Classroom routines keep you and the students sane.
Contrary to popular opinion, they don’t make the class boring, they actually free up energy and time for the fun stuff.
Routines are your best friend because they:
Save you from having to re-invent the wheel every time you do something.
Help even the slowest student know what’s coming next and feel confident.
Help your classroom and behaviour management like you would not believe.
Imagine two teachers; Teacher A doesn’t have any routines, but good Teacher B does.
Teacher A does things differently every time. Not a lot, but enough that he has to explain to the students how to do things, so the students are forced to use some of their limited reservoir of attention to listen to instructions for the boring stuff. All this takes time in class. The students often get it wrong too, especially the younger learners and the lower level learners. This leads to more time wasted in correcting them. The students start to misbehave as their attention wanders.
Teacher B has a routine for all those routines. When she starts a new class, she takes some time to explain her routines. This is how we store our bags under our chairs, that is how we take attendance, this is how we divide into pairs, and so on.
Before long, Teacher B is flying through the lessons as students are used to what and how to do the routines in class. Behaviour is good as students know what is expected of them at transition points in the class. Teacher A, on the other hand, still struggles with getting his students to do what he wants them to do. As a result of this lingering uncertainty, behaviour is still an issue, and classes are that much more tiring.
Now do you see what a huge impact classroom routines can have?
OK, You’ve Convinced Me. What Routines Do I Need?
While every great teacher has their own list, there are some routines that everyone should have:
Handing out worksheets
Collecting worksheets / homework
Writing on the board
Putting class into pairs
Taking out / putting away materials
Going the to the bathroom
Finishing work early
OK, but what about the procedures?
Every teacher finds what best works for them, over time. So to start with, do all the routines mentioned above in the same way, until your students get used to them.
By the time that happens, you’ll have a good idea the sort of students you have in class, and what they’ll best respond to. Then you can change routines – but only one at a time! Again, when you change a routine, give the students time to get used to it before changing another.
Be careful not to change too many routines at once, or your learners won’t be able to tell the difference between routine change and chaos.
I’d also suggest observing your colleagues, or asking them how they do each one of these that you want to implement. Try out their suggestion, if you like it, keep it, if not, ask around again.