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Teaching Procedures with Interactive Modeling

Teaching Classroom Procedures with Interactive Modeling text with students in a line

One of the most successful classroom management strategies I’ve learned about is the process of interactive modeling to introduce procedures in my classroom. I previously had not done a very good job teaching my students classroom procedures. I had this idea that they knew what they were supposed to do because they were in classroom before. While I would go over a few things that I felt I needed to, I left my kids to their own wonderings. My classroom management definitely suffered as students struggled to navigate unknown expectations. Interactive modeling changed how I spent the first few days of school and helped me improve my classroom management.

What is Interactive Modeling?

In short, interactive modeling is the procedure you use to teach your students classroom procedures and routines. It’s a process of modeling and practicing that makes the expectation and procedure crystal clear. The same seven-step process can be used for teaching virtually any procedure and routine. The simple steps are outlined below:

  1. Name the procedure you will model and why it’s relevant.
  2. Model the procedure exactly as you expect students to do it. Don’t describe it. Just model.
  3. Ask students what they noticed. I usually ask students to give me one detail they noticed and then move on to another volunteer. You may have to do a bit of prompting until students get used to describing it. I also sometimes explicitly state something students aren’t identifying on their own.
  4. Invite one or more students to model the procedure. This is a great opportunity to bring some eyes to students that thrive with positive attention and seek attention in unwanted ways.
  5. Again ask students to describe what they noticed. Restate the specific components that you expect to see.
  6. Have all students model while you observe.
  7. Provide feedback explicitly stating the expectations and give positive reinforcement for those expectations. Use this time to gently redirect any missteps.

That’s it! For many procedures, the entire process only takes a few (3-4) minutes. It’s important to remember that you don’t expect students to master every routine and procedure the first time you do it. The next time that procedure or routine comes around, begin with asking for a model to demonstrate the procedure. By revisiting it, you have the opportunity to reinforce what your expectations are while reminding students what each of the components are. Your model and practice routine gives students positive feedback as they’re learning and helps establish the routine in students’ muscle memories. When I revisit it, we jump right into step 4 so it’s even quicker than the first time. It’s rare that I need to be the model again as there’s typically a student that remembers the expectations well and is a great class model.

Classroom Procedures to Model

I now hold the belief that anything and everything should be modeled in the classroom. Every movement. Every tool that is used. Everything. The time you spend modeling in the beginning saves you so much time and energy throughout the year! Here’s a list of some of the procedures I typically model in the beginning of the year. You can also download a pdf of the List of Classroom Procedures to Teach.

Classroom Procedures to Teach during the first week of school

I use interactive modeling throughout the year- not just during the first week. When students aren’t following the procedures I know, and I’ve been lax with my reinforcement, we need to revisit. Sometimes that means I model again with students identifying what they notice. Most times, though, I choose students to model that I know haven’t been following that expectation. Again, this gives me the opportunity to positively reinforce the expectations, and helps us all get back on the right track. We don’t only do interactive modeling when procedures are getting sloppy, though. When I expect us to have a difficult time (because it’s the day after break, or we’re super excited to go to a guest speaker) I ask for a model before we do that procedure so we can be sure to do it right the first time.

One of the things I have to focus my mental efforts on is focusing and reinforcing the positive. I can struggle, at times, with identifying my students’ missteps. When I feel like I’m in a rut, I give us some time to reinforce our expectations with interactive modeling. It gives students practice on what they need to improve on, and forces me to focus on the positive with them. It helps us all reset and get back on the right track.

Why is Interactive Modeling so Effective?

The steps of interactive modeling include explicit instructions, visual models, positive reinforcement, student engagement, and immediate assessment and feedback. You’re able to address misconceptions immediately. Interactive modeling also gives you the opportunity to give positive attention to individual students that thrive on class attention. The change in my classroom from utilizing interactive modeling was astounding. The problem with my students’ lack of procedure following had been me all along!


Interactive modeling is a component of the Responsive Classroom approach. You can read more about interactive modeling on Responsive Classroom’s posts. You can also read more of my posts on Classroom Management and you can also see all of my Classroom Management products.

Teaching Procedures with Interactive Modeling with students in line


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