How To Make Your Routines More Effective

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Well-taught routines eliminate the need for narration.

They also  . . .

Save time.

Fill students with purpose.

Support independence.

Increase responsibility.

Improve motivation.

But each of these benefits can be enhanced and made more effective with one small adjustment.

It’s an adjustment very few teachers make. On my many visits to classrooms, I’ve seen it only a handful of times.

But it’s so powerful.

Before I share it with you, it’s important to emphasize that routines, once thoroughly taught, must be performed without any teacher input.

This is key. The teacher merely gives a “Go” signal. The students carry out the routine all on their own.

If you step in to remind, guide, or narrate, it nullifies the routine’s value and shifts responsibility back to the teacher, which is the last thing you want.

So what’s the adjustment?

It’s to make your routines longer. It’s to combine them where possible into one long extended procedure.

So instead of having one routine for entering the classroom, another for turning in homework, and a third for beginning the first assignment of the day, you would splice them together.

You would teach your class a multi-step routine that may take up to several minutes, depending on your grade level. Again, all without your input.

But what if you can’t combine routines? What if there is a standalone routine like lining up for lunch that doesn’t lend itself to linking?

You make it longer anyway, if only for a few extra seconds.

For example, you might have your students circle to the back of the room first, fist bump a friend, and then do a jig on an X next to your desk before lining up.

Yes, the steps can be nonsensical or even silly. In fact, weird is good. The detail and novelty, which you can change up weekly or even daily, act as a hooks along a memory map. It also makes routines more fun and less, well, routine.

Most of all, however, giving more time and space for students to attack the challenges you put in front of them helps transfer the benefits to all of their responsibilities, academic and otherwise.

The practice makes them more efficient, purpose-driven, motivated, and self-sufficient. It puts more weight on their shoulders.

It supports good listening and a growth mindset, wherein they become aware of their own agency and how they can shape and determine their future.

They realize through your constant shifting of responsibility that after your detailed instruction they don’t need you. They still appreciate you and grow from your example and inspiration.

But ultimately, it’s on them.

This awakening, which can happen to students in an instant and out of the blue, is heady and exciting and exactly what they need.

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