I have worked as a substitute teacher for two years now, and have picked up on a lot of great ideas about establishing routines in the classroom. Students of all ages need a set routine to maintain focus. These first tips focus on the student’s arrival to school in the morning:
- There is nothing more distracting than students constantly sharpening pencils. When students first arrive at school, they should all sharpen two pencils for the day. This should help cut down on the number of trips to the sharpener throughout the day.
- Establish a station where students can make their lunch choices. You can put baskets out for their options (tray, pack, soup and sandwich, salad) and make a popsicle stick with each student’s name on it. When they arrive, they place their stick in the correct basket. You can then quickly take count for your lunch totals for the day. You can even make this part of your student’s daily job assignments and have a student record the daily lunch count for you. This can also be used for attendance.
- Post your daily schedule in the room. This will help avoid hearing the constant "What time is recess?" Students become more independent and can check the schedule for themselves.
- Have a set line-order for when you need to travel as a class. Set the order, and keep it all year long. This helps you out by making sure your more disruptive students are not in line together, and it avoids the rush to be first in line every day. There is no cutting in line or arguments over who got in line first.
- In our building, students can not go to the restroom alone. Of course, every class has those two students who just can not be together in the restroom. Assign bathroom buddies at the beginning of the year, so whenever someone has to leave to use the restroom, they must always take their bathroom buddy along. This keeps students who are less trustworthy from leaving the room together.
- When lining up simply tell students "Give me SMITH." SMITH means Silent Movement In The Hallway. This can be an easy signal to have the students ready to move. You can even post the acronym close the the door where the students will see it whenever they line up.
Organizing Your Classroom
The way you set up and organize your classroom can have an effect on your students’ productivity. To keep your room organized use the following tips:
- If your students use tables instead of desks, assign table names to make it easier to manage students when asking the class to line up or when praising/correcting a group. You can use colored baskets, assign country names, or days of the week.
- If your students do not have desks, purchase a plastic tub (like a magazine holder) for each student to hold essentials like workbooks, notebooks, and 3-ring binders. They can also keep books they are reading here, helping them to keep their materials organized and their tables free from clutter.
Tracking Homework and Behavior
To track homework and classroom behavior, many teachers use a system where students move their name card up or down a chart, and each level has an assigned meaning. This may range from warning to missing recess, or may even involve a trip to the principal’s office. This gives students a visual of what the consequences when they break a class rule. If you want something more concrete to show parents at conference time, establish an “Oops” book. Use a notebook and set up a page for each student in the class. If a student forgets homework or breaks another class rule, he will write it down in the “Oops” book. On their page, they can write the date and the transgression. You may even ask them to write what they could have done differently so that it does not happen again. This way, students have to put some thought into what they did, and you have a better record of behavior patterns to share with parents.