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.)