Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Favorite Harry Wongisms for Classroom Management

It's 5 for Friday Time!  Yay! I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for their popular Friday linky.

I am keeping with the Back to School theme again this week.  I feel like my year is still at the beginning stages, and I am in need of some encouragement.  

Who better to look to at the beginning of the year but Harry Wong and his iconic book "The First Days of School".  

If this is the first time you are hearing about this book, STOP reading my blog!  GO order it RIGHT NOW from the link above!  I bet that is the first (and last) time a blogger will tell you to stop reading her blog...

Seriously teachers, it is the ULTIMATE book on how to start a school year.  It doesn't matter if you are a veteran teacher or fresh out of student teaching- it's a book you need to read.  More than read it- you need to embrace it! You can't go wrong with Harry Wong!  (Sorry...I just had to. ;)

(I hope Mr. and Mrs. Wong will not be insulted by my blog title.  I mean it with all due respect since I try to read their book every year before starting school.)

Okay...first off, I have to try to limit this to just 5 to do that.......still thinking.......

Right here is where I went back and changed my graphic and added the "classroom management" subtitle.  This is what I need a refresher on in my jungle ummm classroom, so this is going to be my focus.

"The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines."

This one statement changed my teaching life.  You have to actually TEACH students procedures and routines.  Now why didn't my professors teach me THAT in college?  You have to teach them how to get a sharpened pencil, hang up their backpacks, line up, get out a reading book, go to the library, come to the carpet, use the bathroom, get a drink, and all the other hundred things that happen during the school day.

An effective teacher HAS to have a PLAN for each of these instances AND has to teach the plan to the students.

Here's the thing, students want procedures. They want to KNOW how to go about doing something.  Be careful though and don't confuse procedures with discipline.  Discipline concerns how students behave while procedures involve how students will DO something.

I have to stay here for just a moment and continue with procedures on to number 2.    You have a plan and now you have told the plan to the students.  You have told them how to line up, get a sharpened pencil, go to the library, and so on.  This is NOT enough.  It's not enough to just have a plan.  It's not enough to tell the students how to do something or even to model it for them.

Effective teachers know that all procedures have to be rehearsed!  Mr. Wong states that the first weeks of school are filled with the practicing and rehearsing of all the classroom procedures.  Students cannot be expected to get every procedure right all in one day.  (I needed to be reminded of this one.)  Students need to practice the procedures step by step until it becomes routine and automatic.

The 3 steps to teaching classroom procedures are
1. Explain, model, or demonstrate the procedure.
2. Rehearse and practice the procedure with your class.
3. Reinforce your students with praise and more practice until it becomes routine.

Harry Wong believes that schools must have rules.  These rules provide students with a safe environment to learn without fear.  Classroom teachers need to have rules posted before students come to class.  He feels that there should be no more than 3-5 rules.  He also feels that changes can be made if a situation arises that calls for it.  Consequences can be positive or negative but should be plainly stated.

Mr. Wong's Cardinal Principle of Consequences: Do NOT stop teaching to give out a consequence!

Wow, it that hard to do or what?  Sometimes it is almost impossible.  I have found that this is really a challenge for me.  I am going to have rethink a few things.  What about you?

I must say the most fun Wongism is this one: greet your students at the door.  This is not a huge chapter in his book but almost a small aside.  He mentions it and there is a great picture of him smiling at the classroom door and holding out his hand in greeting.  He does say this, "What you do the instant the student enters the...classroom communicates immediately if the student is welcome there."  I love this.  I believe it sets the tone for the day.

I actually delay opening my door a few minutes so that I can have most of my students outside when I open my door.  I love, love, love looking them in the eyes and saying, "Good Morning!"  I am the master at a sideways, one-armed hug!  A few students prefer a touch on the shoulder or a handshake and that is fine too.

The other day I got a note from a student.  I know it is hard to read but the bottom says that "you greet us in the morning and we say it back."  Love!

I think that for some of my students it may be the only smile, welcome, and hug that they get in a day.  Here is a quote my friend found and posted on Facebook the other day.  I think it sums it up quite nicely.

In all of procedures and rules, consequences and rewards, an effective teacher has to be consistent.

Day in, day out, Monday through Friday, August through June, we teachers have to maintain our stance.  We cannot waver. We have to diligently plan,  be persistent in our procedures, and unfailing in our devotion to our job and our students.  We cannot give in to aching feet, soccer mom-itus, or baby-stayed-up-all-night-blues.  We have to perform every day at optimum ability or close to it.  Because our students need us- day in, day out, Monday through Friday, August through June.

I am trying my best not to fail them.


  1. Hi Ladies!
    I too LOVE Harry Wong! I read it every year before starting school and I taught for 15 years! It's all so true. My struggle was always consistency. That's even where I struggle as a parent. :) Great blogging topic!

  2. I love this post. When I first started teaching, my principal bought the Wong book for me because she saw I was struggling. I greet my students every day because of that book. That quote from Facebook is perfect! Well done!


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