The backbone of how your classroom runs on a day-to-day basis are the classroom routines you establish. Today we will walk through the pieces of routines you may have never expected, but will be key to feeling confident and in control.

This is a transcript of Episode 6 of the Simple Systems with Sam Podcast. If you’d prefer to listen to the episode, there is an episode player below the links section.

Episode Links

Listen Here

Simple Classroom Routines Transcript

Welcome back to part two of our classroom setup series. So in part one, we talked about setting up your different classroom policies. How you want to make sure that you are open and willing to changing them, and how you don’t need to come up with all of them on your own. Today, we’re going to start talking about routines. So I’m still keeping you out of your classroom just a little bit longer, just soaking up that summer, while still getting things done that you’re going to need for day one.

Classroom Routines Checklist

If you haven’t yet, please go ahead and follow the link in the show notes to get to sign up for your free classroom essentials checklist. This is the checklist that I am working off of as we walk through all of these different steps.

I’m not going to be able to talk about every single classroom routine today, but there you can find a really great start. And you might even have a couple that you know, you need to add. Again, this is really geared towards secondary. And so elementary teachers, you’re going to want another opinion on different things you need to add. But it’s going to get you started in the right direction. 

Why Classroom Routines

So throughout the day, we know the things that we want our students to get done. Even if you don’t know them, yet, there’s certain regular things that we want our students to get done. But it’s always going to go smoother if we know how we want them to get those things done. And that’s where our classroom routines come into place. 

Routines are so important because from infant to adult, we love the predictability of routines. That’s why I love a block schedule. Because I know when I have time dedicated to different things, they have a bell schedule, they know when they’re moving from class to class, and how long they have in between, we have a calendar so that we can predict when we have class off. And we always know what is expected of us when we have really great routines, which means that we’re not left wondering if we are doing enough or doing the right thing, we feel confident. 

That’s the kind of thing we’re going to set up for our students today is the predictability in the confidence that they know what they’re supposed to be doing and that they’re doing it the right way. And routines are everywhere within the classroom. So we’re going to start talking about how I want you to think about setting them up things that you really need to consider. And then when you need to modify them. 

Daily Step-by-step

So the first step to cover as many people as possible in the wide range of pre K through senior year that you might be teaching, I want you to walk through a normal day in your mind. And just all of the things that you are expecting your students to do. 

I’m going to walk you through how I would look at a day of freshman science. I’ve always taught freshman science. Freshmen are fun, but they definitely need a strong routine and strong structure in the classroom. So the things that I might think through are when they come into the classroom: what am I expecting them to do?

  • How are they going to be expected to turn in work?
  • How are they going to be expected to order their notes?
  • How are they going to be expected to put headings on their papers that they turn in for me so that I have all the information they need?
  • How can they be expected to find information for days that they were absent?
  • And then how are they expected to act while we are taking notes?
  • While we are doing collaborative work while we are doing labs… these are all little things that I am thinking through when I’m thinking about my freshmen. 

And like I said, there are a lot of routines that you can install throughout the day. But the more structure, the better off you’re going to be. 

Getting Started

So if I just stick with entering the classroom, because no matter no matter what grade you teach students enter the classroom. What is the first thing you want your students to do? Now Elementary, you might have a worksheet put out on the desk that they need to get started on right away after hanging up their backpack. For secondary, maybe it’s putting their phone in a pouch and they start on the work that is put up on the board, probably a bell ringer of some sort or finishing up prepping a homework assignment they need to turn in. 

What are the routines that you expect them to do at that time? And you need to write it down. Then you’re going to go through the day kind of adding to this list, what comes next? What are they expected to do? What is the routine. And once you get through most of the day, there are going to be some that you forget. And that is fine, because these are things that are always going to be added to.

Simplify the Classroom Routines

But once you get through the day, go back through and anything that has more than three steps needs to be simplified. This goes for any grade level. If you’re thinking about a kindergartener through even probably fifth grade, they are not going to be able to execute more than three steps reliably in all the routines that you’re going to have throughout the day. 

