Building Routines

Growing up, my parents ingrained within me the importance of routines and repetition.  Every morning I woke up at the same time, brushed my teeth, got dressed, ate breakfast, and ran to get in line for the bus.  It was the same thing every day.  As a parent, I am all about routine.  When my son was in elementary school, he would come home from school each day, enjoy a tasty snack, use the restroom, and complete his homework.  Then, he could go outside.  We wanted to instill the importance of hard work within him.  It seems to have helped.  He’s in the ninth grade this year and working hard.

As a teacher, forming routines are essential to what I do in the classroom.  As much as students say they dislike routines and being controlled, it helps keep the peace and creates a sense of safety amongst the students.  They crave routine.  They love knowing what to expect.  Inconsistency and not knowing creates fear and anxiety within children.  As teachers, we need to prevent that from happening.  So, one of the first things I try to do at the start of each new year is to build a routine within the classroom.  Each class period begins in the same manner.  There is soft music playing, the lights are off, and it is silent.  If students wish to speak, they do so in the hallway.  If they want to check their email or surf the Internet, they may do that silently inside the classroom.  If they have a question for the teacher, they may of course speak with that person quietly at the front of the room.  The room is quiet and reflective as a way to center and recalibrate the students.  This calmness allows class to begin in a serene manner.  The students need this.  It helps to begin class in a very positive way.

Each class I teach also has its own set of routines.  In Reader’s Workshop, the students know to read silently or update Goodreads.  There is no talking in the Reading Nook area.  If the students have a question they know to see the teacher when he or she is not conferencing with a student.  The students love this routine the most because it allows them a chance to read in a quiet setting.

In STEM class, each work period has its own routine.  During Math Days, the students, using their Haiku webpage as a guide, work through their individualized math unit.  They have their Math Notebook out and are solving the problems in them.  They work in small groups and ask their peers questions before seeking out the teacher for assistance.  We want to foster a sense of community within the classroom.  By working together and using their peers as teacher, a community of learners is generated.  We’ve found that the boys use more student-friendly language sometimes than we do and so they are better at explaining new concepts to each other.  This routine really helps foster a sense of compassion and empathy within the students.  It’s one of my favorite routines.

While creating routines are of a high importance to me as an educator, building them can be challenging and time consuming.  During the first few weeks of school, very little curriculum is covered in order to create these routines.  To some, it might seem like wasteful time, but to a trained teacher, they are crucial to setting the tone for a productive year.

Today during STEM class, the students worked on their math unit.  However, a good amount of time was spent reminding the students to ask two students before they ask a teacher, properly set up their Math Notebooks, and follow directions on Haiku.  Many students only completed a problem or two during the 40-minute work period.  However, most students are beginning to understand the routine and its purpose.  I’m hopeful that within a week or so, the students will have the routine down and we’ll be able to really delve into the content and concepts.  But, we can’t go deep-diving if the students don’t know how to record what they’ve learned or what to do when they have a question.  As Limp Bizkit, sort of, sang in one of their most famous songs, “We do it all for the routine!”