5 Routines You Must Establish and Maintain


A vector illustration of teacher lining up the students in front of the classroom

To make your school year run smoothly, it is absolutely imperative that you train classroom routines from the first day of student attendance.  With that said, keep in mind that it will take time to practice these routines before they are well-established.  With elementary students, it may take a couple of weeks to have everyone on board, and some students will need reminders from time to time.

With middle school through high school students, training time should be shorter.  The key is consistency during the training period and patience on the part of the teacher.  It’s easy to get the “oh-well-I-tried” attitude and give up on the whole process.  Believe me, if you do not insist on a well-ordered classroom from the beginning, you will pay for it the rest of the year.  After bad habits have set in, it is very, very difficult to completely turn things around!

Here are the 5 routines that you must establish ASAP for your classroom to run smoothly:

1.  Entering the classroom.  This will vary depending on your grade level, but may include the following:

  • Hanging up coats, putting book bags away, and getting materials ready to turn in
  • If you collect homework, notes from home, or lunch money, establish the procedure from the first day
  • If you teach older students, do you want them to take out an assignment notebook, do a warm-up activity, or get into groups?
  • Do you want students to take out a specific folder or begin a writing/reading assignment?

Whatever the case, train how to enter the classroom immediately and PRACTICE it every day.  If you teach older students, you might simply want to have  your agenda written on the smartboard or chalkboard.  Early in the year, place reminders such as these on the board:  Take out your homework, take out your assignment notebook, turn to page 52, etc. After a few weeks, the habit will be established. Students will automatically look to the board for directions.

2.  Preparing for the lesson/activity.  It should be very clear what everyone is to do after the bell rings, whether it is the pledge, calendar time, rug time, or a warm-up.  It should not be a mystery each day what students are supposed to do.  Of course lessons will vary, but preparation for learning should follow a consistent routine.

3.  Turning in homework.  Do you want students to put homework in a basket, or do you want it passed forward?  Do you want it completed and ready to go at the very beginning of the day or class period, or do students wait until you ask for it?  Beware of having older students put homework in a basket and claim later that they turned it in, but you lost it.

4.  Lining up.  This only applies to younger students, but there is the propensity for a LOT of trouble with this.  You must be very firm on how you want students to line up and how you want them to behave in line.  Do it enough times that everyone can do it quickly and well.  Use lots of praise when you see correct behaviors.  Choose line leaders who show they can do this well.  Make sure you use each student as often as possible to be the line leader and compliment, compliment, compliment.  It will pay huge dividends throughout the year.  Everywhere you go throughout the building, behavior in your class line speaks of your classroom control.  If you do not want chaos to prevail, get a handle on this ASAP.

5.  End of the day. (class period)  This is another very important routine.  You want your day/class to end on a positive note.  Be very specific with your directions on this.  Do you want students to get homework out first?  Do you want them to go get their book bags?  Do you want high school students to write down the assignment?  Decide on the things that MUST happen before the bell rings and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE with your younger students.

Do not let up on these routines after the first few days of school.  Work with your younger students the entire first month of school.  With older students, issue reminders periodically.  As a new teacher I was not careful with establishing routines, and after things go south, it is nearly impossible to retrain students after bad habits have become second nature.  If I could go back to my first year of teaching, I would force myself to take extra time to train the class in daily routines.  BUT NO ONE TOLD ME THIS.  Now, I am telling you! When you find yourself getting tired of repeating and repeating, stay with it.  You will be in MUCH worse shape down the line if you fail to nip inappropriate behaviors in the bud.  I realized, after it was too late, that part of the problem was my own unwillingness to keep hammering down routines.  You must first have the self-discipline to stay with the program yourself.

Do yourself a BIG favor.  Get a handle on this early!  You’ll feel great at the end of the day and will look back at the end of the year with a feeling of satisfaction.!