Routines for the students
Students like routine. That is not to say that there is no place for exciting lesson plans with surprises and discovery. It just means that having basic routines in place lets students know what you expect.
This leads to a safe, calm environment where the focus is on learning and nothing else.
When students arrive – lining up
Your school may have a process in place for this. Whether they do or not, the students are not allowed in the classroom without you (health and safety) so it makes sense for a calm beginning with them lining up outside your room.
Before they go in, you have a chance to ensure they are quiet, to check their uniform and to make sure any excitement and chatter has finished before they walk into your ‘learning zone’!
Have a seating plan – and stick to it
It is good practice to have a seating plan, and many schools insist upon it.
Don't feel restricted by this - you can occasionally alter your seating to support learning and behaviour – but having a plan in place, means that the students will come in and know where to sit at all times. It puts the control in your hands, which is a good behaviour strategy.
Seating plans work when you are flexible - you may decide that two students don’t work well together and change the plan for the following lesson – and from then on. And if a student tells you they can’t work with someone on their table – listen to them. Check with their tutor later, but giving them the benefit of the doubt at the time will lead to a better lesson than debating it!
As a behaviour strategy it works because it doesn't open up an opportunity for debate - it is like a silent strategy! Once in place, you can focus on the learning. If someone is not happy, ask to speak to them after the lesson and discuss the issues then.
Seating for learning - You may decide that depending on the style of the tasks, there would be a different seating plan. For instance, you may have a plan for independent working; for group working (sometimes teachers call this working in home groups), for differentiated group working (a one-off where you may sit based on ability) … and so on.
NB - If you teach a practical lesson, there are other ways to make sure students can come in ready to work. In my drama lessons for example. the students were used to coming in, putting their bags and coats against one wall, and sitting on chairs in a circle.
When students come in have a task laid out as a starter
You may have an image or question on the board, or an activity on their desks for example.
This allows them to engage with the learning as soon as they are in the door. There won’t be any messing about, carrying on conversations, or asking what they will be doing today.
Students bags and books
Students should always get their books and necessary equipment out of their bags and on the table, placing their bags under their chairs. This is a health and safety requirement and could cause problems if not part of a clear routine. Check out policies at your school and watch how other teachers do this. (Needs referencing as evidence for your portfolio)
Handing in homework
How do you collect in their homework? You could:
Find your own way – but
Giving homework and tests back
Students will want feedback on their homework. So not only must you mark it, but you need to allocate time for them to see their comments and respond to them. Your school will have a marking policy which will include a process for ‘students’ response to feedback’. Make sure you plan time for this in your lesson!
Exiting the room
How do your lessons end? This is usually a target for trainee teachers while you are getting used to accurate timing of your lessons!
Try to avoid rushing the last task as you run out of time, overlapping the bell and then letting the class go all together – leaving a mess of books and paper on the tables and floor for you to clear up!
Planning for how you dismiss the class is as important as the beginning.
A good routine may be:
Students clear their tables totally and stand / sit behind them so you can see if any aren’t packed away.
Then dismiss them a row at a time – usually those who are silent can go first, and those who are chatting go last!
Routines make the world of difference both to you and to the students.
During your lesson observations, look out for other routines you could benefit from putting in place.
If you missed the latest post - check out Routines for you - keeping yourself sane!
How do routines for you and for the students help maintain a calm atmosphere?
Having routines in our work removes some of the pressures and stresses of the ‘not knowing’ what comes next. Although in our everyday lives we may enjoy spontaneity, and there is a lot to be said for the excitement of a new adventure and a surprise evening out, this is not the same in the life of the teacher!
No two days in the teacher’s life are the same, and we are often faced with 'crisis management' when something unexpected occurs. So for the rest of the time we need to be sure that clear routines are established - these will keep us sane!
The next two posts explore routines for you and for your students. Both are important for different reasons.
Today's post - Routines for you.
Routines for you
What time do you arrive to school?
You need to ensure you get to school in plenty of time. I always arrive early, make myself a cup of tea, check everything is ready for my day, greet people (and have time for a chat!) and then calmly go to the staff briefing, or my first lesson. People who rush in at the last minute are not setting themselves up for a calm start - and if you are calm and in control, the students respond positively.
When do you plan your lessons?
Life is very busy as a teacher. In addition to planning and teaching, there is so much more to fill our days. But you know that lessons are a constant. They are always at the same time each week, with the same students and – usually – in the same room. So you can plot on your calendar when you can plan them.
I would advise planning in plenty of time for your mentor to look at them first. That way you can make any changes that are recommended. I have worked with some trainees who thought they didn’t need to show their mentor their plans. Suffice to say, the lessons were not as good as they should be – and it took a long time for their practice to improve.
When do you plan your resources?
Once you have planned your lesson, you will know what resources you need to either create or find. It is advisable to do these early – sometimes your ideas won’t always translate in practice. It is far better to know this early enough to be able to address it!
Equally with video extracts or internet clips – make sure you watch them ALL the way through. Also listen to music ALL the way through. Don’t let bad language or inappropriate content surprise you in front of the students! There are likely to be repercussions if you do make this mistake.
How do you spend your lunchtimes?
Do you support any lunchtime clubs? Do you work with struggling students doing their homework? Perhaps you spend lunchtimes with the football team. Whatever you do, remember to
What do you do straight after school?
Do you rush off home? Or do you stay until the site manager kicks you out?
I would advise somewhere in between. Often there will be meetings after school, and you will probably have your training sessions at least one day after the students have gone home. You may also decide to support one or more of the extra-curricular clubs that the school run. This is excellent practice – as long as you plan for it, and make sure you leave enough time for the rest of your planning and preparation.
After school is usually the time where staff can find each other to discuss things. If you have rushed off you will miss this informal planning and learning time.
When do you do your reflections and assignments?
It is really important to plan time to complete tasks, to make time for yourself, and to catch up with yourself before the next week.
This means you have a fall-back position for whenever events occur which may surprise you or knock your scheduling for a while. Use the horizontal planning blog as a possible way forward to help you plan your time effectively.
A typical scenario for you... which would you prefer?
Imagine the following:
These may have the potential to spoil your day – but not if you have planned carefully and have routines to support you.
Is this you?
1. You have planned your lesson carefully, and because you have arrived in school with plenty of time to spare, there is time to seek out your head of department to check your lesson with him/her and ask if there is someone in the department who can come in and support you.
2. You copied your resources yesterday.
3. You were planning to show a you-tube clip, but as you have time (due to your early arrival at school) you can change this part of your lesson by extending the writing task.
Or is this you?
1. You rush in with 5 minutes to spare. No time to see what the alternative arrangements may be, so when a teacher you don’t really know is sent to ‘cover’ you, you are thrown and make some silly mistakes – this doesn’t help your confidence!
2. You only planned your lesson last night, so were hoping to copy the resources during the 5 minutes before the lesson starts
3. You only discover the internet is down when you try to load the clip – in front of the whole class. Of course they are all calling out their suggestions to make it work – ‘have you turned it on, sir?’…
I know which I prefer!
Coming up next time: Routines for your students
Dr Sharon Williams