Math = Love: Starting and Ending Class

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Starting and Ending Class

This is going to be the year that I master classroom management.  Okay, maybe I won't master it.  But, I hope I won't fail at it.  I really liked these quotes about who starts and ends class from Harry Wong's The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher.  So, I decided to make posters of the quotes to hang around the clock in my classroom.

The teacher does not start the class.  The bell does not start the class.  You start the class!

I want to train my students to enter my classroom quietly, look up on the SMART Board to see what supplies they will need that day, get out their needed supplies, and start the listed task as soon as they enter the classroom.  If they want to talk to a fellow student, that needs to happen before they enter my classroom.

This is most definitely not the way I have ran my classroom before.  Oh, I've always had bellwork up on the board when they enter.  And, this past year, I started posting the daily supplies.  But, my classroom tends to be a loud, distracting place.  I have a terrible time getting students to stop talking and listen to directions.  And, I'm tired of fighting that battle.  I'm tired of my 5th period class coming in and telling me that they knew my 2nd hour must not have minded well because they could hear me screaming across the hall.

This is going to be really hard for me.  It's especially going to be a hard transition for my Algebra 2 students that I had in class two years ago for Algebra 1.  I have a feeling they are not going to like the new and improved Ms. Hagan.  Oh well.  They can get over it.  I need this for my sanity.  I need this to make my classroom an environment that is conducive to learning.

The bell does not dismiss the class.  You do not dismiss the class.  The teacher dismisses the class!

I also want to combat students lining up at the door.  This drives me insane.

Story time.  When I was in the 7th grade, I had a geography teacher named Mr. Garrett.  I don't remember a ton about his class.  But, I do remember his bell policy.  The bell did not dismiss our class.  Mr. Garrett dismissed our class.  When the bell rang, we would all sit patiently, waiting for his dismissal.  One time, he left the classroom a few minutes before the bell was to ring.  The bell rang, and he still wasn't there.  My entire class probably sat there for at least a minute.  We were convinced that he was probably hiding in the hall and would get on to us when we walked out of the door for breaking his rule.  Well, he wasn't hiding in the hall.  And, we didn't get in trouble.

Having these policies will communicate to my students how much I value our class time.  The transition is going to be rough as I try to fight against doing things the way I've always done them.  It's easier to overlook student misbehavior, but I know that the dividends for these policies will pay handsomely.

Advice?  I'd love to hear it!

Files can be downloaded here.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.  


  1. That last part, teacher dismisses you not the bell is very important for me as a teacher. When I tried implementing it though students started fighting it, and some still stood up too line up at the door. Ultimately passing period is their time. Upon suggestion from another teacher I set an alarm for 1 min before the bell rings. This is my cue to wrap up what I'm doing, Then I tell students they might put away their materials. Once everyone is quiet in their seats they will be dismissed, so in a way dismissal depends on them. With that small change students stopped fighting the fact that the bell does not dismiss the class. The most important change being that students no longer tried to stopped the class 5 or even 10 minutes prematurely in anticipation for the bell.

  2. Haha I had my kids trained by the mid year about not getting up. One left and I literally went to his next period class and got him and had a conversation with him about it. The next day - all my kiddos waited until I let them out ;)

    That's ONE of my consistent things *SIGHS*

    Thanks for the posters!

    Anisa @ Creative Undertakings

  3. I share the same frustrations. In middle school you'd be amazed at the number of students who do not come prepared for class. "I left it in my locker." We used to be on a block schedule so I was more tolerant. However in the fall we're switching back to 41 minute class periods. Over the course of the week the contact time remains the same, but having students for only 41 minutes makes every nanosecond count.

    Teaching the students to respect and value our time together requires training from day one. I'll be right there with you!

  4. I'm with ya, Sarah! I'm determined to be the one who dismisses my kids next year, as opposed to the bell. You're so right--I think this will be hardest for the kids who have already had me as a teacher. But, my sister implemented this policy with her not-so-well-behaved seventh graders. Even they learned to sit quietly at their desks until she dismissed them.

    I, too, HATE when they line up at the door! WHO TAUGHT THEM THAT?! (I was homeschooled. Can ya tell? ;))

  5. Hi Sarah,
    I would say that classroom management is one of my strengths. As far as getting them into a routine for the beginning of class you have to just model, model, model for them the expectations at the beginning of the year. I always say, if you take the time the first month of school to set clear expectations and CONSTANTLY remind them what they are, you will benefit the rest of the year. I always joke that by about November my students could totally run my class if I wasn't there. We have the same routine we follow every day and the students know what it is. If I am not in the room when class starts I expect them to be working quietly on the warm-up when I walk in, with their previous night's homework sitting out ready to be stamped. You can do it! You just need to sound like a broken record every day for the first weeks.

