Guiding Older Students to Enter and Exit the Classroom Smoothly

After so much time out of school, middle and high school students may need multiple refreshers on classroom procedures.

Although most students around the country have been back in physical classrooms for a few months now, there are still many middle and high school students who need support when it comes to entering and exiting the classroom properly. As students continue to get used to being back in school, there are a few quick things we as teachers can do to support them in creating routines that both help them adjust and maintain the sanctity of instructional time.

How Students Enter the Classroom

Over the past year, many students have had the ability to simply wake up and log on to a computer as their entering-the-classroom procedure. With the shift back to in-person learning, it’s imperative that we teach students what we want to see as they enter our physical spaces.

Students should have a clear set of guidelines regarding the noise level at which they enter the classroom, the location in the room they should move to, and what they should be doing once they reach their seats. By teaching and practicing these procedures, teachers can ensure that they are able to begin class on time and that students will be set up for success in that class period. Additionally, these consistent structures help students understand what is expected of them and ensure that they are able to immediately focus on content rather than attempting to decipher how to behave as they enter the room.

Here are some questions to consider when introducing the procedure to students:

  • What noise level is expected as students enter?
  • Will students have assigned seats?
  • Is there going to be a “Do Now” on the board? Is it going to be something students do silently or with a partner?
  • What materials should students have out on their desks by the time instruction begins?
  • What should a student do if they are missing materials—where are extra pencils, books, paper, etc.?
  • How long do students have to get settled before instruction begins?

How Students Exit the Classroom

As with entering, students have not necessarily had to physically exit a classroom in over a year. By creating a procedure for students to exit the classroom, teachers can ensure that students are prepared to effectively, calmly, and safely enter their next class or dismiss from the building. Additionally, teachers can avoid unwanted behaviors by clearly outlining and explicitly teaching their expectations for how students exit.

As the class period comes to an end, it’s important for teachers to have a plan of how they will wrap up the lesson, collect any materials, and prepare the space for the next group of students. Ideally, students will have the opportunity to demonstrate their learning from the day’s lesson through a written exit ticket, a verbal discussion, or another medium. This closing activity cues students to the fact that they are going to be transitioning out of the classroom shortly. Students should have a clear understanding of how they are to submit any completed class assignments, how they are expected to return any classroom materials, and how they are to collect their belongings and exit the room.

Clear procedures will support teachers in ensuring that each class period is given closure and that they are prepared for the start of the next class. Students will benefit from being given the time to recollect themselves and their belongings before moving into a new space. Additionally, students are more likely to avoid unwanted behaviors as they transition between classes when they understand and have practiced the procedures.

Some questions to consider when introducing the procedure to students:

  • Will each student hand in their own work, or will it be collected?
  • Should students leave materials on their desks for the next class or return them to a specified location?
  • Should students leave the room when they hear the bell or wait for the teacher to dismiss them?
  • Do students all leave at once, or will they be dismissed by area in the room?

We cannot yet know the extent to which virtual learning has impacted and will continue to impact our students. However, we do have the power to support them as they make the transition back to in-person learning by creating clear and consistent structures that help them navigate our physical classroom spaces. The traumas caused by Covid-19 cannot be undone by simply welcoming students back into the building; we as teachers must be prepared to provide wraparound support and structure throughout the day to help students once again feel safe and confident in these spaces. Simple procedures like entering and exiting the classroom are a meaningful starting point.