17 Must-Try Classroom Routines for Elementary Teachers

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children coming into classroom morning routine
Jeanne Sager

Written by Jeanne Sager

When you’ve worked to set up classroom routines and procedures for your students to follow that are well-planned and executed, your classroom should run like a well-oiled machine. Or that’s the dream, right? 

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What Is the Importance of Classroom Routines and Procedures?

The truth is, classroom routines aren’t just for you. They help make transitions smooth and establish a sense of order for students that they crave (whether they realize it or not). Classroom routines give kids comfort as they know exactly what’s expected of them, and they give them a sense of autonomy too — it’s up to them to make the decision to follow along and do what it is they need to do. 

So how do you set up routines and procedures that will work for you? Or maybe you’re just wondering how can I improve my classroom routine?

Here are a few tips we’ve learned that can make a huge difference in the classroom.

Morning Classroom Routines and Procedures

Mornings are always hectic, and this is an important time to get kids used to a routine in order to make sense of the chaos. These ideas of morning routines can help make the transition from drop-off or the bus and into the learning environment go more smoothly:

  • Set up a Google Slide on your smartboard with a morning greeting and directions for your students that can be changed slightly each day. Let your students know at the beginning of the year that all they have to do is check the smartboard to get to work! You can make it fun with a fresh word of the day or a new writing prompt to practice with!
  • Encourage students to engage in independent reading once they’ve gotten their bookbags stowed. They can bring a book from home or choose one from your classroom library. 
  • Set up a space for students to find catch-up work that they can tackle each morning while they wait for their classmates to join them in the classroom. 
  • Set out bell-ringer activities on each student’s desk the night before — such as a practice worksheet — so they have work to do right away to awaken their learning brains while you take attendance and take care of your other morning duties.
  • Encourage your kids to check in with themselves with a feelings wall that asks them how they’re feeling today.

Lining Up Routines and Procedures

When lining up to head out to the cafeteria, recess, or specials, having a set routine will prevent the chaos that comes when everyone wants to be a line leader or talk in the hallways. Here are a few ideas to make things run smoothly:

  • Instill a voiced level system. When you say silent as snails, your students will know there’s no talking as they make their way from place to place! Print out a poster with the various animals and matching voice levels to remind your students. 
  • Assign student numbers, and add them to the floor! Use masking tape to create numbers for each student on the line, so they know exactly where to stand. You can also mix things up by calling out names and numbers — Tim, line up on #4. Tamika, line up on #2!

classroom voice level display whisper voice quiet like a mouse

Technology Routines

From iPads to Chromebooks, you’ve got probably got a lot of tech in your classroom, and we all know what happens when tech isn’t charged!

Setting up technology routines in the classroom won’t just keep things running smoothly — it can help reduce energy waste too. 

  • Set up an energy reminder poster in the classroom so students don’t forget to shut computers off at the end of the school day. 
  • Let kids know the proper procedures for charging tablets and laptops — is that up to them or is it up to you? One hack we stand by — wrap colored tape around the end of the charging cord and the same colored tape on the device. That way students know which cord goes with which device! 
  • Set up the expectation EARLY that kids have to log out of the device when they are finished.

Bathroom Routines

Bathroom breaks happen. While we certainly don’t want students to abuse them, encouraging kids to drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated means that they’ll also have to listen to their bodies and make a trip to the bathroom now and again. 

Good bathroom routines will limit distractions when a student has to exit, and they can be especially helpful for younger kids who are still learning to listen to those body cues: 

  • Set up tap lights on your whiteboard that students can hit when they exit to go to the bathroom. If the light is on, you have to wait your turn!
  • If you prefer a bathroom pass system — and your school may require it — walk students through the process so they know when it’s OK to grab the pass, whether or not they need to sign it out, and so on. Print a fun “where am I?” poster so you can keep track of each student! 

For younger learners, set up a routine that walks them through the whole process — including hand-washing and knocking on the door if you have an in-class bathroom! You can also hang a hand-washing routines poster to remind them each time!

hand washing posters for the classroom

Schedule Their Day

Once the children have completed their first morning task, it’s time to take a look at their day. What should they expect? What equipment will they need? Here is our Visual Daily Schedule – a great reminder for children to refer to during the day. Students then feel prepared and in control. Make checking the schedule throughout the day part of your routine so students know what to do and when to do it! 

For young kids, a classroom calendar is a great way for children to learn basic calendar concepts while easing into the school day. This may not be suited to your class, however, in pre-k and kindergarten, it is a nice whole class activity to practice carpet time and listening skills.

Fast Finisher Routines

Some students naturally complete work faster than their classmates, and it’s best to set up routines so they know what to do while they wait. 

Which classroom routines and procedures help keep things running smoothly for you?

 

Banner image via shutterstock/Tom Wang

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