32 Classroom Routines Every Teacher Needs

› Routines

Is it a waste to spend the first month of school practicing classroom routines?  I say it's a waste not to, as you may end up spending more time putting out fires than teaching without practicing essential skills necessary for your "classroom health."

Routines help with time management in the classroom. They also help children to know what is expected of them and how to perform independent tasks.

Predictable schedules, rules and transitions are all a part of creating a place where kids know exactly what to do and teachers don't get migraines (sometimes!).

rules for the classroom

About 10 years ago I started practicing our routines for the first month of school.  We practice everything now - from how to get a pencil to how to read with a buddy.

Some people may think that sounds ridiculous, but it isn't.  If kids know what exactly what you want them to do, the majority will happily comply.  They just need time to practice it.

To my surprise, I actually found that when I consistently practiced with my kids what I wanted them to do, they performed better in everything.  They were happier too, which confirmed my belief that kids who have structure are more confidant and willing to work harder.  

Another benefit?  Everyone felt less stressed and we accomplished more!

So here are my 32 tips for developing great classroom routines - I guarantee they will work for you too.

Creating an Optimal Environment

Focus on classroom organization at the beginning of the year:

  • Plan activities to personalize students' entry into your room (be at the door, welcome letter)
  • Meet with all the parents early on - they want to see you and know who will be working so closely with their child
  • Classroom set up: arrange materials in a predictable manner that are easy for students to access
  • Organize and label all materials. Labeling is essential for students who are learning a second language and are in the preproduction or early prediction stages.
  • Make the classroom feel like home. Adding a few plants, softer lighting and dedicated areas for a reading library can help.
  • The classroom set up should include a personal space for each child that belongs to them only. Examples of this are name tags on desks, lockers, pouches over the back of each chair, and a book box for each child's independent reading from IPICK or Reading Karate.
  • Have a predictable daily schedule that you post in the classroom. If your students are non-readers, use pictures to show the order of the day.
  • Develop a classroom discipline plan that follows your management plan and students can easily understand.
  • Give students specific jobs and responsibilities makes it a student centered classroom.
  • Design the classroom so that there are areas for both social interaction and quiet areas not associated with punishment.
  • Create a positive environment by regularly using classroom awards to promote motivation.

Facilitating Transitions with Classroom Setup and Routines

  • Plan a predictable daily schedule with activities that are appropriate in length for your age groups.
  • Schedule longer blocks of time in the classroom to minimize transitions.
  • Give a "heads-up" before a transition is going to occur.
  • Develop transition activities to help children switch gears (a song, calling student numbers, a quick game).
  • Ask students to repeat instructions back to you.
  • Use multi-modal signals to prepare children for transitions. This is particularly important for different learning styles.
  • Practice transitions through modeling and repetition. Show the students desired and undesired behaviors that are expected as part of all classroom routines.

Essential Activities that Require Routines

  • Beginning the day
  • Entering and exiting the classroom
  • Heading papers
  • Sharpening pencils or retrieving supplies
  • Collecting and handing out papers
  • Leaving the classroom for a bathroom or drink break
  • Signaling the teacher during guided reading time
  • Asking a question
  • Tornado, hurricane, fire or lock-down procedures
  • What to do when finishing work early
  • Lunch and attendance count
  • Snack time, if needed
  • Cleaning the room; when to perform classroom jobs
  • Dismissal

Remember to always have copies of your classroom routines for both students and parents.

To get the best results, you must review the expectations and routines, discuss them and provide lots of practice for kids to internalize your expectations about your organized classroom.

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