The Gatekeeper

TECHNIQUE #45:  Threshold

This post shouldn’t take long; neither should this technique when executed properly.  I’vehadart16.jpg found a variety of video clips that differ in execution.  Threshold is the introductory strategy in Chapter 10 Systems and Routines; it is introductory in and of itself.  Systems and Routines require consistency and practice.  Establish the habit; Threshold is easy enough to implement at any point in the school year, although a lot of TLAC® techniques are best begun as practices at the beginning of the school year.  ‘Threshold : Meet your students at the door, setting expectations before they enter the classroom.  Recently, I’ve observed several middle school teachers putting this technique into practice and have done this myself, only as a means to give students a door quiz.

handstatue16The Benefits:

  • A means to begin investing heavily in systematic approaches to discipline
  • Establish a personal connection with students via a brief interpersonal check-in
  • Reinforce expectations as to how students should comport themselves before they enter the classroom.
  • Model professional civility
  • “Leverage the power of ritual to help students see, from the moment they enter your classroom, that it is different from the other places they go. 

Here is a very strong, formal Threshold video clip.  The teacher makes very direct, intentional eye contact with students, collects homework, explains the Do Now that is waiting for them in the classroom and alerts them to their assigned seat.  Very professional demeanor; low on the caring and sharing side of things.  All business; for the secondary level, I like this.


Hand shaking is one recommendation, if your hands aren’t full of papers to hand out or handplaymbl.jpgcollect, as mine frequently are.   Posture, comportment and eye contact are stressed throughout this section.  Reminding students to have a “firm handshake”, encourages self esteem and professionalism.  You can also build in some interspersed personal comments, “nice hair” or “thanks for tucking in your shirt”.  Here is a video clip of a very informal use of Threshold; I feel like the number of students in this classroom is alarming; as well, I’m not sure how to interpret the fist and elbow bumping.   The momentum is there however, the teacher greeting students at the door is always a symbol of formality.



  • Set the tone, “warm but industrious”
  • If a students, tone, appearance or actions are not up to code, quietly direct them to the end of the line, try again.
  • Threshold should not take away too many instruction minutes; ideally, have a Do Now waiting for students as they enter the classroom
  • Teacher should have a view to the students entering and also to the students that are in the classroom.
  • “Make it a habit of getting it right at the start of each day.“, (p.353)¹.

Here’s one final video clip; it demonstrates an entry routine that includes Threshold and a Do Now, and Every Minute Matters (timed activity).  You’ll notice the teacher does send a student to the back of the line, you’ll also notice that some of the students are hamming it up for the camera; whether or not the teacher notices this or not is hard to tell.  Very little down time is evident; this seems to be a very productive start to the class albeit formal.


Minus the qualifier “Manly”; the general idea is the goal.  If feel that it is in the students best interest to learn to give quick, professional handshakes and I love the idea of setting a formal, respectful examples for young people as they enter your classroom.  TECHNIQUE #46: Strong Start, which follows is simply a reiteration of Threshold and Do Now, and a few other techniques that have already been described in detail.  The key is ensure that class work starts immediately and effectively.  Editorially speaking, #46 Strong Start seems incredibly redundant and self-explanatory.   Although it’s placement in the text, conceptually makes sense, there is no new material or strategies presented.


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