In this excerpt from the chapter on routines, Carolyn McGown talks about a few of them.
"I'm Done!" and the Class Law
"What do I do now?"
"I finished first!"
Imagine hearing this 32 times each time you assign any written work. It
is enough to make anyone run screaming from the classroom.
Teachers must give students silent ways of conveying certain messages.
This keeps the noise level down, and it gives the kids alternate ways of
communicating. Teachers must train themselves to respond to these
"signs," or the students will resort to yelling out anyway. To handle the
"I'm Done!" assault, instruct students to flash a "thumbs-up" sign, rather
than yelling out. Tables whose members refrain from yelling out earn
points on the Point Chart.
Some kids finish work before others. They will whine about wanting
other things to do or they will misbehave because they are bored. Other
kids will still be working on the assignment, perhaps needing more
guidance. New teachers have a hard time balancing the needs of both
groups of students. Many new teachers tell the students to "find
something" to do. The students generally will not do this (often because
they do not have the maturity to pick something appropriate and follow
through), and the teacher gets frustrated. Or the students may find
something to do (something fun, like coloring), and the others who are not
yet finished will get distracted. It is better, at least initially, not to give
students open-ended instructions; concrete suggestions will get better
One option is to make a policy about what students may do when finished
with an assignment. I called this the "Class Law," the "law" being "Don't
waste time; always find something to do." I prepared a chart with
alternative activities listed on it. As a class, we discussed the different
things that students could do when they had finished an assignment. In
the beginning of the year, the chart would have only two or three
activities. We added activities to the list as the year progressed. You may
also add activities as you become more confident in the students' ability
Chapter 5: Routines & Procedures
Classroom Survival Page 118 Carolyn McGown