As I look forward to another first day of school, I want to write myself a series of reminders. Today is the first: processes and routines will be the foundation of learner independence in my classroom.
First: “With people slow is fast and fast is slow” aka “Go slow now so you can go fast later.”
I heard this first in a Stephen Covey training, but the quote has variations and different attributions. In the classroom, the people are what matters. I cannot treat them like a process. My students aren’t grist for my learning mill. They are individuals. They have hopes, dreams, challenges, and disappointments. The most important aspect of going slow now to go fast later, is to honor and know your students.
Processes and routines honor your students as well. We only have so many hours in the day. The cognitive load of following specific new directions many times a day can get pretty heavy for anyone, much less a 10 year old! As the early days of school approach, here are some ways I work on processes and routines in the classroom:
- A morning routine that is predictable.
- In my room, the order is unimportant here but students know to make a lunch choice, put their things away, eat breakfast, and then work on something of their choosing (and I joyfully help with the choice if they have no preference!).
- Expectations based on context.
- In my room these contexts include: Mini lesson time, Independent work time, Small group instruction time, group work time, and Whole group directions. Each of these contexts has it’s own set of expectations. The students (eventually) know that stepping out to the restroom during a mini lesson or directions isn’t the best option.
- Practice having community meetings as a class before there is a situation that warrants it.
- If we’ve practiced this, then the first time we need to discuss classroom challenges in this way, it’s not a huge deal! Just a conversation!
- Practice, practice, practice.
- I have specific procedures for independent math time, for reading choice time, and for independent work time. The key to success in the second quarter is to methodically teach, explain, reteach, and talk about each of these processes. Help students understand the “why” and allow them freedom and choice in their independent time. And then practice. It may help to start with short amounts of time and build that stamina.
- If I want as many students as possible using their time well, practice is key. I can strong arm compliance that avoids distractions. But to maximize learning and growth, I know I need engagement. So we practice for 3 minutes and then talk about it. Students talk with each other. Individual coaching may happen as needed. The time builds and by week 4, students can do meaningful work for 15-25 minutes without redirection!
I can’t wait to meet this years students. I’m excited to get to know them. To hang out. And to see what magical learning we can build together!