A new year is on the horizon and, if you’re anything like me, the wheels in your “teacher brain” are already turning. A huge part of setting the foundation for a successful year is also thinking through routines and procedures you want to incorporate in your classroom. Our goal as teachers is to…well, teach. But this can’t be done when valuable moments are wasted on passing out papers because students are uncertain about the routine for that particular task. As you plan for a new year, take a few moments to read through these tips to help you set successful routines in your classroom:
Think through each part of your day to prepare for all routines
Once you know what your schedule looks like, think through your day. Consider what you want your transitions to look like. Are students moving from the carpet to their desks or vice versa? Are students moving to another part of the building? All of these things need to be considered, so that you can begin to think about how you want students to move in your classroom. Transitions can be just that – a quick change from one block to the next or they can become a time of chaos where essential learning time is wasted. If you put in the work now to plan through each routine, you can make every moment count!
Think through each step of your routines
Each routine should be broken down into bite-sized steps, especially for younger students. I find it helpful to even write down the steps to help me internalize the steps before I teach my students. For instance, if you are thinking through how students pack up at the end of the day, you wouldn’t tell students to get their stuff and hope for the best! You would need to tell them to first, wait for their table to
the called. Then, stand in line at their mailboxes to retrieve their folders and papers for the day. Next, they should grab their backpack from their hook and head to their desk. Finally, they should put their folder in their backpack. Now, students have specific steps for how they will pack up their belongings. They will also know exactly what you are looking for.
Once your students arrive on the first day, they need to be introduced to the routines that are going to help them become autonomous. I take a lot of time that first week to go through each step of a routine with students and practice with them. It may seem silly to practice getting in and out of line, but investing that time up front will pay off in future weeks. I’ve found it helpful to post the steps for certain routines that students struggle with most in the classroom as anchor charts for the first few weeks.
Make time for adjustments.
The great thing about the first couple of weeks of school is that you have time to get to know your new students through team building activities and games. You also have time to adjust any of those pre-planned routines. Sometimes the routines don’t work the way you visualized when your students are actually there. If that happens, don’t be afraid to change them to fit your students.
As you practice your routines with your students, make sure to be consistent with corrections. Sweat the small stuff with students! If you want routines to look a certain way, push for 100% of your students to complete each step you visualized. If you sweat the small stuff now, you won’t have to later. Use your classroom incentives when they are successful with the routines. That also makes it more fun so that it isn’t tedious for them as they practice.
Enjoy your well-oiled machine.
Once you have these routines set in place in your classroom, you won’t have to spend extra time on reminding students how to transition from area to area or passing things out. A couple of months into the year, I found that as students moved, I had to do very little talking and give very few reminders. I feel like the most successful teacher when I’m able to watch my students put into practice what we have practiced repeatedly.
If you enjoyed this discussion on classroom procedures, you may enjoy Kelsey Lyman's advice on what works in her classroom at KIPP 3D Academy.