If you’re a NEW TEACHER who is just beginning your journey or a returning teacher who hasn’t mastered the beauty of classroom routines, I urge you with all of my heart to jump on board with this idea.

In case you missed it, I’ve already sung the praises of EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ROUTINES in an earlier post titled: HAPPY TEACHERS: What THEY have that YOU may be missing. I unveiled my journey to discovering happiness as an Educator (and it wasn’t pretty, let me tell ya.)

In this post, I have two main objectives. 1.) Tell you more about routines and their effect on the classroom. 2.) Assist you in the journey in creating your very first EFFECTIVE CLASSROOM ROUTINE. I know you can reep the benefits of this asset and I’m determined to be your vehicle into accomplishing this!

The Power of Routine

Simply put, a routine is a sequence of events (habits) completed again and again. The positive research of general routines (sleeping, eating, exercise, etc.) is massive and undeniable. In 2018, CNN reported this extensive study published in The Lancet Psychiatry that suggests a daily routine can prevent psychiatric conditions like anxiety, bipolar disorder and depression. Another study by a psychologist at the University at Albany reported the importance of daily routines in childhood and their ability to prevent many adulthood social and emotional hardships. Sounds compelling, doesn’t it? 

Here are just a few of the positive impacts of general routines:

  •  Self-Initiated action. When we practice routines, we become responsible for starting our own actions. We don’t rely on any outer-lying stimuli to tell us what to do. We do it intrinsically and without much resistance.
  • Directed focus with stamina. Routines place our focus on specific tasks and maintain it there until that sequence of events is complete. When we master a routine, this is done with more stamina and with few cognitive distractions. Routines help our brain to remain focused.
  • A mentality of security and success. When we partake in routines, we feel secure because we know what to expect from our sequence. We also feel a sense of accomplishment from completing our routine, which releases a hit of dopamine (a “happy hormone”) in our brain.

These are only a few of the benefits of routines in our life. (Here is a list of 18 additional benefits that I really enjoyed reading from the website, Skilled at Life.)

I’m not at all surprised that the BEST TEACHERS I know are utilizing this multi-beneficial tool within their classrooms- cultivating these invaluable benefits among their students.

What does ROUTINE look like in the classroom?

Imagine a classroom where student behavior is EASY to manage.  Imagine students who are working with little-to-no direction from the teacher and who seem to be self-driven to complete any task placed before them. Students know what to do and when to do it. This is the manifestation of effective classroom routines.

Now, here’s some food for thought: Wouldn’t you enjoy your job more if your classroom looked like that every day? A lack of administrative support, low-supply levels, grouchy parents or any other obstacle would be easier to deal with if THIS was your day-to-day work-space, right? If you aren’t seeing this result in your classroom every day, you’re lacking in routine- I guarantee it.

 Create Effective Routines in 5 Easy Step

Start incorporating routines right now. Don’t put off an essential transition in your career that could make you a happier, more enthusiastic educator. In my own journey in creating a classroom rich in routine, I created a routine-creation process. It took a lot of time and trial, but I streamlined in my technique and I am now happy to share it with you.

Step #1- Change your mindset.

To attain routine in your classroom, you must first approach it with the correct mindset. You must put the idea of Routine on a pedestal and give it the authority to transform your classroom. To do this, you have to flush out any of negative attitudes you may have about routines and replace them with the correct ones. Here are some examples:

WRONG: “Doing the same thing over and over will be boring for my students. Their behavior will get out of hand.”  

RIGHT: “If my students know what is expected of them, they will be calmer and more focused on their duties.”  

WRONG:  “Too much structure kills creativity. I want my students to be free-thinkers.”

RIGHT: “By feeling comfortable and secure in their environment, students will have the mental capacity to be more creative in their work.”

WRONG– “I’m too free-spirited to teach this way. Living in the moment is best for me.”

RIGHT: “I want what is best for my students. Research shows that routines make them feel secure and successful. I can find other outlets within the classroom to exercise my creativity.”

WRONG: “The behaviors in my classroom are too severe to be solved this way. This effort isn’t worth my time.”

RIGHT: “Routine is important to every student in my classroom, despite their behavior. Every student deserves the benefit from clear, concise routines.”

This seems harsh, but those ideas are WRONG. I had to make those mindset shifts and so do you.  Once you’re past that, you’re ready for Step #2.

Step #2- Complete a needs assessment.

