I have pretty high expectations for student organization and transitions between activities. I don't want student to lose precious learning time. That said, I don't want students to be robots.
How do I show students I care about them, honor individual quirks, and still clarify my expectations for our learning time?
Clear instructions are written on the board as students arrive - and for each transition. In the past, I wrote steps for students on the board. I now have Smart Board templates. (No, the students listed are not in trouble :)).
Every lesson plan should consider placement and movement of materials. Our personal organization systems set students up for success or failure. Students who wait for papers, scissors, and other materials have nothing to do but talk.
When students wait for other students to find materials, they get caught in "dead time" and are again tempted to start side conversations. Worse, the disorganized students "stick out." They may feel embarrassed, which makes them feel emotionally unsafe.
It is helpful to have colors and numbers on student desks. Then, a teacher can say, "'A's, please get the scissors, Bs should get paper, Cs help make sure desk and floor areas are cleared and ready for the next activity..." One student in the group is often assigned as "mentor", helping those in their groups who are running a bit behind or who are having problems finding the materials they need. If every child is working, it is less likely students will be negatively labeled by peers.
Also, it is helpful to have students give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" to the question, "Will x-minutes be enough time to accomplish these expectations?"
Solicit student opinions. The first couple of days, I have multiple "check-ins" with students. I want to know if the expectations are reasonable. If not, what can we do so that both their needs and my needs are met?
For example, we have a discussion about library time. I want students to be able to go to the library whenever they finish a book. I need to be able to conference with students during reading time - so students can't ask for permission. Also, I worry that some student might take advantage of the library option - spending more time looking for books (or socializing in the library) than reading.
Students and I worked together to establish the following guidelines:
Procedures slightly vary each year, reflecting the needs, preferences, and personalities of students in a particular class. Students tend to hold one another accountable for procedures they help create.
What procedural decisions are your students allowed to help create? What might you be willing to try?