Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Worry - There's a Routine for That

Image taken from

Routines, one of the big words in  "teacher school" as we call it in my classroom.  You must set up routines, you must establish them, practice them, train them and share your expectations.  We have routines for everything, and it seems the younger the students are - the more routines we have.  So if you need to go to the bathroom, there's a routine for that, how to hand in homework, there's a routine for that, how to answer a question - you guessed it, there's a routine for that.  And yet as I struggle with keeping track of all of my routines, I wonder; when do the routines become suffocating?

I agree that routines must be in place for the students to know the shared expectations.  After all, accountability is one of the great skills we teach along with math, reading, writing.  Students learn to follow routines because it provides familiarity and safety.  It simply makes school and a classroom more manageable, and more effective.  And yet we can over-routine.  We can ponder and prepare routines for almost everything.  My first year, I spent a whole day preparing a sign for my students, very artistic indeed, writing out routines for what to do when you needed to sharpen your pencil or leave the classroom.  I don't think any student ever read the poster, let alone memorized it. 

So I realized that perhaps routines were needed for the really big things, like morning routine, how to go to specials or lunch routines, and general classroom behavior routine.  But beyond that, I am done.  I am done routining my students to death.  After all, they are equipped with common sense.  I do not think me writing out how and when they should sharpen their pencils is worthy of their memorization or the title of "routine."  I think I am going to stop "ruling" them to pieces and let them develop their inner sense of proper behavior.  Do we trust our students enough to pull back some of our rules masqueraded as routines?  I do.


John said...

Debbie Miller writes well about this in Teaching with Intention, urging people towards structure as opposed to routines or rules. Structure allows for variation, but supports students' expectations.

Eric Johnson said...

It does come down to trust doesn't it? A great reflective post and one that challenged my thinking on some aspects of my classroom.

photomatt7 said...

Pernille -
This is a book I read over the summer that is a worthy read for any teacher.

It's called 7 Simple Secrets: What the Best Teachers Know and Do by Annette Breaux. There is a whole chapter on rules and routines that you might find interesting. I'm sure you can get it cheaper than it's listed on Amazon, as well.


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