sacred classroom routines

Teachers know how important routines are to keep our school days running smoothly.  Routines make kids feel safe and bring an easy flow to our days. (Well, most days.)  Our usual routines are going to be tricky this year due to the possible shifts between in-person and virtual school.  Our schedules may be off from day to day due to the need to keep groups of students from coming into contact with each other in the hallways and other common areas.  There are some routines we’ll be able to control and some we won’t.  It will be important to think through ‘routine non-negotiables’ and those we can let go of, all while keeping our students’ and our own well-beings in mind.  Here are five routines I think may be worth keeping sacred.

Feeling safe and secure is the foundation to many things ...
  1.  Morning greeting:  When we greet our students at the door they begin their’ days feeling special and welcome.  In the past, the greeting has been a high five, handshake or hug.  The greeting may need to be socially distanced this year, but there are still ways we can greet our students as they enter our rooms.  We can try an air high five or a happy dance.  We can place personal post-it greetings on our students’ desks.  We’ll need to get creative about how we greet, but it’s definitely a routine worth preserving.
  2. Morning meeting: The benefits of starting the day with a morning meeting are incredible. Research revealed by Kriete & Davis in their 2014 “Morning Meeting Book YC” shows that, “morning meetings impact classwork productivity because they help to identify and meet students’ social and emotional needs, which create a sense of belonging and connection. This provides teachers with vital information for targeted intervention and leads to an increase in classwork productivity.” This sense of connection can be accomplished by playing games and through quick sharing activities.  Morning meetings are also the perfect time to help students think about how they want to be during the day.  Offering suggestions, such as being kind, helpful, supportive and encouraging, and asking them to share one way they’ll accomplish their goal (share during choice time, tell one person they did a good job with their work, chew bubble gum when I want to blurt) helps them be intentional about their plans for self-conduct.
  3. Closing meeting:  Closing meetings are the ideal time to reflect on our days.  This isn’t a time for only our students to reflect, but for us to engage in reflection too.  Modeling reflective thoughts with our students is a powerful strategy for teaching them how to learn from their daily experiences.  We can share what went well in our day, what we could have done differently, and how we did with our morning intention.  One way to hold a closing meeting is to simply have students share a response to the question, ‘How did I make my class better today?’  Closing meetings allow students to leave the day with emotional closure.  Responsive Classroom has some other suggestions for closing meeting activities.
  4. Procedures:  We may need to be flexible with the timing of our lessons and schedules this school year but we can be ultra-consistent with our procedures.  I don’t know about you, but I often find myself diligent about procedures in the beginning of the year but then get lax as the year moves along.  Keeping procedures consistent, when other things may be inconsistent, can bring a lot of comfort to our students.  Some procedures to consider:
    • Pencil sharpening
    • Moving to the carpet
    • Lining up for lunch and dismissal
    • Turning in work
    • Requesting help
    • Leaving for the bathroom

Final thoughts: moving between classroom and online learning: The school year is going to be challenging for sure. There’s no way around it. We can, however, find a little peace, for ourselves and for our students, by maintaining consistency between our virtual and in-person school days. Conducting our days in the same sequence, keeping some of our routines sacred, and showing our students we care about them and their learning, no matter the setting, will make teaching during a pandemic a little more manageable.

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