It’s the first few weeks of school, and this is a time where you’re establishing routines and procedures to lay the groundwork and expectations for your class. This is hugely important because without these set — or even if they’re unclear, you’ll have to re-teach them or you’ll later feel frustrated when students are confused about your expectations.
4 of the most important routines to teach in the first month or two of the school year.
I suggest sharing these in a lesson where you model how it looks and sounds and then have the kids practice. When they do it incorrectly, ask them to try again and tell them how to improve.
Routine 1: How to turn and talk
You’ll be using turn and talks throughout the year and kids need to know how this looks and sounds so they can do it quickly. Make sure students are assigned partners in the gathering area, so they know who to sit and talk with. Add it to a chart to make it even easier!
Here’s an example where it also shows different partners at independent writing or reading time:
Make sure students know to turn their entire body to face their partner and face them directly. We call this ‘eye-to-eye’ and ‘knee-to-knee.’ Practice this over and over and include this on a chart so you can reference it to remind them how this looks.
Be sure to practice taking turns and speaking quietly since everyone in the gathering area will be talking at the same time.
If you want to make it even more equitable, you can use the Kagan strategy called, “Timed Pair Share.” In this model, you’d say, “Partner A, you go first and keep talking for the whole 30 seconds. Partner B, your job is to keep them talking, so if they stop, tell them to say more.” Then, switch and give the next partner 30 seconds to talk.
Routine 2: Set Up Routine Before the Reading Or Writing Workshop Mini Lesson
My friend and colleague, Kristi Mraz, was once one of my teachers in a school in Brooklyn, NY, when I worked for TCRWP. She told me this was HANDS DOWN one of the most important things I ever taught her.
The goal here is for kids to get all of their materials set up before you gather them for the mini lesson. In doing this, you create kids who are ready to go and have nothing to worry about or figure out before they get down to reading or writing.
They might even remember your mini lesson and try it out because they aren’t playing EINEE, MINNEE, MINEY MO with their books or standing in line at the writing center to get paper.
Here are some examples of the Set Up Routine illustrated on charts. I suggest you start this immediately and your routine can change later if you haven’t gotten kids into book baggies yet or whatever.
For upper grades 3-8 in writing, kids should get out their writer’s notebook and drafting folder, date the page they will be working on and then come to gather with you (you might also ask them to bring their notebook and/or folder to use during the mini lesson active engagement).
It is important to note that they should be deciding what they are working on during the set up and getting all the materials they need, not just putting their folders and/or notebooks out. I am seeing many teachers who are doing a half set up like this.
Routine 3: Teach The Parts of the Workshop
If you’re clear in your teaching of the parts of the workshop from start to finish, kids will be clear on what you expect from them. You want them to know what it is that you’ll be doing as the teacher and also what it is they should be doing during this part of the workshop.
Here’s a visual to help. Notice the visuals are there to show what you expect. Also, there’s a clothespin you can move along to indicate which part of the workshop the class is working on.
Routine 4: The Silent Settle
When I was in the classroom, I often tried to settle my room after the mini lesson by loudly complimenting students for getting started right away. I’d shout, “I love the way that Marina is getting started on her writing!” And, “Wow! Look at how Andrew finished one book and then took out another one!”
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to try different strategies and the silent settle has been a true game-changer. It’s called the silent settle because you’re walking around your room without saying a word to anyone using only nonverbal cues to get kids going.
You might hand them a pen — which signals them to get started on their writing or tap on their book — which indicates it’s time to start reading. I walk around now and nod, smile, and point. That’s it. I don’t say a word — and you know what — kids settle quickly.
In contrast with the teacher I used to be who shouted loud compliments, I’ve learned that if you’re trying to settle a room, it’s better to be quiet. Kids respond well to this, and it also gives them the thinking and process time to get going.
After the mini lesson, we send kids off to read or write. It’s important we give them a few minutes to problem-solve. I often see kids approaching a teacher with a million questions. I call this the “boomerang effect.” I just sent you off to work, and here you are back talking to me. If you let your kids know that after the mini lesson you’ll be unavailable to answer questions, you’ll just be walking around “admiring how they get started,” guess what? They’ll get started. And the room will be quiet.
In fact, 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 or Twitter so that we can feature you in our stories. We love seeing different ways you are setting kids up for success! Are you on the list?