And if you think about someone in middle school through high school, it’s not only your routines, they have to know they have to know him for all of their teachers. So whether they have seven or eight other teachers throughout the day, it’s hard to keep all of that straight. And the more complicated you make it, the more questions you have to answer and the less confident your kids feel in their classroom. 

Classroom Routines for the Teacher

So once we’ve simplified them as basic as we can make it, then you need to go back through and almost in like a two column system, say, “This is what my students are doing, what do I need to do to make this system work as the teacher?” So if you are going to have a slide up at the front of the room every morning for whatever they need to do, whether it’s bellwork, whether it’s prepping for a lab, then you are going to have to build a routine of creating that slide. 

And you might need to think to yourself, when can I get these done? Well, when it’s something like that that’s happening on a daily basis. Since we can’t always prepare these reliably weeks and weeks in advance, then you’re probably going to need to have a time right before you leave school the day before that you create the morning side. 

If you are putting out papers on the desks, then you need to have a routine around when those papers are being copied, and when you are putting them on the desk. Now, it’s not that complicated. But this is just covering all of the steps that you and the students need to take to make these routines successful. 

Classroom Spaces

Then the next step is thinking through the classroom spaces that your students are going to need. If you are going to have them turn in homework as part of their entering the classroom routine, you need a spot for them to put homework in. This is going to come in handy when we finally talked about classroom spaces next week. But we are going to make sure that we have all of those essential spots set up that are going to support the routines we have. 

If you have a routine around who can be out of the classroom at any specific time, you’re going to need a hall pass spot where students can either check out through a QR code or take a hall pass so that you know who is gone. If you are going to have a routine around how students borrow supplies, like maybe calculators. They have to trade you something for a calculator, you are going to need a place where you can keep those items that they are trading you for the calculator. 

The Prep is Worth It

And I know this is probably starting to feel a little bit overwhelming. That’s a lot of routines on the student side on your side and then classroom spaces. But you are creating the backbone for how your classroom is going to operate on a daily basis. 

I just want you to know that this is something huge that a lot of teachers might not have those first few weeks. And then they spend the first few weeks worrying about the first few weeks, as well as realizing they need to put all these things in place because their classrooms just aren’t running as smoothly. 

Give it Time and Practice

And routines are going to take time, your students are not going to remember on day three, what you went through on day one and two. But once you have set up and practice these routines over and over again. With some patience, they are going to be able to execute it and everything is going to start falling into place. 

Classroom Routines Modifications

But what happens when it doesn’t all fall into place the way that you really hoped? There’s a couple of ways that you’re going to know that a routine just isn’t really working. And that’s if students are earnestly asking you how or what they’re supposed to complete next, even after they should have probably had the routine down. Whether or not students are executing the routine. Sometimes they just choose not to sometimes they didn’t realize that there was something they needed to be doing. And also if it feels like it’s burdening you, then you need to add a routine around simplifying it. 

This is something like classroom cleanup, handing back papers, possibly around how they pass in papers, how they turn in late work. Whatever is starting to feel overwhelming for you add another simple routine to put it on your students that then they can help you with so that you don’t have to do it all alone.

Making it Work

But when something isn’t working for your students, one of the easiest things to do is take a step back and say how could this be simpler? Ask them why they think it’s not working out and be very open to whatever the response is. 

For now, I want you to just think about the routines that you want in your classroom, how you want your students to do the things you want them to do. And feel free to ask any questions over on Instagram at engineer does education or simple systems with Sam podcast. And I will help you walk through any of the questions you have together. Because you don’t have to do this alone. 

Next time. We’re going to take the systems and routines and policies you’ve had in place and move it into the classroom actually doing a smart classroom setup with some tips that are different than ones you’ve heard, but are going to make your classroom be the effective machine it needs to be. See you next time.