Practical Exercises: Establish classroom management, routines, and rituals with students in the first few weeks of school

by | Aug 28, 2019


Last week, we outlined a checklist of steps you can use to introduce your classroom management plan and begin to establish routines and rituals with students. If you haven’t looked at the checklist yet, we definitely recommend you read this article before going any further! Once you understand the steps required to set proactive and positive behavioral expectations for student success, you will be able to implement the practical exercises in this article to implement these new concepts in your classroom:

Your only goal for the first day of school should be setting expectations for student behavior.

Think about the regular activities in which students will engage everyday, and clearly demonstrate the behavioral expectations for each of these situations. Everyday situations may include:

  • Following classroom rules
  • Entering the classroom, going to the restroom, and leaving the classroom for any other reason
  • Lining up and walking in line
  • Giving undivided attention upon your signal
  • Raising their hand when they would like a turn to speak

If your class requires any other daily activities, add them to the list. On the first day of school, the only concepts you need to teach are the appropriate behaviors for each of these situations. Use the steps from checklist item #2 to teach your students about your expectations for these behaviors.

Develop a detailed routine you want students to follow for each activity.

Think about a routine you want to establish in your classroom. For example, maybe you want to set up a routine to help students transition from working independently at their desks to lining up for lunch. Here’s how you can develop and teach the routine to your students:

  1. Plan and create an outline for every single detail of the routine, from the way you want independent center materials to be neatly put away, to the exact place in the classroom you want the line to begin and end. When you include more details, students are able to concentrate and recall the information more easily later because they have to really focus on each of your instructions.
  2. Exhibit each step of the routine so students can visually experience what it looks like to meet behavioral expectations for their classroom to be safe and orderly.
  3. After modeling the routine, have a student demonstrate and model what you’ve done. If the student forgets one of the steps or doesn’t perform the step exactly as you explained it, pause their performance right away to provide immediate feedback so the detail won’t be glossed over. Use this opportunity to reteach the part of the routine which was missed, and have them go through the step again.
  4. Offer lots of praise and positive reinforcement when the student performs the routine correctly, so everyone in the class knows how to earn your positive attention.
  5. Repeat this process with a couple more students to reinforce the routine in your students’ minds.
  6. After a few students have individually completed the routine successfully in front of the class, have the entire class conduct the routine at the same time to demonstrate their understanding. Avoid giving them step-by-step instructions as they walk through the routine—they have seen it performed enough times and now it’s time for them to retrieve the behavioral expectations stored in their memory to implement with fidelity.
  7. Again, be sure to offer praise if they complete the routine perfectly. Remember, proactive and positive reinforcement requires practice and immediate feedback when students are not adhering to the behavioral expectations.

As you work through these steps, be sure to keep a positive, enthusiastic tone of voice, so students feel like you’re cheering them on rather than being harsh and overbearing. Also, know when to take breaks, so you don’t wear them out or discourage them.

Practice each routine a few separate times over the first three weeks of school.

Students have a lot to take in during their first three weeks of school! They’re not just learning your rules and routines—they’re also learning new names, memorizing routes in the school to get where they need to go, learning a school drop off and pick up routine, and trying to study academic concepts all at the same time. As you teach your behavioral expectations, routines, and rituals have the class practice executing the routines a few separate times, so they become ingrained in your students’ muscle memory.

Remind yourself of your behavioral expectations every few weeks.

You also have a lot going on during the school year, between lesson planning, grading, parent meetings, and more. If you review your classroom management plan every few weeks, this will help you keep an eye out for things that may not be on track with the routines you have established. When you neglect your behavioral expectations, and a student is allowed to disregard your behavioral expectations, the entire class will interpret this to mean your behavioral expectations aren’t really all that important.

Whenever a student steps out of line from your expectations, pause the activity or lesson and reteach the expectation again, just like you did during the first demonstration and modeling exercises of the routine. Don’t move on with your activity until the appropriate behavior is demonstrated exactly as you expect.

Do you need more support in your job-embedded professional development?

If you still feel like you are unprepared to create a classroom management plan, ask your principal for coaching support. You and your principal are also always welcome to schedule a free consultation call with CSAS to learn and implement evidence-based strategies in your school.