Literacy Partners

3 Routines To Tighten Up Before Winter Break

The final countdown to winter break is on! These last few weeks can feel like a blur and then, before you know it, you’re locking your classroom door until early January.

One of the most common things we hear from teachers around this time is that “coming back in January will be rough.” Instead of dreading a gloom and doom scenario, why not spend these next few weeks solidifying your routines and procedures so that January can feel like a breeze?

Here are 3 routines to tighten up before winter break so you’ll have less to re-teach coming back in January!

Routine 1: Workshop Set-Up

When I eventually solidified the workshop set-up routines in my kindergarten classroom, the chaotic scramble for materials that used to happen after my mini-lesson vanished. And suddenly, my readers and writers had 10+ more minutes of independent time!

The goal for this routine is for kids to get all of their materials set up before you gather them for the mini-lesson in their reading/writing spot. All other items (ipads, sweaters, pencil boxes, etc) should be cleared away. By doing this, your kids are ready to go and have nothing to worry about or grab as they get down to reading or writing.

In late November/early December, set aside an entire mini-lesson to introduce or reintroduce this routine with an anchor chart. Have your readers and writers practice this several times, while you provide helpful feedback. As new materials or tools are introduced into your workshop, make sure to adjust the set-up routine!

Here are some examples of the set-up routine charts for writing:

Kinder – 2nd Grade 3rd Grade +

Here are some examples of the set-up routine charts for reading:



TIP: Students should be deciding what they’re working on during the set-up and getting all the materials they need, not just putting their folders/notebooks and book bags.

  • In Writing: Students select a piece or create a new notebook entry and add the date.
  • In Reading: Students select a book on their reading level that matches the current genre of your reading unit. If students have reading response notebooks and/or reading logs, they can get those out too and date them as well.

Routine 2: Silent Settle

For many years, I sounded like a sports broadcaster during the transition from my mini lesson to independent reading and writing, energetically narrating a play-by-play for kids. “I see table three getting started, way to go table three. And what about Jesse, Jesse is just getting his book out right now.” Our focus bubble popped within seconds!

Kids do so much better during calm and predictable transitions; it also gives them the thinking and process time to get going. As we work to build their independence, it is important to send our readers and writers off with a few minutes to problem-solve and settle into their space. We often see kids approaching a teacher with a laundry list of questions. If you let your kids know that after the mini-lesson, you’ll be unavailable to answer questions, and there’s no wrong way to get started, you’ll simply be walking around “admiring how they get started,” guess what? They’ll get started. And the room will be quiet.

Expert Tip: Try playing quiet classical music or even light jazz to serve as a signal that we’ve now transitioned to independent reading or writing time. Also, it is important to have a system or plan for how to get kids away from you or not respond when kids are coming up to ask you questions during this time.

Routine 3: What To Do When “I’m Done”

Teacher!!! I’m done!” Sometimes, I swear I hear this in my sleep. One of my biggest hurdles when I first started teaching was helping my readers and writers understand that when ‘you’re done, you’ve only just begun.’ After lots of practice and consistent reminders to reference their anchor charts, my students relied on me less and less to help them decide what to do next. This gave me more time to confer and pull small groups!

If your readers and writers boomerang back to you during independent time asking, “What should I do now,” consider explicitly teaching or re-teaching what they can do to stay engaged! You’ll want to have a menu of choices displayed on an anchor chart that your kids can reference. You can model using this anchor chart during your mini-lesson, mid-workshop interruption, or during your teaching share!


For younger readers, reading mats are a great tool to teach kids to reread books multiple times, while simultaneously building their stamina!

  • Students set up 3-5 on level books inside their reading mat, placing the book they’d like to start with on top.
  • As they finish a book, the student will place their book face down on the opposite side of the reading mat until they’ve gone through their entire stack
  • Students close their reading mat so that the stack of books flips. The first book is now at the top of the stack and students can reread


We’d love to see how you implemented some of these routines into your classroom. Tag us in a photo of your chart or your students trying one of these routines on Instagram or Facebook so that we can feature you in an upcoming story. We love seeing different ways you’re setting kids up for success before heading into winter break!

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