Literacy Partners

4 Simple Routines To Set Your Class Up For The Best Year Ever

It’s the first few weeks of school, and this is a time when you’re establishing routines and procedures to lay the groundwork and expectations for your class. Setting a solid foundation for the new school year is hugely important because without them, you’ll have to re-teach them or later feel frustrated when students are confused about your expectations.

4 essential routines to teach students in the first two months of the school year.
We suggest sharing these in a lesson where you model how it looks and sounds. Then, have the kids practice. If they do it incorrectly, ask them to try again and tell them how to improve. Creating charts that support these routines is very helpful. Once your students are independent with these routines, you’ll be able to take them down.

Routine 1: How To Turn and Talk
You’ll be using turn and talks throughout the year. Kids need to know how this looks and sounds so they can do it quickly. Make sure you assign student 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 directly. We call this ‘eye-to-eye’ and ‘knee-to-knee.’ Practice this over and over and include instructions on a chart so you can reference it to easily remind them how this looks.

Including a photo of students doing this on a chart is helpful so you can then point to it to show them what it looks like. This will save you from constantly repeating, “eye-to-eye, knee-to-knee.”

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 Routines Before the Reading Or Writing Workshop Mini-Lesson
My friend and colleague, Kristi Mraz, was 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 randomly choosing books or standing in line at the writing center to get paper.

Here are some examples of the Set Up Routine illustrated on charts. This is best to start immediately. Your routine can change later if you haven’t gotten kids into book baggies yet.

For upper grades 3-8 in writing, kids should get out their writer’s notebook and drafting folder, date the page they’ll 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).


Expert 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 and/or notebooks out. Often we see classrooms where kids just put the book bag, the folder, or notebook out without the important next step of choosing which book they’ll read first and putting it on top. The same goes for writing. Teachers should make sure kids choose what piece of writing they’ll work on each day and date the top of the page accordingly. This will also help you study their writing volume. If students have reading response notebooks and/or reading logs, they can get those out too and date them as well.

Lastly, show kids that they should be getting their tools ready — pens and sticky notes for writing, and reading response notebooks, and logs for reading.

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 students to know both your role and theirs during each 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 the 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 start writing or gently tap on their book — indicating 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 asking me 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. One of our favorites is Vitamin String Quartet.

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 an upcoming story. We love seeing different ways you’re setting kids up for success!

Do you need more support setting up successful workshop routines??

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If you enjoyed this article, check these out next:

Yes, You Can Start Workshop On Day One!
Essential Planning Tips for the New School Year
Setting Up a Writing Center: 8 Basics
The Best Time To Start Building Your Anti-Racist and Anti-Bias Curriculum
The Problem With Behavior Charts

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