Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Why routines in the classroom are important.

I'm an organised person and I like order to create a sense of calm, not only as a parent but also as a teacher. Just as having a routine at home ensures children feel safe and secure, having a routine in the classroom provides students with an organised and predictable environment that fosters the same feelings. 

One of the most daunting aspects of teaching is behaviour management, especially for graduate and returning teachers. Disruptive beahviour, which can include excessive talking and interupting to the more serious offenses of defiant and aggressive behaviour, can become a major cause of stress and teacher burnout. Accommodating for all the individual needs within a class can seem like a big task, but a wise teacher acknowledges the differences and makes an effort to understand where each student may be "coming from". These teachers will also recognise the importance of the 'tone' or feeling of the classroom and the importance of developing an emotional emotional climate. One of the ways in which to create a positive emotional climate is to negotiate and establish rules and routines with students.

Routines in the classroom not only ensure that you get through the things that need to be done each day, research has shown that the use of specific routines for classroom activities can increase time on task (Konza, Grainger & Bradshaw. 2006. p48). Teachers who clearly communicate rules and expectations regarding desired behaviours have more successful students. Careful consideration needs to be given to how you establish a workable routine and organise your classroom - this includes the physical layout of your classroom, the organisation of equipment and organisation of transitions - so that you are minimising the chance of interuptions and disruptions. 

Some of the routines and strategies you should consider are:
How do you want your students
entering and exiting the classroom?
  • Entry and Exit Procedures: Explicitly explain to students how you want them to line up outside the door before entering the classroom and what they should do once they've entered the classroom, such as putting equipment away/getting equipment out, sitting at their desks or on the floor. The same needs to happen for the end of a learning activity - explicitly explain to students that the teacher will direct them to pack up, explain how equipment/books will be collected and how they will be dismissed.
  • Gaining Student Attention: You need to establish a strategy for gaining students' attention - for infant students it may be repeating a simple clapping rhythm for them to copy, using a key word or phrase such as 'freeze' or 'eyes to me', ringing a bell or playing chimes. For primary and high school students you may want to gain eye contact with a few students, use a key phrase, thank or reward those cooperating and identify students not paying attention by name.
  • Gaining Teacher Attention: You need to set clear expectations of how students can get your attention - this could be as simple raising their hand or using a sign. You may need to establish different methods for different lessons and this will be an individual thing.
Provide activities for
those that finish their work early.
  • Fast Finishers: Provide motivating activities for when students finish their set work early to lessen the chance of them creating a distraction and disruption. If you have the same students finishing their work fast consistently then you may need to look at establishing an extension program.
  • Collection and Distribution of Materials: Different systems work but SOME system is needed - this could be using colour-coded trays for books, labeled trays and containers on desks and side boards for equipment such as pens, pencils, textas, paint, brushes etc.
  • Classroom roles and responsibilities: Create a set of classroom jobs and rotate students through these - this will foster a sense of responsibility in students and ensure order and routine in the classroom (you won't have 10 kids running to hand out books, or 5 kids clambering to turn on/off the lights).
Check out my Classroom Organisation Pinterest board for inspiration and ideas.
Remember, kids are not mind readers. Take time at the beginning of the school year (or when you start teaching a new class) establishing and practising routines to help ensure you are making the best use of your classroom time. Consider allocating 20 -30minutes at the start of each day for the first week or two training students in such things as classroom communication, transitions between activities, entering and exiting the classroom, distributing books and equipment, starting work etc. 

***NOTE: You should also try to limit the number of distractions and interruptions that could come from other teachers and staff members by means of requests for equipment, messages and communication from the office. If you feel that interruptions of this nature are interfering with your teaching then bring this up at a staff meeting - schools are responsible for ensuring their communication systems facilitate your teaching, not hinder it (Konza, et. al. 2006).

Konza, D., Grainger, J. & Bradshaw, K. (2006). Classroom Management: A Survivial Guide. Social Science Press: South Melbourne.


  1. These are some really helpful ideas, thank you so much for creating this blog

  2. Why are classroom routines important