Guidelines in Establishing Classroom Routine

Routines have to be learned. We get used to doing them in order for them to become routinized. t is, therefore, necessary that we identify and explain specific rules and procedures in our classrooms. When? The first days of school will be most timely. It is also good to rehearse classroom procedures (especially for elementary pupils) until they become routines. Reinforcing the correct procedure and re-teaching an incorrect one will be of great help.

Some routines on the following can be of great help:

  • Beginning and ending the class day or period
  • Transitions
  • Getting/distribution of materials and equipment
  • Group work
  • Seatwork and teacher-led activities

Beginning and Ending the Class, Day or Period

Read this vignette to get an idea on how Mr. Castro efficiently begins and ends his class.

Mr. Castro`s routines for starting and ending class were designed to get the most from the 47-minute period and to shift some of the management responsibilities to the students. To achieve this, students were organized into groups with specific roles assigned on a rotating basis. One student in each group took on the role of “Organizer”. During the first minute of the class, the Organizer’s job was to check with each group member to determine if anyone needed make-up assignments explained and to ensure that everyone had the required materials for class. Mr. Castro, at the same time, scanned the room to mark attendance and tardies in his grade book. Within a minute or two, the students and Mr. Lim were ready to begin working. At the end of the class, the “Organizer” was given time to make sure that everyone had recorded and understood the homework. If problems or confusion occurred that -could not be addressed within the group, the Organizer asked Mr. Castro for assistance. This group approach, in Mr. Castro’s opinion, helped to ensure that student’s individual needs were addressed immediately, which minimized the potential for classroom disruptions. (Except for the change of name, this vignette was lifted from Robert J. Marzano, (2003) Classroom Management That Works, Alexadria, Virginia, ASCD)

Any comment on the way Mr. Castro begins and ends his class?


Management of most instructional interruptions is fully within the teacher’s control. Transitions can either be anticipated or unanticipated. Orlich, et al.(1994) share some examples of anticipated and unanticipated transitions. Examples of anticipated interruptions are:

  • Beginning of an instructional episode
  • Between instructional episodes
  • After an instructional episode
  • Equipment set up and take-down
  • Material distribution/collection
  • From teacher-to-student-centered activity
  • Beginning/end of class or school day

Solving Pre-lesson Transitions

Orlich, et al (1994) offers the following suggestions:

  • Delegate administrative tasks to students when possible.
  • Attendance, announcements, material distribution and homework collection should be routinized.
  • Use the first few minutes of the class and the last few minutes to encourage creative thinking activities. The following are some sample routines for the first five minutes of the class:
    • Problem of the day
    • Brain teaser
    • Vocabulary “Word of the Day”
    • React to a quotation
    • Warm-up problem on overhead to copy and solve
    • Respond to a newspaper editorial
    • Conundrum (e.g. What occurs once in .a minute, twice in a moment, but never in a thousand years?)

Solving Transitions during the Lesson

Here are examples of what you can do:

  • Give supplementary exercises for the fast workers.
  • Get the fast learners to tutor students in need of help.
  • Ask the fast learners to assist you in your administrative tasks like preparing for the next learning episode.

Solving Post-lesson Transitions

To allow you time to shift to the next activity, create a routine for the last five minutes of the day. Before the “curtain” activities you observe routinized dismissal procedures. This is how one teacher does it:

Students, we will be working throughout the entire period of this class each day. We won’t pack up and get ready to leave five minutes before the bell rings. Instead, we will pause after. the bell rings to Make sure that all garbage is picked up off the floor. Please look around you to see that the area around your desk is clean and that materials are put away. Then when we are ready, you will. hear Me _say the magic words: “Thank you and have a great day!” Those words are what will dismiss you to leave the room. The bell does not dismiss you. I do.

Unanticipated Transitions

Because you cannot anticipate when and for how long how such interruptions will last, all you.can do is prepare yourself and your classes for such eventualities. At the beginning of the school year, you take time to. explain your expectations for dealing with unanticipated interruptions such as those given above.

Use of Materials and Equipment

Make clear your rules and procedures on the distribution and collection of materials, storage of common materials, the teacher’s desk and storage areas, students’ desks and storage areas, the use of the pencil sharpener.

The following vignette illustrates the rules:

One of the major roles assigned in Mr. Carpio’s cooperative groups was “Materials Captain.’ Each week, the student in the group who was assigned this role took. responsibility for handling out and collecting materials throughout the school day. To ensure that all students understood this role, Mr. Carpio taught the students the distinctions for each of the three major areas where materials might be. kept. He labeled these areas Yours, Mine, and Ours. Yours referred to the materials in the students’ own desks, materials that the Captains were not to touch. Mine referred to the materials that belonged to Mr. Carpio and that were. not to be used by the students. Ours referred to all other classroom materials that would be distributed and collected by the Materials Captain. All of the students, when it was their turn to be Captain, understood the importance of these distinctions and that Mr. Carpio expected them to follow his procedures. ” You are the Captains, but remember, I am the Admiral”, Mr. Carpio often joked” (Except for the change of name, this vignette was lifted from Robert J. Marzano, Classroom Management That Works, Alexadria, Virginia, ASCD, 2003.)

Group Work

Research shows that group work like cooperative learning has a positive impact on student achievement, interpersonal relationships and attitudes about learning. (Marzano, 2003)

Rules and procedures on group work address the following areas:

  • Movement in and out of the group
  • Expected behaviors of students in the group
  • Expected behaviors of students not in the group
  • Group communication with the teacher

The vignette below may illustrate some of the procedures:

Mrs. Milanes had avoided using group work in her classroom for year, until she took a workshop on how to maximize group time. As a result of the workshop, she realized that, in the past, she had never made group behavioral expectations clear to the students. Now, whenever she uses group work, she spends time at the beginning and end of each work session going over the rules and then processing with students how well the rules worked for the groups. For example, one rule, “Two before me”, is intended to remind students to ask each other for help before coming to the teacher On the first day of a new group project, Mrs. Milanes reminds students of this rule and explains the importance of helping each other. At the end of their work time each day, she asks the students to describe in their individual learning logs any example of how they: (1) received help from their group members and (2) might have helped each other better. Every day, before they begin working, the students read to their group members the learning log entry from the previous work session, This starts their work with a review of what is going well and what behaviors need to be improved. (Except for the local name, the vignette was adapted from Marzano, Robert J., 2003)

Seatwork and Teacher-led Activities

Rules and procedures in these areas pertain to:

  • Student attention during presentations
  • Student participation
  • Talking among students
  • Obtaining help
  • Out-of-seat behavior
  • Behavior when work has been completed

Here are some effective signals used by new and experienced teachers:

  • 5,4,3„2,1 countdown
    5 for freeze
    4 for quiet
    3 for eyes on the teacher
    2 for hands-free (put things down)
    1 for listen for instructions
  • Raise your hand if you wish to participate.
  • To obtain the teacher’s attention:
    One finger = 1 need to sharpen my pencil.
    Two fingers = 1 need a tissue.
    Three fingers = 1 need your help.

Teacher’s hand signal means:

  • Freeze (Stop what you are doing)
  • Gently tap on your neighbor’s arm to get his/her attention to freeze.
  • Face the teacher and listen to instructions.