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  • Writer's pictureAlways Upper Elementary

Tips for Building Routines at the Beginning of the School Year

Updated: Mar 9, 2023

Establishing routines and procedures is a key component of classroom management that begins on the first day of school. As teachers, we are always refining our classroom management techniques because establishing expectations is so crucial for a smooth school year.

Here are 4 tips that you can use to build solid routines this fall in your classroom:

1. Go visual!

This visual is an example of a slide I put up on my whiteboard every single day. This slide is not super cute or flashy, but it is functional.

I use very few words and pictures to represent each item students need for their independent work time. These visuals not only help my SpEd and EL students, but actually all students. When I put this slide up on my whiteboard, my students know exactly what to do. When I pair my verbal directions with visual slides like this one, I have a much higher success rate of getting students on task and working right away. That being said, I create one page slides for other routines as well because they are so effective.

2. Repetition with a TWIST

A common tip for building routines is having students repeat procedures when they do not go very smoothly the first time. I like to use this tip with a little twist! For example, I will give my students directions to move from their desks to their carpet spots. After I give them directions, I (relatively discreetly) video my students on my work iPad completing the routine. Once students are up to the carpet, I play the video for them to see as a whole group. This gives my students the opportunity to see what they actually look like as they are moving around the classroom. They have a chance to hear their actual volume, see their body language, and feel how long the procedure took to complete. After we view the video together, we talk about what went well and which improvements need to be made. Then, I delete the video and say that we are going to have a “do over.” I record my students doing the routine a second time and then play the second video for students to see.

I have found this method to be incredibly effective because students love having a second chance to make things right, especially when they know they are being recorded the second time. Often, students don’t realize what they look or sound like as they are moving around the classroom. This method gives students a chance to see their body control and hear their voice level. Using this tip has motivated my students because they can literally see their improvement from video 1 to video 2.

3. Consistency is key!

Every morning, I have my students complete the same morning routine. Every afternoon, I have my students complete the same end of the day routine. I do this because my students really appreciate knowing what to expect.

Every single morning we start our day with a morning meeting. We all sit in a circle as we watch the school-wide news, say our class pledge, greet each other, and share together. My students love this consistency because it is safe and predictable. My students come to school with all sorts of baggage and emotions—happiness, sadness, worries, frustration, anxiety, and the list goes on! With so many unpredictable variables in their lives, my students know that they can at least count on starting their morning and ending their day with the same, solid routines. These procedures create a sense of calm for my sweet kiddos who are trying to navigate so much.

4. Make time for student reflection

This tip works well when it is paired with tip #2, but it is also effective if you use it in isolation! After performing a specific classroom routine for the first few weeks of school, I take the time to ask my students two questions: What went well? What didn’t go very well? Students are very responsive to these two questions and are quite insightful as they share what they think went well and what could be improved upon for a specific classroom routine. For example, students will say things like: “One thing that went well was that most of us had calm bodies.” Or students will say, “We were at a voice level two and it was pretty loud.” Student responses are usually very honest. It is often difficult to delay the start of a lesson because there is so much content to cover, however, giving students the time to reflect pays off in the long run. It helps develop self-awareness and encourages all students to do their part to make things run smoothly in the classroom.

If you end up trying any of these techniques with your class, let me know what you think by sending me a message over on Instagram @always.upper.elementary or tagging me in your posts! I would love to hear about which tips worked best for you! :)

Also, make sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link! You will be the first to know about my sales, freebies, and newest products.

Happy teaching!


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