Anytime is the perfect time to teach and reteach classroom expectations, especially right after a long break. Explicit instruction for classroom expectations support social and emotional learning objectives by taking the guesswork out of social norms.
When students have a clear sense of class expectations they spend less time trying to understand the rules or wondering what is acceptable. When we intentionally promote classroom expectations children develop a greater sense of self and awareness of others.
Of course, like all instruction, we need to use our best techniques to reinforce learning. Classic teaching strategies like Example – Non example, I do – We do – You do, Positive Over-Practice, and Appropriate Feedback are all methods that should be used to teach classroom expectations. Just because we develop rules as a group and post them on the wall, doesn’t mean they have been learned at a level of automaticity. Kids and teens need practice.
Want to enjoy the remaining months of the school year? Here’s a few classroom expectations worth teaching now.
Maintaining Your Area
Students work more efficiently if they have a standard for keeping their personal area organized. Add up all the time during the day that you wait for students to get ready for instruction. Often we experience delays because of misplaced items or a lack of organization. Recover some of that time by spending it up front as preparation time, that way kids learn a life skill. Here’s an outline that a few of my friends use for teaching elementary and middle school students how to maintain their area.
Teach students how to organize and store items in their desk or locker:
• Separate the items by soft or hard, keep soft items in a similar area near one side
• Keep books closed, straight, and right side up
• Keep pencils in front for easy access
• Throw trash away
• Keep water bottle closed and on the floor near you
Listening doesn’t just happen in the ears. Attentive whole-body listening promotes respect for teacher and other listeners, supports positive communication, and helps students regulate their own body. In order to listen for understanding we need to be thinking about what is being said. Since our bodies aren’t built for multi-tasking, students need to be taught how to keep their limbs still and allow attention controls to develop.
I’ve used this outline to support preschoolers to adults in the fine art of listening. There is some variability in movement needs, but movement while listening should always be silent. It’s a well known fact that students who look like they are listening tend to get better grades and have more friends.
Whole-body listening includes the following:
• Eyes on the speaker
• Turn your voice off
• Keep your hands and feet still
• Sit up straight
• Raise your hand and wait, when you need to speak or ask a question
Students who know the expectation for independent work tend to get started quicker and finish tasks more often. It’s helpful to begin the process with the class as a whole by having them list the materials they will need, and telling them how long they will have to work independently. Listing time and materials supports long-terms growth for readiness and fosters attention.
Classroom expectations when doing independent work
• Have all the needed materials out
• Turn your voice off
• Keep your hands and feet quiet
• Get started right away
• Finish your work on time
• Raise your hand for help
The social and communication benefits of group work are more than we can begin to mention here. When students have a clear expectation about how to act in groups, they can use their energy for thinking about the content. As they work together on the assignment students show respect for the learning of others and themselves. Be sure to make the objective and assignment for the group clear.
Teach students the standard for working in groups
• Use polite words like please and thank you
• Keep shared materials in the middle of the group, ask to use them instead of assuming or grabbing
• Participate with the whole group
• Keep a quiet voice when others are speaking
• Stay on task
• Complete the activity
Asking for Help
Politely asking for help is an important skill for future school and work environments. Class expectation in this area supports social and emotional learning for self management and relationship skills. Many students don’t ask for help for help when they need it due to insufficient communication or social skills. By teaching this classroom expectation you are communicating to the group that it is okay to ask for help and establishes a supportive community where questions are encouraged.
Communicate expectations to encourage students to “Ask for help”
• Use a soft voice or whisper
• Begin with “Excuse me” and wait for acknowledgement
• Quietly wait for your turn to speak
• Ask a specific question
• Say “Thank you” before leaving
• Walk with quiet feet
Simple as it seems, I think this one is the most important. Too often I’ve watched kids move in and out of groups with few or no interactions. They feel invisible and alone regardless of how many people surround them.
When greetings are part of the classroom norm students engage with each other in positive ways. They learn to greet others respectfully in a way that span backgrounds and cultures. When greetings are the topic of conversation, students recognize it as a form of communication and can transform the school climate in a positive way.
Teach social and emotional learning through greetings
• Walk slowly toward the person or stop to speak
• Face the person
• Give eye contact
• Use a regular talking voice
• Respond back to the person on topic