Well, hello there sunshine! It’s your teacher bestie friend here, Toni. Today, I am going to share some real teacher struggle that I’ve had in my new position in first grade and how I have managed to overcome this struggle with something that I already know. But maybe it just wasn’t so evident to me at the moment. Today we’re talking all about routining our students to mastery. It is truly a lot simpler than we realize to help our students overcome big obstacles with just a little practice each day. Today, I’m going to tell you just how I did that and how you can do it too. So teacher, let’s talk about routine to mastery.
New Curriculums Came to Town
I don’t know about your district, but here there was a lot of money shared from COVID relief. Apparently that gave my district the ability to buy three brand new programs for every school in the district: one for math, one for phonics, and one for all those other literature standards. So in my 10 years of teaching, there might be one year when you get a new math curriculum or a new phonics curriculum or new reading curriculum. But here I am at a new school, new grade level, with three new curriculums. Man, has it been a wild ride!
To be honest, I am just doing my best with all three. Can I do it perfectly? Absolutely not. Would I want to teach it perfectly? Absolutely not. But for the phonics program, I have focused mostly on that because that is what my students need the most. So I have been doing my best to teach it the way it’s supposed to be taught, to use all the resources, and to give them the best shot with learning those phonics skills.
My Students Needed Routine to Mastery!
I ran into a huge problem that literally made me cry at school after I had graded my unit two assessments. The first unit was just a review of the alphabet, which they most certainly needed this year, probably more than others. And then there was a three week unit. Unit two is all about CVC words and forming sentences.
So I taught it to a T. I added some kinesthetic things in there just because that’s what I do. I love adding movement. It ups engagement and makes everything better. I taught what needed to be taught. And when I graded those assessments, I was drowning in tears.
Although for the last three weeks, I had explicitly taught those lessons, the way they were supposed to be taught, had done everything in my power to follow this curriculum, the majority of my students failed that test. I was so focused on following that curriculum, I didn’t even see it coming. They could not write CVC words. And boy, oh, boy, they could not independently form sentences.
It hurt me so bad, but it was a great reminder that if I want students to master these core, most important concepts, I have to add some routine. This curriculum is routine based. It does repeat a lot of the same activities, but it’s not repetitive enough for the specific skills. This assessment showed that clear as crystal. I had to be reminded that sometimes students need routines in place every day. Routines take a small amount of time to focus on one specific skill until mastery. Routines are magical in that way that they give us this power to overcome these huge obstacles if we only dedicate a small amount of time each day.
The Curriculum Just Wasn’t Enough
My students, although I had not seen it, definitely needed a routine implemented for writing CVC words and forming sentences. It’s funny because I have created these resources in the past. I have them at my fingertips. But I was just so focused on that new program, I didn’t know that they needed it. So here, I was scared to death, knowing that my students were not ready to write CVC words just yet. They’re not ready to write sentences. The assessment showed that clears a bell.
I knew I had to start this routine scared. And sometimes teacher, you need to do the same thing. Are you scared that your students can’t do something? Well, that means it’s time to do it. Maybe not just throw them out there with one lesson and say, Oh, I can’t do it, it’s over. But maybe implement a routine they can repeat day after day that gives them an opportunity to be successful.
What I Did
Maybe your students are having the same issues that my students are. I quickly implemented, very sloppy, very messy, the Phast Phonics program for writing CVC words. Now it’s a few weeks later, and I can already tell you, it was really hard at the beginning. But now most of my students have mastered that skill within only two weeks. They just hadn’t had the repetitive practice that they needed. We are still practicing a sentence writing with a Daily Write It program. We explicitly practice only sentence writing during that little span of time that is dedicated just for that every day.
The lessons with this new curriculum include these things, but it’s kind of a mix of them all. But my students know when I pull up our Daily Write It activity that this is the time of day, we only do this one thing, this one thing is so important. My students have not all mastered this yet. It progressively gets harder, so it still challenges the students who can write sentences. But the thing is, I had forgotten that I can routine them to mastery.
Where can you use routine to mastery?
What is it that your students are struggling with? What is it that they need extra time and attention to be successful with? The repetitive nature of routines is imperative for students to be successful. At first, you are going to feel anxious as your students struggle to learn the process of your new routine. They may not even be successful at first. Mine surely were not when I started Phast Phonics. Hardly any of them could do the CVC words. Let’s remember the struggle is the learning part, and they need that. This is what you’re responsible for. You’re responsible for teaching your students things that they cannot do. So why not do it in a routine, something that you repeat day after day until your students have reached mastery.
Routine to Mastery Works!
I’ve written a lot about routines. Most of the products that I sell on Teachers Pay Teachers are routine based because I really, really believe in being repetitive. So look at your students’ needs and ask yourself, What can I do in a small amount of time every day that will help them reach this goal? It will be sloppy at first, but within a few days, you’ll be glad that you implemented this, because you are going to see growth day after day until your students are routined all the way to mastery.
I know this isn’t my usual episode. It’s not jam packed with strategies, but I just wanted to remind you of what I’ve been reminded of: sometimes the curriculum that’s handed to us does not meet the needs of our students. That is our job. I thought I could rely on that thing. I thought it would do exactly what it was supposed to do, what they paid thousands of dollars for it to do, but it didn’t. It took my knowledge, my experience, and what I already knew to step into play and give my students what they needed. So teacher just a little encouragement to routine them to mastery in the areas that they need it the most. We can always make time for the things that our students need, no matter what our teacher manual tells us to do.
I hope you we’re finding time to be joyful in the classroom. I hope you’re finding time to look at those little ones, their beaming eyes, their just complete adoration for you, and realize how important you are. You are their hero, and you’re a hero to the world. We could not do it without you. Have a great week, and as always until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.