How a lesson begins has an enormous influence on what happens subsequently. Having clear and regular routines that are enforced without fail allow you a multitude of benefits, and I’ve picked out five for your reading pleasure. Read on, Macduff!
First, start of lesson routines lighten the cognitive load on your students and and preserves their mental energy. Students are already mentally prepared for the routine that’s about to begin – i.e. prepared to get organised, be silent, write, discuss, analyse, think, answer questions, etc.
Following on from this, they reduces conflict. Again, students are aware of the expected behaviour in advance, so there’s no battle of trying to get them to do something unexpected. 90% will follow the routine, and you can quickly settle the 10% that may need a little more work.
Thirdly, they give you a chance to ‘prime’ students for the learning – meaning, you can calm those that need calming down; you can remind some of expectations; you can enforce basic standards of uniform. All of these things get students into the mindset for learning. It sends a signal to students that this is an environment of learning and success, and as such, they need to demonstrate their readiness for that.
Fourthly (and these last two are my favourites), clear routines set the culture and expectations of your school, every hour, for five hours per day. Every period is a chance to enforce the culture of your school (or let it slip). Routines communicate to what extent you’re serious about your values. It’s all very well plastering a list of values on a school website and writing out expectations in a behaviour and/or teaching and learning policy, but to live them is a lot harder. Routines are a mechanism by which expectations can be communicated, enforced, and lived. By merely entering a lesson, students are reminded of their purpose in school and what we want for them, which is immensely powerful.
Lastly, no learning time is wasted. Curriculum time is already precious (and limited). Lessons are for learning. The sooner the learning gets started, the sooner students are set on their way toward success. Ultimately, their success is what we’re here for.
So there you go – five reasons to be clear on starting routines and get them right. Good luck!