How to Create Classroom Management Routines

Classroom Teacher
Sean Gallup / Staff / Getty Images

Over the years, educators have developed many different methods for keeping classrooms under control. Currently, one of the most effective is a program of classroom management proposed by educator Harry K. Wong in his book The First Days of School. The focus of Wong's program is on creating orderly classroom routines that help children understand what is expected of them each day. It is a highly effective method, one that works well in both special and general education classrooms.

Each day, the children from Room 203 line up outside the classroom and wait to be greeted by their teacher. When they enter the room, they place their homework in the basket marked "homework," hang up their coats, and empty their back packs. Soon, the class is busy recording the day's assignments in their assignment book, and when completed work on the spelling puzzle they found on their desks.

The Importance of Routines

Every day, the children in room 203 follow the same routines, routines they have learned. Flexibility comes in instruction, in meeting individual needs or challenges as they arise. The beauty of routines is that they are about "what we do," not "who we are." A child can be reminded that they forgot to complete a routine, and they will not feel hurt, as they probably would if they were told that they broke a rule.

It's well worth the extra time required to create routines, since routines help children understand what is expected of them, where to find the resources they need, and how to behave in the classroom.

Routines take time to be taught, but eventually, they become second-nature, and students no longer need to be reminded what to do.

The best time to establish routines is at the beginning of the school year. The First Six Weeks of School, a book by educators Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete, lays out six weeks' of activities that teach routines and create meaningful ways for students to interact and create community in the classroom. This approach is now trademarked as The Responsive Classroom.

Creating Routines

The best routines are those that anticipate common challenges in the classroom and find ways to address them. Before creating a routine, teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • How will the students enter the classroom?
  • Where will they place their backpacks? Their homework?
  • Who will take attendance? How will the students record their lunch choices?
  • What does a student do when his or her work is completed?
  • How does a student record his or her independent reading?
  • How are seats chosen at lunchtime?

A resource room teacher will need to ask:

  • How will the students get from their general education classroom to the resource room?
  • How will the students know when it is time to move from their desks to the teacher's table?
  • What role will a classroom aide play in the structure of the classroom?
  • Who keeps track of homework and class assignments?

Teachers should have an answer for each of these questions. Children from communities without much structure will need a great deal of structure in their day. On the other hand, children from more orderly communities will not necessarily need as much structure. As a teacher, it is always best to have too many routines and too much structure than too little—you can more easily take away than add.

Rules

While routines are more effective for managing classrooms, there is still a place for rules. Keep them short and simple. One of the rules in every classroom should be "Treat yourself and others with respect." Limit your rules to a maximum of 10 so that students can easily remember them.