Routines: Less Stress, More Time

Routines in your classroom are like the framework of your house. They hold it together while great things happen inside. Investing thought, time and energy into establishing routines creates a classroom that most often runs smoothly: frustration, interruptions and opportunities for misbehavior are minimized. Students feel safe and comfortable, and are more able to focus on learning. Involving students in developing, practicing and improving classroom routines helps ensure that they feel a sense of belonging and contribution to their class community.

Everything that is done repetitively in the classroom should have an established process (routine):

  • Entering the class and getting into seats
  • Forming a line
  • Procedures for working in groups
  • Cleaning the room at the end of the day etc.

Adults often assume that students can remember and follow through on long sequences. Routines need to be taught:

  • The educator models each routine.
  • Students practice regularly with gentle reminders until they learn.
  • In the first week of school build your structure gradually, teaching only two or three new routines a day while reviewing the “old” ones.
  • Visual cues are helpful.
  • Practice, practice, practice.

Routines need follow up:

  • Notice when the routine is working. Pause and reflect.
  • When it isn’t working: pause, reflect and practice fixing it (over and over). Routines are helping to grow new neurons and they don’t grow overnight.

Routines can be fun. For example:

  • Moving into a circle can be done to music. You can use a particular TV theme song or other piece of music to prompt a different routine. Have the song be the exact length of time that students have to complete the task.   Hundreds of TV theme songs are available to download for free from
  • The day can start with a group song or chant
  • The day can finish with a goodbye handshake.

When the unexpected happens it often throws a “wrench” into your routine. When students become proficient at your routines try throwing an imaginary  “wrench” into the mix – Practice “What if…?” situations.  For example:

  • “What if table groups went longer than we thought, and now we only have 3 minutes to line up for lunch instead of 5?”
  • “What if you arrive in the morning and see that there is a substitute teacher…would that change any routines in our class?”

Routines that are practiced, maintained and improved are the foundation for a successful classroom, in which everyone thrives.  More on routines.