Thursday, July 30, 2015

First Day of School, Part 2: Routines and Procedures

If you missed Part 1: Arrival, make sure to check it out!

If you have taught before, you know very well that the first few weeks of school are very heavy on routines and procedures! Our motto at my old school was "Go slow (now), to go fast (later)." The more time spent on setting expectations and practicing routines and procedures NOW will pay off immensely in the long run. That means that academics might start off slowly, but they will pick up later. If you don't take the time to practice routines and procedures, you will be losing even more time redirecting later. Go slow to go fast!

Here is a handy dandy list of routines and procedures you will need to teach in the first week of school. (Click the image to download a copy for FREE!)

The first day of school in my class is comprised mostly of practicing routines and procedures. There are a lot of things students need to know and begin practicing right away, and I'd rather them do these routines properly from the beginning, rather than letting bad habits set in and having to break those bad habits later. For example, take my addiction to Iced Mochas... if I'd never even tried one, I wouldn't have given as significant of a portion of my salary to Starbucks as I have. If I would have just filled my Nalgene up with water and been on my way, we wouldn't have this issue. Moral of the story: Make good habits before you have to break bad ones!

The first column on the routines and procedures checklist are the things I recommend building in to your first day, and a few items on the second column as well. As I plan, I work these things into some fun activities, and spread the stand-alone procedures out (like bathroom and recess expectations and routines) in between activities. For example, if I'm planning to do an All About Me activity where students will be writing about their favorite things, I will first model how to properly use and take care of pencils before students are given this material. The activity will then give students the opportunity to practice what I've modeled. After this activity I might take some time to introduce our procedure for going to the bathroom, and have students practice this procedure. Our next activity might involve using crayons, so I would do another model of proper use of crayons. You get the picture. Real application of the routines and procedures; thoughtful planning of how to incorporate them into your day. (**I explained how I make this work for my arrival activity in the comments section below!**)

For some of these things, you will need to re-teach multiple times over multiple days and/or weeks before students are 100% ready to take on the routines and procedures on their own. They will need lots of repetition and lots of opportunities to practice the routines/procedures correctly. It will feel like Groundhog Day to you, but kids need it, and it will pay off, I promise.

Responsive Classroom has some great, highly effective strategies for teaching routines and procedures. I wrote about them and included some fabulous video examples here:

Remember, this first day can set the tone for the whole year, and you do not want to lose the opportunity to start off on the right foot immediately. So, establish routines and procedures, and establish them well. You can have fun and still show your students that there is work to be done and there are expectations that are to be followed in order for that work to get done.


  1. Quick question. I love what you said about introducing procedures for materials as students begin to use them (pencils, crayons...). I do the same. My question is: if you have students do the color page right away on the first day, do you first do a quick lesson on crayon procedure? Also, do kids color at the rug or go to tables? Thanks! I just found you and love everything I see so far!

    1. Great question Rosemary! I'm going to edit this into the post. :) I don't do the guided discovery procedure right away, I actually set out tubs of old crayons for that arrival activity. The kids will almost always use them properly because of that quiet, shy, period of shock they are in... they don't want to rock the boat right upon arrival, it takes them at least an hour to show their true colors, lol! Then, later that day, before the next opportunity to use crayons, I do a guided discovery of crayons with the brand new, clean, pointy, organized crayons that they will have at their tables. That way they are learning how to use and treat the supplies that will actually be "theirs". Does that make sense? I don't ever have problems doing it in that order for that particular activity. Another little tip to make guided discovery and interactive modeling more exciting... hide the supply/material you are about to introduce under a blanket or something, give the kids some hints about what they are about to practice using, and do a grand reveal when they guess it correctly! The little things are so exciting! lol =)