The end of the lesson

So we’ve come to the end of the lesson. By now we have our routines and classroom management essentials in place and we’ve explored strategies to deal with specific disruptions. The teacher knows exactly what she wants the students to do next – get cleared away as quickly as possible. So she gives the instruction to do so.

But which of these instructions is going to give her the greatest chance of success? (And if the correct answer isn’t obvious by now, go and sit at the back of the class.)

(a) The bell is about to ring, everyone. Put everything away and get ready to be dismissed please … Come on everyone … Quickly now … Let’s get packed away … Hurry up!

(b) Okay everyone, the bell is going to go in five minutes – it’s time to clear away. You know what to do.

After giving instruction (b) the teacher then points to a printed routine, clearly displayed on the wall at the front of the room:

End of lesson routine
1. Put all textbooks on the shelf and exercise books on my desk.

2. Put all equipment away in the correct drawer or cupboard.

3. Clear your work area and sit silently facing the front.

4. After you get permission to leave, push in your chair and leave in silence.

5. If it is the last period of the day, stack the chairs by the back wall.

Vague instructions such as those in (a) more often than not lead to misbehaviour because they don’t give the students clear enough direction. They will wander, play dumb, claim they didn’t hear the bell and protest that they don’t know where things are supposed to go. What should be a simple job quickly degenerates into a time consuming struggle in which you find yourself repeating instructions, shouting, yelling and having to deal with one avoidance tactic after another.

Instruction (b) works because the teacher has already spent time teaching her students a clear routine for the end of the lesson. There is no need for confusion or wasted time. No need to repeat instructions. No need to check that everyone has understood or give extra prompts to those who haven’t. Everyone knows exactly what to do and the teacher is free to oversee the whole process with little need for involvement or intervention.

So, that’s it. With the strategies we’ve explored hopefully you are feeling in control and ready for your next class.