Creating Routines and Procedures

Effective classroom routines and procedures are essential for a productive learning environment. Ultimately, your goal is to ensure the students understand your expectations for each and every moment all day long (or class period) so you can maximize their engagement. Wait, did I just say each and every moment? Yes! Overwhelmed? I get it. 


Master your classroom routines and procedures so your students can become masters of their own learning!

After teaching for 15 years and mentoring more than 100 new teachers over the course of 7 years, I have noticed some trends about classroom management.  Typically speaking, the root cause of more than 90% of behavioral challenges in your classroom comes from ineffective routines and procedures. This is actually REALLY GOOD NEWS. Master your routines and procedures, and your students will become masters of their own learning! I promise! So let's dig in...   


I am going to share a few tips to consider while you are creating your classroom routines and procedures in order to set yourself and your students up for success.

1.) Academic Procedures and Transitional Procedures will look very different. 

Academic procedures consist of all the different types of instructional activities our students will engage in on a regular basis. Academic routines may vary by the setting. For example, I have different expectations when I am leading whole-group instruction on the carpet with my students than when I am leading it while they are all at their desks. Many times, academic procedures will be a more general list of expectations, considering where their bodies will be and how they can move (if permitted, how they can ask questions, their voice levels, and what on-task behavior looks like. The following is a list of possible academic procedures we should consider:

  • Class meetings
  • Whole-group teacher-directed instruction 
  • Small-group teacher-directed instruction
  • Partner work
  • Independent work
  • Sustained silent reading
  • Cooperative learning groups
  • Early Finisher activities
  • Tests and quizzes
  • Centers or Stations

Transitional procedures are needed everything else that happens between the learning activities. Many times, transitional procedures will include chronological steps, such as how to line up to exit the classroom or how to... The following is a list of possible transitions we should consider. 

  • Before and after the bell rings
  • Entering and leaving the classroom as a whole class
  • Moving as a class to a different location in the building
  • Entering and leaving the classroom as individuals
  • Moving as an individual to a new location in the building
  • Gathering, distributing, or returning classroom materials
  • Moving to and from a small group location
  • Opening and dismissal (these are where teachers get a lot of headaches!)
  • Handing in work (homework, in-class, centers, tests/quizzes)

2.) Your Routines and Procedures should align with Classroom Rules and Guidelines. 

We are a PBIS District, and our district has expectations that are required of every student in every building.  For example, many schools that also do PBIS follow the expectations that students will be RESPECTFUL, RESPONSIBLE, and SAFE. For each procedure, it is important to clearly outline which behaviors students should demonstrate to meet each of those expectations. If students are lining up to leave the classroom, they can demonstrate respect by maintaining a Voice Level 0 and keeping their hands and feet to themselves. They can be responsible by moving directly to the location where they are to line up without any detours. The can be safe by observing personal space with their head, eyes, and toes facing forward. It may seem unnecessary, but when everything aligns clearly, it is so much easier to teach students the expectations! 

3.) Your Routines and Procedures will need to be explicitly taught for longer than you think!

Two of the most common mistakes when teaching routines and procedures is that we aren't specific enough and we don't teach them as long as we need for students to be truly successful. I shared in this previous post on classroom rules that it takes 8x for a student to learn something brand new, but 28x times to unlearn an old behavior and learn a new one. It takes 66x for the brain to develop a new neural pathway when changing from one routine to another. That means that our students' brains are LITERALLY WIRED to need A LOT of practice! This is especially true for older students that have experienced a variety of classroom expectations in the past.

Anita L. Archer, PhD, is an educational consultant that works with districts specifically on how to teach routines and procedures (and so much more). I love these specific examples of her teaching procedures in action because it is so much easier to implement when you can see it! I am unable to record myself teaching within my district and post it to share, and these videos are already fabulous so I want to share them here!

The following example shows her teaching 2nd grade students routines. I love how she keeps a really brisk pace and continually reinforces them. She does a great job at giving examples and non-examples of what she is looking for from the students. I especially love how she provides "think" time, then has the students answer chorally following a visual cue.



The following example shows her teaching 7th grade students routines. (My apologies for the typo within the video. I can't change that, but the content is still great!) She was the first person that I learned the SLANT strategy from, and I love it! I especially love that she addresses the difference between public and private questions for students. This is another little gold nugget that made a huge difference in my classroom.


 In each of the examples (or whichever one best represents your teaching situation), consider the following questions:

  • What procedures did you see taught? 
  • How did the teacher establish rapport with the students? 
  • How did the teacher reinforce student performance? 
Personally, my takeaways from these videos were that positivity, repetition, and consistency are so important when we are first teaching our students how to best learn in our classrooms!

 Creating Effective Classroom Routines and Procedures


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For this collaborative blog series, Dr. Tonja Irvine from Resource to Desk has also shared her perspective on her most important classroom routines. Check out her post here: 3 Routines I Can't Live Without in My Classroom.  



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