You invested hours and hours of time and energy in the first six weeks of school teaching and practicing routines, and it made a huge difference. Students knew what to do and how to do it, and your classroom (usually) ran smoothly. Now, your students have just spent a week or two at home. Their routines have all been different, and many of them may have lost track of how school works. A return from the holiday break provides the perfect chance to recalibrate and get everyone back on the same page.
A Few Key Ideas
- Be proactive. Think ahead about the most important routines students need to remember so that the first few days run smoothly. Revisit these routines before (or just as) they’re needed.
- Be clear about purpose. Following routines shouldn’t be an exercise in compliance for students. Make sure to remind students why each routine is important. (“Walking quietly in the halls allows other classes to stay focused.” “Making eye contact while conferring in writing helps you listen well and show respect for your partner.”)
- Don’t overdo it. Use the various strategies listed below to give students just the right amount of revisiting—enough so they can be successful but not enough so they get bored or feel condescended to.
- Observe your students. Don’t worry if you don’t anticipate every routine that might need attention. Watch your students, and you’ll quickly see which ones you missed!
Strategies for Revisiting Routines
- Brief demo: If seeing a positive model of a behavior or routine might be helpful, give a brief demonstration or ask a student to give one. (“Let’s remember how we use our chill out chair to regain self-control. Who can show us what that looks like?”)
- Abbreviated modeling: When more than a brief demo is needed, you might use a couple of the steps of effective modeling. For example, you might state the goal, give a brief demo, and then have all students practice.
- Ask for revisions: Were there some routines that weren’t working well? If so, ask the class for ideas about ways to adjust. “I remember that our routine for putting away devices was a bit bumpy before vacation. Who has an idea for how we might make it better?”
In addition to helping reestablish a smooth and efficient classroom, there are a couple of other benefits to revisiting routines in early January. For students who had little structure or supervision over vacation, this is a chance for them to recalibrate and get back into school mode. It also gives you a chance to reestablish your authority as they leader of the classroom. Also, remember that students may have lost some school stamina over vacation, and many are certainly tired. Reviewing routines gives you a chance to slide back into school gently, helping students catch their breath before diving full-on into projects and complex work.The Well-Balanced Teacher and The First Six Weeks of School. His latest book, Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn, offers practical strategies for using choice to differentiate learning and tap into students’ intrinsic motivation. Learn more about Mike and his work, or invite him to work with your school or district, through his website: www.leadinggreatlearning.com. Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.