Activity

1.3: Learning about… classroom routines

Time allocation

45 minutes

Instructions

  • Read the text.
  • Study the examples for practice.
  • Make notes in response to the questions below.
  • You will discuss your notes with your mentor.

In this Block, you will learn the following

Learn that
7.1 Establishing and reinforcing routines, including through positive reinforcement, can help create an effective learning environment.
Learn how to
Establish effective routines and expectations, by:
7h. Creating and explicitly teaching routines in line with the school ethos that maximise time for learning (e.g. setting and reinforcing expectations about key transition points).
7i. Practising routines at the beginning of the school year.
7j. Reinforcing routines (e.g. by articulating the link between time on task and success).

Routines help establish a positive climate for learning

We are creatures of habit. Everybody has routines and we all recognise how disconcerting it can be when these routines are broken. We also know how hard it is to change bad routines once they have set in! The same goes for classrooms. Classroom routines ensure that frequently performed tasks are carried out correctly, consistently and efficiently. Routines represent predictability and security, which help pupils feel safe and confident. It is important to teach and embed good routines as soon as you have a new class. Ideally the routine will become habitual and for this to happen, we need it to become normal and expected in our classrooms. 

Watch the video of a teacher talking about how they establish their routines with each new class at the start of the year and answer the questions.

Video

Title

Establishing routines with new classes

Video type

Talking head

Short description

Teacher talking about how they establish their routines with each new class at the start of the year.

Guidance

  • What does the teacher do before they teach the routines?
  • How do they teach the routines? What information do they give pupils?
  • Is there anything that you can take to use in your practice?

Video transcript

It is really important that I teach my new class the expected routines as quickly and as seamlessly as possible. I am looking for these routines to become habitual for my class, so I need to embed these quickly.

Before I see my class, I make sure that:

  • I know exactly what routine I want my pupils to do.
  • I am clear on the steps of the routine.
  • I know why I want pupils to follow this routine.
  • I have considered things that could potentially go wrong.

I like to begin my routine from the very first time I see my class. This is so that they begin associating lessons with me as always beginning in a certain way and that my expectations are clear.

I take steps to explicitly teach my class the routine. To do this I usually:

  • Clearly explain to pupils what I would like to see them doing. For example, I might explain that every time I want books or equipment to be handed out, I will put a pile on each end of the table, and they will take one and pass them on.
  • I will explain the rationale behind the routine. For example, with the book and equipment, I would explain that I want to make sure we have the most amount of time possible for learning so we are going to be doing this to make sure we can begin as quickly as possible.
  • I will make pupils practise the routine until I am satisfied that they are clear on what they are doing.

Throughout, as I am teaching the routine, I will make sure that I model my expectations to pupils. I will also praise the right behaviours continuously as I feel this always helps a lot!

Keep in mind that pupils like routines and consistency, they like to know what they are expected to do: so as long as we make this clear and maintain our expectations, most pupils will follow them.

In your notepad

  • What does the teacher do before they teach the routines?
  • How do they teach the routines? What information do they give pupils?
  • How does the teacher use positive reinforcement to support the routine?
  • Is there anything that you can take to use in your practice?

Your classroom as part of the wider school culture

Routines will become part of your classroom culture. You want them to be effective for you and your pupils, but you also have to recognise that your classroom is just one of many in your school.

Good routines should:

  • Be in line with your school’s ethos and rules
  • Maximise time for learning
  • Work for you and for your pupils.

You should always follow your school’s behaviour policy. This is designed to ensure fair and consistent practice across the whole school, and it makes it easier for pupils to comply with expectations. Your mentor will help you implement and establish your own routines, which fit with the ethos of your school.

For example, your school policy may be for pupils to line up in silence outside the door before each lesson. Your own classroom routine for the start of the lesson needs to align with the school policy, so you should plan to be outside the door to bring the pupils into the classroom, supporting the school in ensuring a smooth start to each lesson and maximising learning time. Following this, you need to teach your pupils your expected routine for beginning the lesson. Sometimes this will require you to think carefully about how to align what you want with what happens in the wider school.

Video

Title

Teacher and mentor discussion on routines

Video type

Talking head

Short description

Teacher in discussion with their mentor talking about a routine they want to implement and finding a way of working with the school policy with the help of their mentor.

