Ask any veteran teacher, “what’s the best way to create a positive and productive environment in your classroom?” and you’ll hear the same answer over and over. Setting up a daily school routine is crucial. Our young students thrive in a safe and consistent environment.
Benefits of a Daily School Routine
A Calmer Classroom
Morning work and after recess/lunch/specials routines minimize disruptive behavior because students are engaged right away. Students learn that when they step into the classroom their “math/reading/writing brain” needs to turn on. Bell ringer work can be so helpful for this reason. Spiral Math, Spiral ELA, No-Prep Writing Pages, and Early Finishers are incredible resources.
These resources can be used individually or bound together in a convenient book. My students know that when they come in each morning they begin Spiral ELA. After first recess, they come in and work on their No-Prep Writing Pages. After lunch, they come in and work on Spiral Math. If they finish any task early? Well, Early Finishers are there when they’re needed. Every moment of instructional time is being used productively and students aren’t given the downtime needed to behave disruptively.
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Routines help students know and understand what is expected of them in terms of behavior and work output. Once students have established routines in place you won’t have to answer the question, “do I turn this in?” and “can I work with my friend?” Your students will know and the ones that forget will be reminded by the rest of your students.
An example of this might be teaching the routines associated with bell ringer work versus math centers. My students know that when they come in from lunch they are expected to take out their Spiral Math and work quietly and independently for 10 minutes. They self-correct their Spiral Math and put it away at the end of the 10 minutes. During math centers, they know they may work with a partner and are expected to submit answer sheets that show their work before they move to the “Teacher Table” station.
These are two very different sets of expectations but my students can easily switch between the two because routines have been established and they know what I expect.
Another great benefit? Routines foster independence! This serves a few purposes in your classroom. First, it gives your students a self-esteem boost. They may be little but they can do things on their own. Second, it frees you up to work with small groups or check in on individual students. Third, bathroom breaks, sickness, maternity/paternity leave are all real things. Your students will know what to do and will feel confident when/if someone needs to step into your teaching shoes.
Change is Stressful
We all know that for some of our learners, school is their place of stability and safety. A daily school routine keeps change to a minimum and offers a sense of security. Students may have instability outside of school but when they step into your classroom they know what to expect. Studies have shown that elevated levels of stress affect student’s cognitive abilities. In short, less stress = better learning!
Limit Power Struggles
Just like adults, kids like their freedom. School can feel constraining to some students which can result in some power struggles in your classroom. Things like, “I don’t want to do math!” or “I hate writing!” followed by sullen looks and a lack of productivity. Establishing daily classroom routines can nip a lot of this behavior in the bud. Instead of arguing with students about their next learning task, the conversation becomes clear statements like, “writing is what we do after our third recess” or “let’s look at the schedule together! See, math is after lunch.” It’s not an argument anymore, it’s just what we do.
What Kinds of Routines Do I Need?
Daily School Routines for Teachers
Students aren’t the only ones that need routines and procedures. Having routines in place for yourself has all the benefits you’ve just read about. Consider having routines for things like new student intake, substitute teachers, collecting and distributing work, submitting attendance and lunch counts, and any documentation you may need to gather on your students. The goal is to decrease your stress level and make difficult jobs as easy as possible. Check out more ideas for establishing healthy habits as teachers.
Daily School Routines for Students
Sometimes routines can be difficult to create because things that seem obvious to us, as adults, are not so obvious to our students. Walking in and silently starting morning work can seem like a no-brainer to us but to our learners, the obvious choice might be “walk to my friend’s desk, say good morning, tell my teacher about the dream I had last night, peek into the hallway and see if my other friend is here yet, get a drink of water, tell my teacher about what’s in my lunchbox.” We really need to put ourselves in our student’s shoes to get a good idea of the kind of routines that are needed. Walk through a day in your class and write down questions students may have. For example:
Create and practice routines for everything, no matter how small it may seem. The benefits, to both you and your students, of establishing these routines are worth the effort.
Part of our job as teachers is helping foster resiliency in our students. A daily school routine can feel like it takes the spontaneity out of teaching but it doesn’t have to! It’s so important to be able to veer off schedule for those unexpected teachable moments. Taking the morning to explore the super cool fire truck that showed up in the school parking lot won’t ruin your daily schedule. Students need to be able to adapt to changes. A daily routine simply acts as a safety net to make these sudden changes less stressful for your little learners.
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