An ideal day in the classroom is rich in routine- but we have to begin somewhere. The purpose of this quick needs-assessment is to determine a time-block or portion of your day that has the greatest need. To do this, take a close look at your current classroom flow. Decide which parts are working well and which are most lacking in routine. Some questions you can ask yourself are:

  • When are my students least motivated to do what I ask of them?
  • When is bad behavior most relevant and why?
  • When do I repeat directions the most?
  • What areas of my day could benefit from more quiet, focused work time?
  • When do I feel most frustrated throughout the day?
  • What content areas do my students struggle with the most?

Take notes about the thoughts that these questions produce. More than likely, you will find exactly where your day needs more routine. If you find multiple areas, resolve to focus on only one- that of greatest need- for now.  Once you’ve determined your area of need, begin thinking about how routines could prevent your current hardships. This leads us to the next step: creating an action plan.

Step #3- Create an action plan. (Free GUIDE included.)

I highly recommend writing down your action plan, so you can stay focused on your desired outcome. (Research shows that writing down your intentions increase the likelihood of making action towards them. (Check out this Forbes report, if you don’t believe me.) To make this easier for you, I have created a FREE ACTION PLAN TEMPLATE that you may consider using in this step of process.

 A routine action plan will look differently for everyone (depending on your needs assessment) but my most successful action plans contained these main components:

  • Targeted time-block of need (determined by your needs assessment.) Some examples of this may be Silent-Reading Time, Restroom Transitions or Dismissal Time.
  • Present situation summary. Think of the current state of this block of time within your day and summarize it in one or two sentences. A few questions to help you- How does it look? What are students doing? Where are problems occurring? Why have you identified this is an area of need? 
  • Process Analysis. This portion is essential in pinpointing a strategy to alleviate the problem. Think of this block of time and write down the steps that are currently taking place. When finished, circle or highlight the steps where the problems occur. – Next, think of structures you could put into place that would alleviate these highlighted areas and take notes beside them. What could you add or take away that would prevent this issue from occurring in the future? This will take some problem-solving, but you more than likely already know the answer. . Dig it out and own it!
  • Routine Structure Now that you know the solutions, re-write your process by detailing the specific steps in this new routine. If an outsider where watching your ideal routine, what exactly would they see. Be very specific in this new flow you’ve mentally created, pinpointing your role in the routine and the expected actions of your students.
  • Preparation. Once you have the process compiled, physically prepare to implement it. What further preparatory steps do you need to take in order to make it flow? This may require you to re-organize work spaces, change the layout of your classroom or even alter your current daily schedule. Do whatever it takes to set your routine in motion. During this step, you should also determine how you will present the new routine to your students. Will you model it first? Will you have visual directions displayed in the classroom? If you want the highest rate of success, you’ll need to think through this process thoroughly.

Step #4- Implement your plan.

Most of the hard work has been completed in preparation of this step, but the successful implementation of your action plan is what you’ve worked so hard for. You can’t fail on this step, you’re in too deep.

Success here is heavily reliant on your reactions to your students during the process. They will probably question the routine, think that you’re silly for demonstrating every step and may test the waters to see if you are really dedicated to enforcing this new process. Stand firm and see this process through- you must! The first few days are difficult and far from perfect, but after a length of time, this part of your day will flow more smoothly than ever.

Step #5- Maintain consistency.

You thought we were finished? Nope.  Equally as important as all other steps in this process is maintaining consistency with your routine.

Read this next sentence very closely –> Well established routines are sacred ground. Once you have them implemented and running successfully, don’t make the mistake of upsetting them. Sure, you can make changes as you see fit, but do it in a mindful and process-based way. Remember how these routines bring security and confidence to our students? You can’t just snatch that away and expect them to quickly recover. Consistency is vital.  

 A Note about Future Routines

This sure seems like a lot of work, but I honestly would have paid for this process in times past. It would have saved me valuable time and effort. It may seem difficult to you at first, but you’ll eventually get into the “ROUTINE of creating ROUTINES.” (Ironic, I know.) What I mean by this is, you’ll master the steps in this process and maybe find a better way to do it than I’ve outlined here. Yep, someday you’ll be a routine master. But first, , you must set into motion your very first- effective and successful- routine.

Happy Teachers like to lend support and expertise to others. What experience and tips would you add to this post? The COMMENT SECTION is a great place to add your two-cents-worth and I can’t wait to respond to your insights!

Get going, Teacher friend and keep me posted on your progress through comments, Facebook or email!

God bless y’all!