The idea of routines in the classroom might be a bit of a turn-off for some, but they aren’t about creating robot children who don’t think.
They are about making time for the stuff that really matters and providing children with the boundaries and clarity they need to get on with learning.
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Certain times of the school day lend themselves better to routines than others and, with routines in place, it should mean you get to use the rest of the time creatively and purposefully.
So here are eight routines to nail before half-term.
1. 'Do Now 'activities
This is one of Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion techniques and it has the potential to transform your day. Having a "Do Now" activity written up on the board when the children come in sets the tone for the rest of the time in the classroom and it gets children busy straight away.
It can be anything: a review of previous learning, handwriting practice, reading a piece of text, completing five arithmetic questions or simply writing the date in their books. Have one for the morning, one after break and one after lunch and write it in the same place so children know where to look for it.
You’ll already have your "Do Now" on the board so registration can probably just happen silently and swiftly in the background. You know the children so seek them out and tick them off. If you have to do dinner registers and take in other information, work out a way of doing this surreptitiously while children are getting on with something more worthwhile.
Then you can grab a bit of time to check in with vulnerable children, help someone choose a new reading book, and so on.
3. Handing out books and worksheets
Work out the fastest way to get books passed around the class – this will depend on how your classroom is set out – and practise doing it until it’s super-slick. A take-one-and-pass-them-on model works well. Initially, make it into a timed challenge where the class try to beat their personal best. Alternatively, books can be put out prior to the lesson by you (allowing flexible seating based on prior assessment and most up-to-date relationship information) or by a child who has a copy of the seating plan.
4. Giving out equipment
That part of the lesson when you say, "Right! Has everyone got a…?" and there’s a mad scramble. Eliminate that. If possible, have a child put it all out during breakfast club, break, or at the end of the previous lesson.
Make sure you’ve thought ahead and are prepared with what is going to be needed for that lesson, and then get it out on the tables in advance. If you can’t get one of your team of 30 children to do the job, do it yourself – it’s worth a couple of minutes of leg work if you can eradicate the horrors of the mad dash for protractors and fresh pencils.
5. Collecting books in
Easy, right? Just do the opposite to your pristine routine for passing the books out? No. Not that simple.
Instead, ask children whose books you haven’t recently reviewed (or marked) to keep them open at the page they were working on, and then create a pile of open books. The books you’ve seen during lesson can go straight on the shelf (provided you have noted down any assessment information you need to inform your next lesson).
6. Lining up
Lining up, put simply, is a big waste of time. When the children are standing still they are not moving towards their classroom and their learning time. But, it is kind of necessary. If you get a quick, efficient line together and get going, you can get to that exciting lesson you’ve planned sooner.
How you do this doesn’t really matter – the key is that practice makes perfect, along with clearly-communicated expectations. Reduce the number of stops you make and let the children go straight into class to get on with their Do Now activity.
7. Lack of novelty
This is more a general rule of thumb. There are certain in-class tasks that can always be done in the same way so that there is no confusion. For example, always peer-mark tests the same way – always with the same colour pen, always by the adjacent person and then always collect papers rather than scores (note down scores after if needed).
Always expect your books to be presented in a particular way; always ask for homework to be given in the same way; always give out letters the same way. Pick a way of doing things and stick to it. If something is novel, ensure it is modelled visually and explained clearly before you expect children to know what to do.
8. Home time
Ah, home time – the time of day when all sense goes out of the window as teachers and children alike are carried along on a chaotic wave of elation. If you want to have a home time that doesn’t waste 15 minutes (of potentially story-reading time) then creating a good home-time routine is essential.
Find a way of ensuring that children collect coats, lunchboxes, book bags (complete with reading books) and letters and get out of the door before parents complain they’ve been waiting in the rain for five extra minutes.
Use monitors, pre-empt the rush by putting the correct numbers of letters on tables during the last lesson and collect cloakroom items on the way out – whatever works for your environment.
Aidan Severs is a deputy head at a primary school in the North of England. He tweets @thatboycanteach