Guidance

You should work with your mentor to get support with ensuring routines fit school policy or if you are struggling with embedding any of your routines.

Video transcript

Teacher: I would like my pupils to get started on the task on the board straight away, but I know I need to follow school policy.

Mentor: Ok so let’s see how we can work this out. So, the school policy says that all pupils should line up outside the classroom before lessons start?

Teacher: Yes. But I would like to have my pupils starting their work quickly.

Mentor: It is really important that all teachers follow the policy. This doesn’t mean you have to change your expectations though. I can tell you want to get pupils started on their work quickly to make sure that you make the most of learning time. Let’s have a think about how you can make the policy work for you.

Teacher: I guess I could be at the door to greet pupils and send them in to get started when they are all lined up?

Mentor: I think that would be a great start. You will be making sure that pupils follow school policy, you have a calm, controlled start to the lesson and then get pupils working as quickly as possible. How are you going to make sure pupils follow this routine?

Teacher: I will explain to them what the routine is and then get them to have a go at coming in and getting started straightaway.

Mentor: Yes, good idea. It is always good to explicitly teach your routine to your class. Can you explain to them why you want them to get started straightaway? Giving the rationale often helps pupils engage with the routine.

Teacher: I will tell them it is to maximise the learning time; the quicker they get started, the more work we will achieve.

The table below has some items that will help you to establish effective routines. The final column is empty for you to complete with your mentor, focusing on either the entry or exit routine you want to develop in your classroom.

The routine I am looking at is:

Establishing effective routines Example How can you establish this?
Develop the simplest, fastest procedure. Handing out equipment/resources:
the teacher asks pupils to take one book and pass them along to the next person.
 
Use practice to establish the routine. Follow the same routine every time you want the books handed out, asking them to repeat if it does not meet your expectations.  
Communicate the procedure explicitly and clearly to pupils. “I want us to be able to start our work quickly and calmly so that means we need to get books in our hands as quickly as possible. You are going to take one and pass it on.”  
Explain how you want the pupils to complete the routine. “Without any talking, I want you to take a book and pass the rest on to the person next to you. While the books are being handed out, I need to see you facing this way, ready to get started.”  
Use quick verbal prompts or non-verbal prompts to support pupils in undertaking the routine. Hold up your copy of the book.
Fingers to lips to indicate quiet.
 
Use praise to reinforce the expected behaviour. “Thank you to this table, who got their books handed out so quickly and are facing the front, ready to start.”  
Practise until the routine is performed efficiently and to a high standard. “I think we can get the books handed out much quicker than that, I am going to time us, let’s see how quickly we can do it.”  
Provide pupils with feedback if the routine is not performed correctly. “One table is talking. Remember this task should be completed in silence so that we can all think hard about the work.”  

Reinforcing routines helps to create an effective learning environment

We know from our own lives that establishing good habits and routines can take work. Think about your own experiences of making a positive change like doing more exercise or eating more healthily. You are far more likely to succeed if you plan carefully, thinking about how you will make the change work for you. When you repeat it often enough (practise it) it becomes habit. You’ll also know how easily your good routines can slip.

It’s the same in school. It is valuable to practise routines at the beginning of the school year. The time you invest in this early on will benefit you and your pupils in the long run, making more time available for learning. But it doesn’t stop there. If your pupils do not follow the routine, you will need to reteach it. Even a well-established routine needs positive reinforcement and practice. Being consistent will have a huge impact on your classroom.

How do we know we have established our routines successfully?

  • Pupils know what to do – and do it!
  • Routines are followed consistently and efficiently.
  • When routines are not followed, pupils understand what happens and why.

Watch the video below of a routine going wrong and answer the questions.

Video

The final version of this video will be available from spring 2021, as the publication of this programme was fast-tracked in response to disruptions to this year’s initial teacher training.

Title

Reteaching routines 

Video type

Classroom interaction

Short description

Pupils do not follow the required routine (entering the classroom) exactly as the teacher wants, so she reteaches the routine.

Guidance

When routines do not go to plan, they need to be re-taught.

Video script

NARRATION
With routines, consistency is key. We should expect pupils to complete the routines we ask of them the same way, every lesson.

We need to demonstrate our high expectations through routines, we should show pupils that we expect them to be completed in a certain way, if they are not then they will need to be redone.

