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Save Your Sanity- Five Courtesies to Teach

Five Courtesies to Teach Your Students At the beginning of the school year we work hard to teach students some basic courtesies to make everyone happier and keep students responsible for their learning space. these are five basic things we teach repeatedly during the first month of school to our upper elementary students. We also want to stress that just because this is how we do things, doesn’t mean these procedures will work ‘as is’ in your classroom. Feel free to solve the issues in your own way.

Take the time at the beginning of the year to avoid spending all year struggling with these basic procedures.

Pencil sharpening: We have an electric pencil sharpener, which is noisy, but efficient. If a student needs to sharpen, they are free to do so by going to stand at the pencil sharpener. If we are giving instructions or speaking to the class they ended to wait until one of us makes eye contact and nods signalling to start sharpening. Otherwise they wait. If it’s work time, they are free to sharpen as needed. The other option available any time is to use their hand sharpener at their desk, but we only allow sharpeners that hold the shavings. The courtesy? Let the lesson continue.

Spills & Floors: Speaking of shavings, they make a mess. We don’t have carpet, so we have several small hand held brooms and dustpans from a dollar store and students are allowed and encouraged to use them when they make a mess. We also have a bag of rags (old tea towels and face cloths) for wet spills (instead of paper towels). We have two bags-wet & dry where kids put and get the rags. Students in our room are responsible for the floors all day everyday. We even keep a box of wet wipes to use just in case of stickier messes. The courtesy? Clean up after yourself.

Bathrooms & Drinks: Students are free to use the bathroom or drinking fountain during independent work time by writing their name on the board. We allow one boy and one girl to leave the room at one time. They erase their name when they return. No one is allowed to leave during instruction or whole group activities like community circles. We also allow water bottles that lock shut in our room if they are filled with water only. This is to prevent sticky spills but still allow students to hydrate. The courtesy? Take care of yourself.

Extroverts & Introverts: Early in the year we talk a lot about our learning preferences and how much noise is too much. We explicitly teach students to work quietly or how to work out loud without being too loud. It takes a lot of practice and awareness for students to learn how they learn. For most independent work times, we start with “introvert time” 15-20 minutes of quiet processing and work. Then we start to allow “extrovert time” so students can talk more freely. The times alternate depending on the activity and we continue to teach students that both types of work time are important to learning, but they both have a purpose. The courtesy? Respect the learning and working time of others.

Lost & Found: On one of the first days we have “write your name on everything” day. This saves a lot of time because when students are tidying they return misplaced items directly to students,but we also have a bin where misplaced items can be placed until their owners find them. This bin is also a “free to use” place where extra pencils, scissors and other items are available. The courtesy? Take care of your belongings and each other.

These procedures seem so simple, but the amount of time they save in the long run is worth it. Spend the first month repeatedly teaching, practicing and monitoring these classroom procedures will make your year run smoothly.

What other courtesies do you include? Add them to our comments below.


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  • Reply
    Amber Thomas
    August 7, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    I love introvert and extrovert time! Have you read Quiet bu Susan Cain? She describes the need for exactly the system you describe!

    • Reply
      August 8, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      Oh wow! Add that to our reading list! Thanks!

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