How to Teach Routines and Procedures in an Engaging Way
Part 4 of the Blog Series: SETTING UP FOR BACK-TO-SCHOOL SUCCESS
Have you ever asked your students to do something that you have not taught, modeled, or practiced? It is a sure-fire way to find out how many different ways that you do NOT want them to do it! Can you imagine telling 30 kindergartners to go line up for recess on the first day of school before giving any directions on how to do it? Does the phrase herding cats come to mind? Oh my gosh!! It was way worse than you are even imagining. Can you spell “complete chaos?” The one and only positive outcome is that we learned to not make that mistake again. We make sure that we teach, model, and practice every single procedure and routine no matter how small that we expect our students to do.
You might be thinking, “Hello? Of course, you need to teach routines and procedures! There is nothing new about that.” We are probably all in agreement about that, but how do we teach routines and procedures in a fun and engaging way that makes kids want to practice them over and over again and learn new ones? CHALLENGES!! That’s how! We turn our procedures and routines into challenges.
We introduce the procedure or routine as a challenge to get the students excited to learn it. We then explicitly teach it by modeling it. We add little songs and/or gestures when we can to help them remember how to do the procedure or routine (there are lots of little songs on Pinterest), and then they practice it, so they can “master the challenge.”
To determine which routines and procedures we want to teach, we first look at the routines (a sequence of actions regularly followed like packing up, getting ready for lunch) we want the students to do. Then, we brainstorm all of the necessary steps that we need to explicitly teach, model, and practice in order for the routine to become automatic. You can grab our Routines Checklist HERE.
Next, we look at all of the procedures (a particular course of action to achieve a result such as What to do when your pencil breaks., How to ask to use the restroom.) we want the students to do. We created a procedure checklist, so that we don’t forget anything. You can grab it by clicking HERE.
Then, we decide when and how we going to teach each of the procedures and routines by asking ourselves these questions:
- When do the students need to know the routine or procedure?
- This helps us to determine when we need to teach it. We do not want to overwhelm our students by trying to teach every routine and procedure on day one, if we do not need some of them until day three or even later.
- How much practice will the majority of the students need to master the routine or procedure?
- What academic activity will we have the students do in order to practice the procedures or routine?
- For example, have a simple craftivity that will go on the bulletin board that you can use to teach, model, and practice how to get supplies and how to use a glue stick properly.
- Are there any procedures and/or routines that can be grouped together to teach at one time?
- Hand signals that you use in your classroom are great procedures that you can group together.
Finally, we decide what routines and procedures we want as challenges and how we want the challenges set up. There are lots of different ways to set up the challenges. Let the difficulty of learning the procedure or routine determine how many challenges you do in a day. Three to four is usually a good amount. If you have older students, you may be able to set up more challenges and have the reward at the end of the week.
One year, we made little signs of each procedure or routine and printed them on magnetic sheets. We hung them on our whiteboard with magnetic hooks below. We hung a little key from the hook (the picture shows two keys – one for each of our classes). Once the students “mastered” the challenge (could do it correctly with very little prompting after they had been taught the procedure or routine, had seen it modeled, and had practiced it as many times as needed), they earned a key. We then opened one lock on the box which held a small reward. We did three challenges a day. The rewards were very simple and went along with our beginning of the year theme that year. See a list of reward ideas below. You could also use paper keys (click HERE for a set), and once they earn them all, they get to “unlock” the box or envelope or whatever you use. Another ideas is to earn a number to a combination lock (real or paper picture of one).
Another year we made and hung “challenge envelopes” on the whiteboard and wrote each challenge on a piece of paper that we put inside of the envelopes. The kids were excited to find out what challenges we were going to do that day. Once they completed all of the challenges, they earned a small reward. Click HERE for a set of Challenge Labels to hang on the board or glue on an envelope.
- Go Noodle or another fun active video
- Extra recess
- Extended recess time
- Extra read aloud
- Extended read aloud time
- A new recess game (Red Light Green Light, etc.)
- New recess equipment (sidewalk chalk, etc.)
- Lunch with the teacher (you may want to save that one for learning a difficult routine)
- Animal, graham, or Goldfish crackers
- M&M’s or Skittles
- Lollipops or suckers
- Smarties candies
- Temporary tattoos
- Glow sticks
- Almost anything you get excited over; your students will get excited about too.
Carefully thinking through each routine and procedure you expect your students to be able to do, knowing when they need to be mastered, planning the activities that they will do to practice the routines, and creating the challenges to engage the students while learning all of the routines and procedures will ensure that you are not trying to “herd cats” this school year.
Have a great beginning of the school year if you are starting soon or have already started. If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Happy teaching!!
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