How Routines Will Strengthen Your Class


Students learn best when they are able to focus on teaching and learning activities.  Chaos, however, sometimes lurks in the corners of your classroom, waiting to sneak in during times when students do not know what is expected of them, especially during transitions.  When you are clear in your expectations, and students know and have practiced routines, classroom management become infinitely easier.  And, believe it or not (although it may not seem like it at times), students crave an ordered and structured learning environment so they can unleash their full learning capabilities.

In order to maximize instructional time, increase student engagement, and allow more emphasis on learning, here are some great times to incorporate routines in your classroom.

Getting Class Started

How will your students enter your room?  Do you want them to line up outside first?  Or should they come in quietly and read the agenda that you’ve written on the board?  Having this agenda save yo the familiar refrain from students of “what are we doing today?” and makes many students more at ease.  Once the students are seated and the bell has rung, what do you do next?  Do you read the agenda aloud?  Do you make general announcements?  The next logical step before starting your instruction or learning activities is to go over the learning objectives with the students so that they know what they are accountable for learning for the day.  If you establish an opening routine with some of these ideas, the transition to starting your teaching and your students’ learning will flow more smoothly.

Managing Behavior

Aside from starting class, there are other times when routine is essential to keeping things moving.  For instance, if students are working with a partner and you need to get their attention, what will your routine be?  Will you hold up a hand signal?  Will you strike a wind-chime?  Both visual and auditory cuing is excellent at getting students’ attention.  Just don’t blow a loud whistle!  A rookie teacher next door to me used to do that, and it was as equally annoying to me as it was to her students.  Also think about what your routines might be for students sharpening their pencil or going to the restroom.  I always advise that pencil sharpening only be permitted during work times.  Also, bathroom privileges should never be denied to a student, but if a student seems to be avoiding class or using their privilege frequently, it might be worth having a private conversation with the student and/or the parent to find out if everything is ok.  

Closing Class

Similarly to starting out the class, ending is equally important.  Too often, teachers lose control when the bell rings and the students run out of the room leaving the room in shambles without the homework or without showing what they’ve learned for the day.  Keep track of the time, and five minutes before the end, wrap up your lesson.  This will leave time to have students clean up their area, write down the homework, ask any final questions, and write down or state what they’ve learned for the day.  Remember, if the room isn’t clean or the homework isn’t written down, that you have the prerogative to keep your students until those items are completed.  You dismiss them, not the bell.

Passing Out and Collecting Supplies and Papers

If you don’t have a system, passing out and collecting papers can suck up precious class time.  Think about what works best for your students and classroom layout.  Typically getting help from one of two student monitors while the rest of the students remain seated is the quickest.  It is also important to show the students your preference for labeling or putting a heading on their assignments.  If your school of learning community doesn’t have a consistent format, think about what will be most useful for you and your students in terms of identifying their work.

Other Routines You Might Want to Think About

Is there an emergency protocol for your school for drills, or should you come up with your own?  

If a student arrives late, do they need a tardy slip?  

If students finish an assignment early, what should they do next?  

What are your grading and homework policies, including make-up work or extra-credit?

 How quickly will you grade student work and return it?  

All of these are important routines to think of in advance.


Routines will not work unless your perform a few practices with them.  First of all, when you go over the routine, be concise and clear, and give the students a rationale for why they will be using it: this will ensure they will understand and be more invested in the particular routine.  Next, you must clarify any confusing parts of the routine, and then model it.  Once you have modeled it, give the students a few chances to practice it.  It is best to only teach one new routine a day, otherwise it gets too confusing.  It takes a few days for the routine to become ingrained into your class culture, so be patient and don’t give up if it doesn’t go perfectly every time.  If you don’t use the routine consistently, it will not continue to work- so use it or lose it, or reteach it again!  Lastly, not all routines work for all classes, so see what works best for your population of students.
What routines have you incorporated into your class that have worked wonders?  Share in the comments.


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