There are so many routines to teach early in the school year–it can be a bit overwhelming. Where do you begin?

Of course, there is no one right answer–no definitive list. One way to start is to think about ones your students need to successfully navigate the first day.

A few that I always teach first are:

  • Responding to the signals to get the attention of the class: Without being able to get the quiet and respectful attention of the class, we won’t get very far. I use both a simple hand signal and a gentle wind chime. (When I raise my hand or ring the chime, students wrap up conversations and work efficiently and then turn their attention to me.)
  • Moving chairs around the room: Since students travel from the circle area to table groups and back throughout the day, this one is key. It needs to be safe and orderly.
  • Signing out to use the bathroom or visit the nurse: This is one to teach early on the first day for obvious reasons!
  • Walking in the hallways: We need to get to recess, lunch, and a special, so this is another important one. We practice by taking a tour of the school, giving all students a chance to see changes that have happened over the summer while getting a much-needed mid-morning movement break.

More Ideas from Educators:

I was recently working with a fantastic group of educators from Fairgrounds Elementary School in Nashua, NH. As part of our two-day workshop to get ready for the new year, we generated a list of routines to teach in the first few days of school. Though we only spent a few minutes brainstorming, we came up with 45 ideas!

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Notice that some of these ideas are specific (where to put lunch/snack) and some are quite broad (using the classroom library). That’s okay–broader ideas can be broken down into smaller chunks (using the library: taking out books, putting books back, etc.). This is hardly an exhaustive list. If we’d spent another 5-10 minutes, we probably could have doubled the number of routines to model early in the year.

Once you know what to teach, consider how best to do so. Make sure to do more than simply state expectations (“Walk quietly in the halls!”) or demonstrate without giving students a chance to practice. Effective modeling is active and interactive. Click here to see four key components of effective modeling and to see a couple of examples of great modeling in action. Sometimes, eliciting ideas from students can be part of a modeling session, or it might be enough on it’s own. Check out this video to see how I helped a group of third graders get ready to have effective partner chats about a book.

Eliciting Ideas from Students from Mike Anderson on Vimeo.

A little time invested in teaching the routines of the room pays huge dividends throughout the year. Students will feel safer, be more independent, and you’ll be able to spend more time focused on teaching and learning.