a responsibility to yourself and your sanity to make sure procedures are done correctly. When your students know what to do and how to do it throughout every moment of the school day, your job becomes much easier and more enjoyable.
Further, teaching a procedure and then not holding students accountable when it’s done poorly is bad teaching.
Effective classroom management requires an unbending commitment to respond every time expectations aren’t met.
How To “Do It Again”
The “do it again” strategy is an effective way to respond when your students don’t meet the expectations you have for a particular procedure. But to ensure that the strategy is a success, there are five steps to keep in mind.
To make these steps clearer, we’ll use as an example a class of students who just entered the classroom noisily.
- Step #1 – Before asking your students to trudge outside the room and redo the procedure, wait until they’re finished doing it incorrectly and are seated, quiet, and looking at you. Only then, and after a long pause, should you begin to speak.
- Step #2 – Simply tell your students that they did it wrong. Don’t rehash every mistake they made or remind them of how they’re supposed to enter the classroom. They already know. That is, if you taught them the procedure thoroughly enough the first time.
- Step #3 – In a calm voice, say, “When I say ‘Go’ I want you to stand up, walk outside, and then come into the classroom like you’re supposed to.” If it’s a primary classroom, you might have to walk them out yourself. However, all students benefit from following procedures with as little support from you as possible. So don’t hover; watch dispassionately from a distance.
- Step #4 – Don’t say anything until the procedure is completed and your students are sitting and attentive.
- Step #5 – If they did the “entering the classroom” procedure correctly the second time around, let them know. With a smile, say, “Now that is how I expect you to do it every time.” If, however, they didn’t meet your expectations, even in a small way, you need to teach it again.
If you’ve been a regular reader to this blog, then you may have noticed that brevity in speech is a common theme. When it comes to classroom management, hashing things out and discussing mistakes is generally a waste of time.
Students respond more favorably to actions and clear, concise speech. The “do it again” strategy fits this definition perfectly.
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