starting the school year off right

One word:  ROUTINES.  Seriously, teaching routines is one of the most important things we do at the beginning of the year.  And not just any old routines, but routines you have spent a lot of time thinking about.  Carefully thought-out routines for your classroom are gold.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have a lot of routines.  Sometimes, at the beginning of the year, some of the parents will look at me funny.  Especially the middle-class parents, if I have any.  The highly structured nature of my classroom is a little….different.  But it works, and all the parents are able to see that within a month.  Here are some examples:

*When the children arrive, I greet them at the door to our room, and then send them in to sign in.  The sign-in notebook is on a table just inside the door, and because not everyone can do it at once, I teach them how to get in a line, and wait their turn.  Yep, getting in line is the first thing they do each day.  Then they go to the “Who’s Not Here?” magnet board and move their nametags up to the “Who’s Here?” board.  After that it’s time to get to work at the tables.  Right now we have various manipulatives and drawing materials available.  By October it will be journal time first thing.  (Why do I do this? So everyone knows exactly what to do when they get to school, no one wanders aimlessly, and nothing gets pulled off the shelves and left in a mess. )

*When it is time to clean up, I turn off the lights and say, “One, two, three, freeze!” and teach the children to put their hands on their shoulders (can’t keep playing/building/drawing if your hands are on your shoulders) and look at me and listen.  I usually give them the two minute warning, and then do it again two minutes later to give clean up instructions.  (Why do I do this? So that everyone knows how much time they have to finish their work.  So everyone listens to my clean up reminders or instructions, and no one just plays and ignores me and then has no idea what to do at clean up time.)

*When we sit in the meeting area, everyone has an assigned spot.  My meeting area is incredibly small, as is my classroom, so we have to sit in three rows, with 5-7 in each row.  In the beginning of the year I have laminated cards from a school supply store (this year they are school buses) with their names on the front, and velcro on the back.  I lay the buses down in a specific order (I’ve got a map I can follow) and the velcro helps them stay put on the carpet.  Each child comes to sit down on the school bus with his/her name on it.  By October the buses will be in the trash and every child will know exactly where to sit.  I change it as needed, so certain kids are right in front of me, and nobody is next to someone who will be a big distraction for them.  (Why do I do this? We waste no time at all coming to sit down, because no one is pushing someone else, or fighting for a particular spot, and no one is all squished up against three other kids.  I’ll ask them to sit down, and they do.  Just like that.)

*When it’s time to line up, we do it in ABC order.  Always.  They start learning how to do this on the first day of school, and by the third week, can do it without assistance from me.  (Why do I do this? I used to have kids fighting every time they got in a line (“he BUDGED me!”), and sometimes I didn’t know if someone wandered off from the line and went missing.  With my ABC line, I always can tell right away if someone isn’t there, which is handy when we line up to go in from the playground.  No one every fights over their spot, because everyone has their own spot.  Our cubbies are in ABC order, so when we come in from the playground, our line stops at the cubbies and everyone is right in front of their own cubbie to make getting backpacks easier and quicker.  ABC lines make it easier for preschoolers to line up, and much faster.  I could go on and on….)

*When we climb stairs to go up to the music room, we stay to the right the whole time.  There are large landings on our stairs, but we don’t go the quick way, we stay by the wall to our right all the way around the landing and back up the next flight.  (Why do I do this?  So that we don’t get in anyone’s way when we are going up and they are going down.  So that everyone stays in line and holds the railing and no one wanders off to possibly fall down our big, wide, tall stairs.)


8 thoughts on “starting the school year off right

  1. i love reading other teachers routines….we have pretty much the same routines as you do..and they are working great!! I still have a few that doesn’t want to come in…but we are working on it..

  2. The hardest time for me is at the end of center time, when it is time to clean up and come to the carpet. They have rotated through their centers, I have turned off the lights as you described, warned them, etc., that when they clean up it is time to come to the carpet, and I still have kids who go to another center or someplace else inappropriate! I still have to teach this routine every day, and we are into our 4th week of school. Sigh…

  3. Nikki, I have finally figured out that if I sing a dorky little song I made up (Oh, I’m looking, for some children, who are finished cleaning up…etc) and include their names as they come to their designated spot, they come cheerfully. I have to use the same dorky song every time I expect them at the carpet, but you know, it works for us. They love to hear their name in the song! ;-). Wish I could tell you the tune, but I’m not sure where it came from. I’m just glad it works!

    And as for cleanup at our tables (we eat bfast, lunch, & snack in our rooms), we have this reminder and routine: stand up, push up (your chair), and pick up (your plate). It sounds so simple, but it helps children not trip over each other & their chairs since they have to push them up before leaving the table. Lifesaver!

    • What was the dorky song you used? 🙂 Sounds cool. I use song as cues to let children know about circle time, and other transition periods. They really work and I’ve made up my own chants and songs. It’s great fun! Love this teacher talk.

  4. Pingback: yeah, so I’m strict — and teaching kids self-control « Elbows, knees, dreams

  5. Hi there! I love your ABC idea. I have started using this myself. Do you ever use reverse ABC order to give the children a chance to be first in line etc? You could also group the constant and vowel beginning sounds together, that kind of thing. It would be a great way for children to learn about the letters of the alphabet, I think! Thanks for your post. It got me thinking!

    • I usually stick with the ABC line, but we have jobs that change weekly, and one job is line leader (so everyone gets a turn), and another is caboose (so it’s always someone different at the end). Thanks for checking out my blog; glad to have you here.

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