Summer is coming to a close and Staples commercials are celebrating back to school for parents. Even as a teacher I got back to school jitters. Honestly, I got them worse as a teacher than I did as a student. The night before school started I always slept terribly because of the anticipation.
The most important part of the school year for teachers is the first days of school because that is when we are teaching classroom routines. Most of our students know they are going to be learning the teacher’s expectations during the first week of school. If you don’t spend significant time training your students on your classroom routines then this is the year to start. If our students don’t know our expectations and routines then it is going to be hard for them to learn the academics we have to teach them.
School is a system that relies on routines and processes for our students to understand teacher expectations and have a successful year.
My Classroom Routines
I love habits and routines. They help me be more efficient and productive. I love knowing what is coming up next so I am prepared for possible kinks and I can get a lot done.
Every school year I change my classroom routines a little bit. I like to try small changes, like how I am going to have students turn in their work. Some of these depends on the group of students I have, or it can be I want to change things up or see if a new idea works better.
The Best Classroom Routines for You
It would be so nice if I could give you a daily classroom routines pdf so that all the work is done for you, however, your routines have to be specific to you and your classroom. There right answer, but there is a way to plan and make routines easier for you.
Why is Setting Classroom Expectations Important?
Of course we want our classrooms to run smoothly. No one wants chaos in the classroom. We set expectations high in our minds and tell our students our expectations are high. Then we have to spend several days or even weeks explaining the routines we have decided on to our students.
We dive into some of the basics like a school tour. What is the schedule? Details about specials, lunch and recess. Maybe we have students meet any new teachers that are going to be a part of their regular school weeks.
This is all good and important stuff, but it won’t help avoid the chaos. The truth is most of us teachers do not break down our expectations into small enough chunks. We assume our students will have many good habits from past years in school. But they might not. We assume our students will understand how we are different from other teachers and so our expectations will be different. But they don’t.
We can’t assume.
It’s well worth it to spend the whole first week of school on expectations by going through routines and procedures you will be using for, likely, the entire school year. Spending this extra time on the front end will make the school year more efficient in the end.
Routines and habits are vital to a successful school year. Let’s break this down a little bit more. Routines are repeated actions. They are a series of actions that require some thought and effort. When you are first introducing routines your students are going to have to think about them a lot. It’s going to take time for them to follow your routines.
Habits are repeated actions that we do with little thought. If we skip an action that is a habit it’s uncomfortable and feels wrong. Slowly over the school year we see our students switch from routines to habits. Its a few tasks at a time of course, but suddenly you are not reminding your students to turn in their homework, or take out a pencil to write down their homework. You turn around and these routines you have been talking about, since hopefully day one are seamless.
How to Use Classroom Routines in Your Classroom
We want our classroom routines to become habits for the whole school year. That’s the goal. We want our students to make transitions and go to the bathroom without causing disruptions in learning.
When you layout classroom routines the goal is to make them a habit that will make the school year better. That is why you should be very particular about how you want each and everything to be done, write it out if necessary. If you don’t set some kind of expectation for all of the daily routines in your classroom your students will end up with bad habits.
Planning Your Classroom Routines
It’s so worth it to take time to really think about what routines you want to create in your classroom. There isn’t a perfect answer to this question. It’s about finding a a balance between who you are as a teacher, and who your students are.
These four steps will help you identify, create and teach successful classroom routines.
Think about the flow of your school day and how you want transitions to happen and each subject to run. Think about how your students will get to lunch, recess and specials. Think about arrival and dismissal. What aspects of classroom life do you want to become habits for your students? Make sure you have a clear vision of how you want your classroom to run.
- Plan and Break Down Expectations
As you plan what routines you are going to teach your students do not assume that they know anything. You need to decide how you are going to break down each routine they are going to learn.
You are also going to need to plan when you will teach them each of these routines. It’s going to take more than one day for them to learn your routines. Prioritize the routines that should be learned first and the ones that can wait a little bit.
- Model Your Classroom Routines
Your students will understand your expectations better if you model them, just like you model a lesson. As you think about how you are going to teach your routines to your students do more than tell them about a routine. Leave time in your plan to model your expectations.
- Reteach as Necessary
You’ve spent time establishing the routine, but that doesn’t mean you are done with setting classroom routines. As problems arise and students act like the kids they are you are going to have to reteach routines throughout the school year. There will even be routines that you need to shift and change.
Welcome Back to School Routines that Teachers Need to Teach
Here are some suggested routines that you should break down and explain to your students. You will have to go through this list and think about what routines you need for your classroom. Remember, you can’t assume they know how to do any of these the way you want them to be done.
Getting Off The Bus And Where To Go
Entering The School Building
Walking In The Halls
Where To Put Lunch And Snack (If It’s A Different Place From Their Backpack)
What To Do If You’re Late or Tardy
How The Pledge And/Or Announcements Will Work
Turning In Homework
What Morning Work Will Look Like
Entering The Classroom
Technology (Do They Get To Use Computers And iPads In Class?)
Cell Phones (My Students Turned Them Off and Put Them In A Bucket)
Routines to Make the School Day Run Smoothly
Line Up For Specials, Lunch, andRecess
How To Enter/Exit Class For Pullout Services
What To Do When A Visitor Comes To Class
Behavior And Routines For Recess
Nurse, Bandaids, and Headaches
Getting The Teacher’s Attention
Visual Or Verbal Attention (Hand Signals)
Transitions Between Carpet And Desks
Transitions Between Subjects
Safe Movement In The Classroom
End Of Day Classroom Routines
Record And Get Homework Assignments
Get Homework Folder
Get And Pack Backpack, Lunchbox, and Coats
How They Will Wait For Dismissal (Carpet or Something Else?)
Last Minute Notes Home
Line Up For Bus/Dismissal
Academic Classroom Routines
Partner Turn And Talks/
Listening To Read-Alouds
How To Get Academic Materials
Turning In Work
What To Do When You’re Done With Work
How To Take Turns For Different Subjects
Putting Away Materials
Using The Class Library
Find A Just Right Book
Set Up Notebooks/Papers
Choosing A “Good” Spot For Working And Listening
What To Do When The Teacher Is Busy
How To Communicate Kindly With Classmates And How To Disagree Respectfully
How To Stand Up For Yourself (It’s Okay To Tell A Classmate No or Stop)
When They Need A Pencil or Supply
Directions Such As Answering In Complete Sentences
Respecting And Taking Care Of Class Materials (Whiteboard Markers Anyone?)
Absent Make-Up Work or Late Work
Be sure to check school-wide procedures and routines that you are supposed to follow before you create your own.
How Do You Use this Classroom Routines List?
- Print the list and cross out the routines that don’t apply to you.
- Highlight the routines you know you will need.
- Take time to visialize if the other routines listed could help your classroom this year.
- Write a sentence describing each routine you plan on using.
- Decide when you will introduce each routine, ie the first day, second day, second week, or as you get to that subject.
More Welcome Back to School Articles to Help You Start Your School Year
If you want more information about classroom routines to help you this fall check out these articles.
Routines are especially important for special education students. They are often overwhelmed by school and routines help make their days successful and full of learning. Check out the article here