Classroom Clinic – Starting the Lesson Right!
“Dear Classroom Clinic,
There’s always so much to do at the start of the lesson that it gets a bit chaotic.
What can I do to make sure my lesson starts calm and productive?”
In the Corridor
Firstly, follow the school expectations for entry. If it is usual to ask students to line up outside the classroom, ensure their behaviour is exactly as you want it before bringing the class in. If your school has a policy of keeping the corridor clear, you can still ask individual students to wait until you are happy with their behaviour/attitude.
Greeting all students on the threshold is essential – make sure every student is entering the classroom ready to learn. The idea of the teacher being present at the threshold (classroom door) is so that students are allowed into the room. If their behaviour, uniform, etc. does not meet the classroom expectations, they should not be allowed to enter the classroom. This does not need to be a conversation with the students – they know the school rules – the teacher can give a non-verbal signal or quick comment ‘you’re not ready to learn’ or ‘try again’. The teacher should not make this into a discussion. Don’t over-instruct – sometimes waiting and giving non-verbal signals is far more powerful than constantly giving instructions.
Take Your Time
It’s OK to take extra time bringing the students into the classroom because it means you will save time having to deal with behaviour issues later. The added benefit of not allowing students in until you are happy is that anyone walking past from SLT etc. will be able to see if you need their support in getting the students in the right frame of mind. The point of controlling the threshold is to show students that YOU are in charge of the space, this is your classroom and they need to meet your expectations before they are allowed in. You don’t need to be explicit about this, for example, you don’t need to say: “This is my classroom and you’re not coming in until you behave well” – because some student might then take the opportunity to mess around for the rest of the lesson and stay outside. The idea is that you show the students with your tone, body language, facial expression etc. that you are confident and that you are in charge. Students will respect this approach far more than someone that they perceive as trying to plead with them to stop messing around.
Have a ‘Do Now’
Make sure all students are silent and ready to enter, before giving very clear and concise instructions about what they need to do upon entering. ‘Find your book from the front desk, have a pencil ready, you have 10 minutes to complete the ‘Do Now’ activity.’ But what about the students IN the classroom? You are spending all this time sorting out behaviour at the door, and meanwhile, they could be messing around inside. Unfortunately, you need to be in two places at once. Stand in the doorway or at the doorway as the students are entering and pause the flow of people coming in if behaviour inside is not good. Remind the students inside what you expect. The students inside should be doing your Do Now or starter activity. That’s why it is so important that a Do Now needs no explanation from the teacher and is engaging for the students. Do Now activities could be displayed on the whiteboard or handed to students as a sheet. These activities are best done individually and in silence as this will reduce the opportunity for students to mess around. They should last for no longer than ten minutes before the main learning objective of the lesson is introduced. If you’re stuck for new Do Now ideas just send us an email.