I’m about to start a series on my YouTube channel called “Students’ Corner” which is a result of an online survey I asked my past students to answer. The four-part series aims to let my viewers know more about me, especially the way I conduct my classes, by reading and reacting to my students’ responses (without mentioning their complete names for their privacy and protection), and also discussing the classroom routines and activities they mentioned in the survey.
After going over the responses to the survey, I noticed that most of the things that the students remember about me are those related to routine. This has me thinking that, maybe, my routine has been laid down quite successfully and implemented consistently. So in this article, I will be sharing about how to establish an effective classroom routine.
1. Know your teaching style.
The biggest consideration for having an effective classroom routine is knowing what kind of teacher you are. You have to know what kind of relationship you want to establish with your students which, as a result, will determine the way they should respond to you.
I, for example, believe I am a systematic teacher. I like the flow of events in my classroom to be smooth from start to finish, as much as possible. They know, since day one, that because I like order, I’m surely going to be strict with implementing classroom rules. And because of this, my students’ expectations about me are managed, and they are inclined to be organized as well if they want to get along with me.
2. Plot and revise your routine.
All teachers know how important it is to have a plan. After figuring out your style, plot a routine that will fit that. There are several activities that happen in the classroom every day. What are the students supposed to do as soon as you enter the room? What are the things they have to do before a test? How would you want them to pass their papers? You have to have a step-by-step process for all those, and let the students know of them.
For example, as soon as I enter the room, I start by saying “I will go around in 10 seconds.” This directs students to arrange their chairs, pick up trash, and keep things that are not related to the subject, among others. Within this time, I also set-up the things I need, such as my laptop being connected to the TV screen, and the hand-outs being laid out on the table. After the ten seconds have elapsed, I go around to check the room, before I greet them and ask them to take their seats. As soon as they are sat, I ask them to bring out their lecture notebook, or whatever materials they need for the day. When all of them are prepared, that’s the time I will proceed to the actual flow of the lesson.
These steps are not the same as the ones I used to follow during my first year of teaching. Over the years, I discover new ways to improve my routine based on the students’ responses. So, it’s good to revisit your routines at the end of each year to fine-tune them as you see fit.
3. Be consistent.
Routine is only effective if it is steadily implemented. In the beginning, it’s not going to be as smooth and easy, since students need time to get a hang of the steps. It’s the teacher’s job to maintain the routine, and at first, repeat the instructions again and again, until it becomes so deeply ingrained in them. Soon enough, with patience and consistency, there will come a time that, even if you don’t speak, they’d know what to do.
I explain routines to students on the first day of classes. During that session, I lay down all my classroom rules, and simulate situations to apply the classroom routines. I make sure to give them opportunities to exercise these routines, with my guidance, in the first few weeks. Then, slowly, I ease up on specific instructions and switch to prompts. Half-way through the school year, they’ve surely mastered them all, which is why a one-sentence prompt makes them three or more things I expect them to do.
4. Get students’ feedback.
It’s always best to hear from clients to know how effective you have been in delivering your services. It’s one thing to know if the routine was effective for you, and it’s another to know if it was helpful for the students. Try to find a way to have the students comment on and evaluate your routine. This will help you revise what you need to revise, improve what you need to improve and retain what you need to retain.
With technology nowadays, it’s quite easy to do this. I use Google Forms to make online surveys for students to evaluate me, either quarterly or annually. All input that they give, whether positive or negative, surely helps me tweak my style a bit to fit my students’ needs and interests, as well. As a result, I feel like they help me become a better teacher than I have been.
All of this may sound like my classroom is perfect. It’s not; it will never be. Teachers are humans, too, and there will be days when we are not our best selves. And given the class size in the Philippines, there is also an average of 40 different personalities that you have to deal with every hour of a school day. There is always room for human error. But, with a well-defined classroom routine, you can have a sense of order in this world of chaos.