Classroom Management: The Entry Routine

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One way to improve your classroom management is by refining your entry routine and procedures. I have found that problems tend to arise in my classroom management when things are a bit too loosey goosey. Maybe I haven’t made my expectations in certain areas clear. Or maybe I have stopped enforcing or reinforcing certain routines and procedures. When things get loose around the edges that is when students tend to start pushing the boundaries. 

Students should be so familiar with the routines and procedures that they need little direction from you. Certain things should just be automatic. What do we do when we enter the classroom? Where do we turn in papers? When can I sharpen my pencil? How do we leave the classroom? However, you can’t assume students inherently know how to do these things. Routines and procedures must be taught and the sooner the better. 

The beginning of the year is an obvious time to teach routines and procedures for your classroom. But if you are in the middle of the year and things aren’t going well, it is okay to step back and reteach procedures that you have fallen away from or to institute new routines and procedures that will streamline certain processes. And if you are looking for a place to start, start with the transition times: entering the class, leaving the class, and moving from one activity to another. 

For this post, I am going to focus on the characteristics of a solid entry routine. It frequently sets the tone for how the rest of the lesson will transpire.

Entry Routine

I work in a middle school. So, I am required to stand at my door during the passing period.  Theoretically, during this time, I should be greeting my students as they are entering the classroom, monitoring other students that are passing by, and also monitoring what is happening in my classroom, all at the same time. Whew! Talk about multi-tasking. 

For this reason, I find that it is important to position myself in the doorway in such a way that I can see both inside and outside at the same time. This is a prime time for “horseplay” or “trash talk” that could lead to problems. So, my awareness and visibility is key. 

When students enter my classroom, I always have a slide on the screen that tells them exactly what items they need to have out for the day. For instance, they might need their agenda, pencil, and chromebook or maybe an assignment we started yesterday but haven’t yet finished. Students come in, sit down, and start taking out their items right away. If they don’t have a pencil or need a loaner chromebook then we have an established procedure for how they can get those items. 

I also have the agenda on the board. They don’t need to ask me what we are doing that day, they just look at the agenda. This frees me up to greet students at the door. Plus, I don’t have to answer the same question 30 times. 

I have a seating chart. My students know exactly where to sit. They know I will not entertain the question, “May I sit next to my friend today?” This makes the attendance process more efficient for me. Later if we have partner work or group work I may allow students to move but not during this entry period. 

Many teachers have a warm up or bell ringer of some sort on the screen.  A math warm up might consist of 3-5 questions that are a review from yesterday’s lesson or even a previous grade level. The warm up can act as a preview or lead in for today’s instruction. It should be something that the students can complete on their own and shouldn’t take more than five minutes from start to finish. 

The warm up also gives me time to take attendance, gives time for the notoriously tardy students to arrive, and for me to perhaps make a quick individual comment to a specific student or two. 

After this, I will jump into my slide presentation for the day with announcements and the lesson. 

How to “Fix” the Entry Routine. 

If you have a class that consistently has problems entering the classroom, here are a few suggestions. 

  • Take time to review your expectations with the entire class. 
  • Have students practice the entry routine. Make them go back outside and enter the classroom properly. Be careful with this one. I have seen some teachers overuse this strategy and students start misbehaving on purpose just to waste class time. 
  • Have students line up outside the door and only allow a few students to enter at a time. 
  • If you use a group point system or classroom currency be sure to reward students who get the entry down correctly. If you don’t have that type of system set up in your classroom, then at least be sure to use positive reinforcements for students who meet your expectations for the entry routine. “I like the way Lucy already has her materials out and ready to go.” “Thank you, Jasper, for coming in quietly today.”
  • If you can pinpoint a couple of students who are having issues with the entry routine then speak to them separately. Have the students repeat to you what the expectations are for entering the classroom. 
  • One of my favorite questions to get students on track at the beginning of the period is, “Is there something you need to help you get started?” Sometimes they just need a pencil. 

Don’t be afraid to change your entry routine or tweak it as you start to find what works for you. Students can be very adaptable. Perfecting this part of the class can change the entire feel of your class and reduce your stress. 

What are your favorite entry routines? I would love to hear about them in the comment section. 

Or check out my video on this topic.

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