  6. I'll share a thought about both the beginning and end of class. It might not be a suggestion that everyone agrees with, but it was simple, in the moment, and effective for me in a school with very little discipline overall.
    For the beginning of class, I tried a few different things and they all had positives and they all worked fairly well. First, I had my bell work in a power point with one question per slide. I set a timer on each slide. I did this to keep them on task for the bell work but also because our state exam has a time limit, so I wanted them to always be mindful to stay focused, as they really didn't have unlimited time to do each problem. If they didn't answer in the time limit, I didn't go back (unless I had seriously misjudged the time necessary and most people weren't finished). Second, I would walk the room with a stamp in my hand about 1 min into class. If they had their paper out working on the bell work, I'd stamp their paper. If not, I passed them by. There were no words spoken, just a stamp or not. Then at the end of the week, the stamp would serve as bonus points (like 10 points). It really didn't make a big difference in their grade, but they really wanted that stamp. Also, I didn't do this everyday, it was totally random, so they never knew what day I would do it. Finally, when I noticed that their diligence would start to drop, I'd take up the paper and grade it that night. I usually collect all warm ups on Friday and grade them at once, but every now and then I'd notice that kids would get to Friday and try to do them all or just copy someones paper. For that week, I'd take them up every day and put the grade on it,and then total it up on Friday. If they added it after the fact, it was too bad. This would remind them that I was serious about the bell work and waiting until Friday was not an option.

    As far as the end of the class, I only did two basic things that tie together. If students start gathering their things or standing up (I particularly can't stand it when they try to stand at the door), I just start counting out loud. The first time I tell them why, "I'm counting the number of seconds that you owe me." However many seconds I counted before they sat back down or got back to work, they had to stay after the bell. If necessary, (every now and then you have that one challenging group), I literally go stand at the door, holding it closed while I count. I don't think I've ever counted pass 10-15 seconds. As the year progresses, when they suddenly think for some reason you're their friend and the rules are different, you just have to start counting out loud and they know exactly what's happening. They let each other know to sit down because they want their time in the hall. (of course, as another poster mentioned, I never ran over the bell with my instruction. I always try to give them 30-60 seconds to gather their things, but they must be seated unless they're putting away supplies.)

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  8. Hi Sarah! Love your blog and your posters! You have so many creative ideas. Your students are blessed to have you. Maybe it's just me, but I only see blank space under the "Embedded Poster Files Below:" line so I'm wondering if your Box link got corrupted or dropped? Thanks for the thought provoking reads, excellent ideas, and wonderful materials you share.

  9. Sarah,
    First, I just wanted to say that I really enjoy reading your blog posts. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Second, thank you for being so honest in your struggles. I struggle with the same things in my classroom and since I have the same kids year after year, I find it really hard to change. I wish you luck and will be praying for you.

  10. Do you explain the arrows around the clock somewhere?

    1. I haven't blogged about them yet :) We just got a new bell schedule this year that is going to drive me crazy. Some class periods are 52 minutes. Others are 53 minutes. Passing periods are 5 minutes. I'm used to the bell ringing on a multiple of 5. Ha ha ha. Each arrow points to where the minute hand will be when that class period is over. My high school students cannot (sadly!) read analog clocks. So, I'm hoping this will help them (and me!) adjust to the new bell schedule.

      This is definitely not an original idea. I stole it from someone who stole it from someone who stole it from someone... :)

  11. The embedded posters file is blank for me also. I love this idea of hanging them for the students to see.

    1. Monika, I'm sorry you're not able to view them. Send me an e-mail, and I'll gladly attach the files! Thanks! My e-mail is mathequalslove (at) gmail (dot) com.

  12. Hi Sarah,

    I started the same policies this year, starting every class with bellwork. However, my students are not used to starting to work when they come in and I am having a hard time especially with my 9th grade Alg 1 class who I have right after lunch. They'll put their books down and then hang out until the bell rings, reminding each other, 'You start class!" (i.e. start working only when you want to). After sending three students for a tardy slip when they waited until the bell rang to come into the classroom so they could talk, it got a little better, but how do you get your students to start working before the bell rings (even 30 seconds or so would be great so that the class is quiet by the time the bell rings)?


    1. I've settled for just having them get out all of their supplies before the bell rings. It's definitely a battle!