Why You Need to Spend 6 Weeks Teaching Classroom Routines

I remember the first time someone told me I needed to spend 4-6 weeks (4 to 6 WEEKS!) teaching my students how to do simple things like putting their names on their papers, bringing their notebooks to class, and closing the classroom door quietly.

Watch Behaviors Before AcademicsI felt overwhelmed and panicky, and my first thought was, “I don’t have time for that! I have too much curriculum to cover!”

Can you relate?

To answer your question, “Do I really need to spend weeks on classroom routines?” The answer is YES.

Out-of-Control ClassOne year I had a really great class, so I didn’t think I needed to spend as much time teaching behavioral skills. WHAT A MISTAKE! Their behaviors started getting worse and worse until I eventually completely lost control of the class – to the point that I reached the point of no return. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get my “nice” class back.

Behavioral skills such as bringing materials to class, putting your name on your paper, asking for help, sharing space with other students, and so on, are foundational to academic learning. Behaviors that facilitate learning come first – THEN you can cover your curriculum effectively.

Jumping right into teaching your curriculum without thoroughly teaching classroom routines is the same as trying to teach essay-writing before your students know the alphabet – it’s just going to be frustrating and counterproductive for everyone.

So take a deep breath, quell your panic, and commit to helping your students create positive learning habits that will serve them for a lifetime. The time you invest now will save you hours later on.

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com

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Would You Like a New Class?

My first year of teaching, I had what I thought was a horrible class. Every day I would dream those awful kids were gone, and a brand-new set of kids was in their place. Nice kids who would listen and not taunt me all day long.  I wanted a new class.

Would you like a new classThen one day the counselor had to take over because my students had gotten out of control. Within seconds she had them all sitting up straight, quiet, and listening with respect. Wait! Why wouldn’t they do that for me? They were like a new class, but with the same students.

Why the big difference? Human beings (aka our students) will respond differently depending on the situation. In the case of the counselor, they had an ongoing relationship with her that was different than their relationship with me. She knew what they were interested in. She knew their families. And she even knew their secrets. So they acted different when she was in charge.

This brings me to the first thing that needs to change if you want a new class: interactions.

Change InteractionsInteractions

If you find your interactions with your students have become a list of to-dos and not-to-dos, try talking to them about non-school things every once and awhile. Ask about their interests. Let them feel that you notice them as people. While I can’t guarantee that changing your interactions will instantly transform your students into a whole new class, I have seen this strategy work when nothing else will.

environmentPhysical Environment

Secondly, change the physical environment. Rearrange the seating. Change the colors. Change the lighting. Add in music. Add a carpet. Take away some clutter. People (including our students) respond to their physical surroundings. When those surroundings change, chances are their behavior will too. It’s like a whole new class!

Change Systems and RoutinesSystems and Routines

And finally, change up your systems and routines. If the old way isn’t working, it’s time for a new way.

I recommend two exercises from my book The Take-Charge Teacher: “What’s Bothering You?” followed by “The Ideal Class Activity.”

The “What’s Bothering You” activity isn’t hard: make a list of anything that’s bothering you in your class.

Then for the “Ideal Class Activity,” imagine what a perfect class would do, step by step. This will then turn into your new systems and routines.

TemplatesWould you like templates for these two activities? You can get them here, along with all the other resource materials from The Take-Charge Teacher, totally free. Just let me know where to send them, and they’ll be on their way.

Instead of spending the rest of the school year wishing and hoping for a new class, why not try new interactions, a new environment, and some new routines? Things will almost certainly improve, at least a little. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even get that brand new class you’re wishing for.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina Ayres, PositiveTeachingStrategies.com


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