CLASSROOM INTERACTION
When you entered the classroom just now, I saw half the class doing what was asked of them, which was:

  • Entering the room quietly and calmly
  • Taking a seat
  • Starting the task on the board.

We are going to go outside and come back in and this time I want to see the whole class following instructions.

Back outside in 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1.

Ok let’s try that again. Well done Lydia that is a much better start, excellent.

Callum, I can see you are really focused on beginning the task.

In your notepad

  • Did the teacher do the right thing in using more lesson time to reteach the routine?
  • What are the benefits of reteaching routines?
Developing your routines Being consistent Reinforcing and practising
  • Be clear in your own mind what routines entail.
  • Write down the routine to make it clear.
  • Clearly communicate routines to pupils.
  • Model the behaviour you expect from pupils.
  • Have high expectations of behaviour.
  • Ensure your actions match your words.
  • Always follow the routines you have set out.
  • Treat pupils equitably.
  • Maintain your high expectations, even if pupils are not always behaving appropriately.
  • Always follow through with praise and sanctions.
  • Be predictable.
  • Remind pupils of the steps in a routine using short verbal/visual prompts.
  • Use verbal and non-verbal prompts such as nodding or smiling, saying thank you and praising those who follow the routine well.
  • Expect pupils to perform a routine again if it is not performed effectively.

Lessons can be thought of as a series of activities: pupils coming in, the teacher explaining a new concept, the pupils completing a task. The transitions between these activities are a key area we can address to ensure maximum learning time and to reduce wasted time. Having tight transitions will keep the momentum of your lesson going and avoid off-task disruptions. Read through the script to see how the teacher has managed transitions to maximise learning time.

Focus on:

  • What does the teacher say?
  • What does the teacher do?
  • How do they convey their expectations of the class?

Script

Ok class. When I say go, I want to see you getting up from the carpet and back in your chairs, with eyes on me, ready to listen. I have my timer here and I want to see you moving quickly but being sensible.

Raina, can you explain what the class need to do? Excellent, well explained.

Ready? And go…. (visibly watching the timer and looking around the room)

Good, I can see Lucy in her seat ready to start. Thank you, Clare who is also looking this way. Who else can I see ready to move on? Well done Amir, thank you Rashid.

That is everyone facing the front. Well class, that took us 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Now I think we can do it much quicker than that. The quicker we move from the carpet to our chairs, the more learning time we will have.

Let’s try it again. 3, 2, 1 go!

Fantastic start, I can see Molly and Cameron moving so fast! Well done. Excellent, this table here are all in their seats waiting to start.

Ok so we did that in 1 minute and 10 seconds. That is a real improvement. Well done class!

Let’s take a closer look at the example and pick out the ways the teacher has managed the transition:

Ok class. When I say go, I want to see you getting up from the carpet and back in your chairs, with eyes on me, ready to listen. I have my timer here and I want to see you moving quickly and sensibly. Clear instructions using economy of language, highlights that the pupils need to be quick

Raina, can you explain what the class need to do? Excellent, well explained. Checks that pupils understand the instructions

Ready? And go…. (visibly watching the timer and looking around the room) Using non-verbals to show that they are watching

Good, I can see Lucy in her seat ready to start. Stating the positive things that are happening in the classroom Thank you, Clare who is also looking this way. Thanking the pupils who are doing the right thing will show other pupils what is expected of them Who else can I see ready to move on? Stating the desired actions Well done Amir, thank you Rashid. Positive reinforcement to the pupils who have followed instructions

That is everyone facing the front. Well class, that took us 2 minutes and 10 seconds. Now I think we can do it much quicker than that. Demonstrating high expectations The quicker we make moving from the carpet to our chairs, the more learning time we will have. Explaining the rationale behind the routine

Let’s try it again. 3, 2, 1 go! Economy of language

Fantastic start, I can see Molly and Cameron moving so fast! Well done. Excellent, this table here are all in their seats waiting to start. Positive reinforcement

Ok so we did that in 1 minute and 10 seconds. That is a real improvement. Well done class! Praising the class for their effort

In your notepad

  1. Write a routine to manage a transition between classroom activities (e.g. moving from one part of the room to another, setting up a practical activity, getting ready for homework, etc).
  2. How will you explain to pupils what the routine is and why it is necessary?
  3. Write yourself a script for what you will say if pupils do not carry out this routine effectively and you need to re-teach it.