Routines. Sound boring? Think again - routines are essential and also totally awesome. Just check out this one:
So, my classroom routine is not quite as impressive as that, but I'm working on it, and I do believe in it. The power of a good routine goes a long way toward creating a joyful classroom and a joy-filled teacher. Are there any child psychologists or professionals who work with children who don't believe in routine? I think not.
The point of a routine isn't to create classroom drudgery - we don't spend day after day doing exactly the same thing; where's the joy in that? A special guest or field trip doesn't throw us off. And it's not to quash creativity or train predictable little robots. A thoughtful, sensitive routine provides structure and security. It helps children transition from one activity to another. It lets the teacher introduce new concepts in a stable environment. It builds confidence to allow for exploration of new concepts. It helps develop self-discipline and increase productivity.
Here's what works for me:
The children are dropped off at school from 8:45 until 9. They play all together in our "gathering space", with group-appropriate toys. Dolls, building blocks, a set of cars, a puzzle - I rotate, but they always play together and interact with children from other classes. And there is always music on in the background.
At 9, we tidy up (three claps as I say, 1 2 3, look at me - tidy up, please!) and line up to go to our class, where we have "circle time". During circle time, we say good morning to everyone, share a piece of news, sing songs, read stories and review flashcards. At the end of circle time, children can go use the restroom or get a drink of water.
We transition to "activity tables", where they work/play in small groups at different stations I set up for them. Books, play dough, dominoes, building blocks, and animals are popular examples from my room.
After snack and outdoor playtime, where we can be loud without screaming, we come back inside for "table time", when the children complete activities in their language and math workbooks. We talk about the activity as a group, and then either complete individually, in small groups or as a class.
Then it's on to lunch, which comes with its own set of routines - hand washing, table manners, naptime and the like, but back to the classroom:
In the afternoons, we have Arts and Crafts, Phys. Ed., or Music, depending on the day. The children know it's a group activity, and they know the mini-routines involved in each subject.
They're getting better about speaking in turn and going to the rest room at appropriate times. I'm not frustrated by loud children running everywhere, or worried that I've lost one somewhere. They're quite confident about trying new things and happy when they're able to tell me what's coming next.
And what's coming next is... Day Three - check back tomorrow for a Fun Friday teaching tip to help inject some joy into your classroom!