How should students act during an academic debate? What are the expectations for presentations? How do you make sure the whole “group” actually “works” during group work? These are probably not questions you have to answer every day.
That’s because these questions apply to classroom activities that you may not introduce until the year is underway and the basic rules and daily procedures have been introduced. In some cases, the instructions are teaching opportunities in themselves. When you teach students how to collaborate, or speak in public, or be a supportive audience for someone else’s speech, you’re not just helping your class run more smoothly. You’re offering skills you hope they’ll take with them into life. And incorporating these skills into a grade may be appropriate.
Here is a starter list of classroom activities that require more specific instructions—and some things to consider as you develop those instructions.
Guidelines for public speaking activities in class
This can be anything from classroom debates to presentations to how to act as an audience member when classmates are speaking.
Guidelines for messy activities or activities that require extra supplies
With great quantities of glitter comes great responsibility.
Guidelines for activities outside the classroom
Anything from picture day to an assembly to an actual field trip may need a quick pep talk and behavior reminders, preferably before you let the kids out of your classroom door.
Guidelines for “hosting” a visitor in the classroom
This is especially important because sometimes the visitor may be there to evaluate you. Anything you can do to make sure students are on their best behavior without a lot of explicit reminders will allow you to focus on the lesson you’re teaching.
Guidelines for group work
Ahhh, group work. Students love it for the same reason teachers often don’t: it generally involves a whole lot of group and not much work. This is not to say you should never do it. Just be ready to give specific instructions for how to behave while working in groups and how to make sure everyone in the group does their share.
Guidelines for playing games in the classroom
Your plan for the day includes an educational review game. The kids get excited. Then they get loud. Then a question about who had their hand up first or who was whispering the answer makes everyone forget the purpose of the activity. Your class turns into a who-can-yell-the-loudest contest. You lose. Does this sound familiar? Maybe it happened the first time you let kids play a game. Maybe it’s in the back of your mind keeping you from even trying. Games are a great way of reinforcing what students learn, but they are also a classroom management risk. You need to decide if your class can handle a game right now. If they can, introduce games gradually, with a plan for shutting down the fun and transitioning to something else if you have to.