Our schools are filled with varying degrees of structure. A highly structured teacher is prepared and proactive. He/she tends to follow a predictable schedule in the classroom. A low structured teacher is more flexible. A low structured teacher might say, “I go with flow.” He/she tends to be a bit more reactive, making decisions as the situation presents itself.
I’ve found that some teachers are timid to admit that they prefer a low structured environment. Low structured teachers are often a breath of fresh air. After all, there’s thousands of type A, highly structured teachers in the classroom- and we celebrate each teacher’s personal style!
Still, it’s not about us. We must think of our students. Like teachers, our desks are filled with both high and low structured students. Some of our students need the explicit, predictable schedules while others can handle “go with the flow” type situations.
Our low structured students can be successful in both types of classrooms, but a highly structured student may only be successful in a highly structured environment. If we have even one highly structured student on our roster, we must increase the structure of every situation to meet this child’s needs.
Dr. Randy Sprick, admired expert and founder of Safe & Civil Schools, talks more about creating a highly structured enviornement in his text, CHAMPS: A Proactive and Positive Approach to Classroom Management.
What does a highly structured environment look like?
Of course, this list is not comprehensive! Simply put, a highly structured teacher has created an environment in which each of his/her students can be successful. This will look different in each classroom- and that’s okay!
Err on the side of high structure. Every student (and teacher!) will benefit from well-planned, consistent procedures. You’ve heard this before- it’s easier to begin with a highly structured environment than to adopt it later in the year!
Implementing a highly structured classroom environment requires time to plan and teach routines to students. Still, you're only spending the money (better known as time) up front. Each of the characteristics listed above will need to be addressed at some point- and this is often when teachers lose of instruction time.
Remember, prevention beats intervention- every time!