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 Plan strategically which procedures to introduce when and how many to introduce at once. Korinek (2016) states:

Rather than simultaneously opening all specialty areas, centers, or equip- ment in the classroom for independent student use . . . strategically focus on a limited number of areas, model their use, and practice with feedback to ensure most students are using spaces and materials appropriately prior to introducing new options (Brown, 2013; Kenworthy et al., 2014). (p. 234)

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p Post procedures for students to reference when they are still not sure what to do.

p To support students with limited reading skills due to age, disability, or language differences, add pictures along with words to allow students to be increasingly independent in following a procedure.

p Notice and acknowledge when students are practicing routines effec- tively. Catch them doing well rather than focusing on what they aren’t doing.

p Periodically, evaluate how well routines are working and whether you are getting the most mileage out of them. Take action when they need to be revisited, reviewed, or practiced again with feedback.

p Include students in assessing the effectiveness of the routine and in de- ciding what needs to happen to improve or modify it.



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Exhibit 9.1 Teaching a Routine

1. Explain: a. Define the procedure in concrete terms and give a reason for it.

b. Demonstrate the procedure; don’t just tell.

c. Demonstrate a complex procedure step by step.

2. Rehearse: a. Have students practice the procedure, step by step, under your

supervision. After each step, make sure that the students have performed the step correctly.

b. Have the students repeat the procedure until it becomes a routine. The students should be able to perform the procedure automatically without teacher supervision.

3. Reinforce: a. Determine whether students have learned the procedure or whether they

need further explanation, demonstration, or practice.

b. Reteach the correct procedure if rehearsal is unacceptable and give corrective feedback.

c. Praise the students when the rehearsal is acceptable.


The routines we establish and reinforce with students communicate to them what we think is important and what we believe they are capable of doing. We use the word “standard” to represent the level of challenge or rigor embedded in a procedure. We use the word “expectation” to represent the level of convic- tion we have—and communicate to our students—about their ability to meet the standard we set. Hence, another critical set of questions to consider is about the appropriateness of the standards inherent in the routines we establish. Are the standards challenging yet attainable for students? When a standard is chal- lenging (but attainable) students will have to rise to a new level and develop their capacity in order to meet the challenge. Thus when students demonstrate mastery of a routine they have reason to take pride in their accomplishment. If students aren’t successfully implementing a routine might it be because the standards we set are unreasonably high? Or conversely, are the standards we set

The routines we establish and reinforce with students communicate to them what we think is important and believe they are capable of doing.



T H E S K I L L F U L T E A C H E R114


so low that students aren’t taking them seriously? Are they clear? And finally, what support structures are in place for the few students who will need initial scaffolding in order to perform a routine successfully? In Danielle Berwick’s first grade class, students enter class, immediately take out their planners, and copy in the homework for that night that is posted on the board (e.g., “Study your spelling words,” or “Read for 10 minutes,” etc.). One student in her class had very challenging attention issues. He couldn’t focus long enough to look at the board and look back at his planner and get the message copied. After a couple of weeks of both teacher and students struggling for up to 30 minutes to hold him accountable to do this, Ms. Berwick consulted with her instructional support team. Together, they developed a plan: create labels that match the homework assignments for the week, place them on the ledge under the message from the board, and have him go and find the label that matched the posted homework message instead of having him copy the message. Once he did so, he could bring it back to his seat and post it in his planner. Not only did this result in his getting the homework into his planner as was required of all students, but it did away with the frustration for both teacher and student, and sometimes he actually began to ask to try again to copy the message into his planner. Sometimes stu- dents just need a little support to be able to successfully execute a routine that is otherwise appropriate for the majority.


As with standards for the quality and quantity of academic work we set for students, standards for work habits, procedures, and routines can be analyzed using the following scale:

p High but reasonable: demanding but attainable by all students?

p Matched: appropriate for most students and scaffolded for others where necessary?

p Too high: Are we demanding too much of students?

p Too low: Are we demanding less of students than they are capable of ?

p Confusing: inconsistent or unclear to students?

p Non-existent?

See Chapter 14, “Expectations,” for expanded definitions of each of these stan- dards and a discussion of various levels of matching.



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Table 9.1 Self-Assessment of Classroom Routines

True? 1. No routines are established for relevant events; I react on an ad hoc basis.

2. A few routines are erratically followed.

3. Stable routines exist for most relevant events, with evidence of student training.

4. Stable and highly efficient routines are in place for all relevant events.

5. Routines are varied. I modify, experiment with, and use alternative forms to achieve the purpose.

6. Routines are matched to the group; they vary from class to class.

7. Routines are varied or scaffolded to match characteristics of individuals and mapped to goals for them.


The scale shown in Table 9.1 is a basis with which we can analyze and assess our current level of performance when it comes to classroom routines. This scale spans a range of answers to the question, Why are my routines the way they are? They may serve efficiency, a valid and common orientation. They may serve a general goal, such as giving students security through the predictability of cer- tain recurring events. They may map to more specific goals for groups or for the class as a whole, such as having students routinely record books they have read in a register so that they take some responsibility for a form of record-keeping and get to see and participate in building a cumulative index of their books read; or assigning teams to areas of the room for cleanup so that the children have to come to grips with group responsibility, handling the division of labor, and dealing with individuals who won’t carry their weight. Exhibit 9.2 lists the elements of an effective routine.We may create or adjust routines in the service of objectives for specific individuals. For example, in a primary-grade class, Gabriella may start each day by taking down a few chairs and then moving into woodworking or clay (something with a motor emphasis), whereas Diego’s starting routine may be worked out to reflect academics and time in a private space. In an older class in which students are routinely expected to check the board for morning assignments or for feedback from previous work, Annelyse may need a personal “greet and escort” over to the board or a folder of her own in which this information is placed. Tenth-grader Nico may be asked to end each study hall with a log entry on what he has accomplished as a way of focus- ing him. Braden may be asked to arrange the furniture for committee work at the beginning of each social studies period, as a way of settling him down (and getting him to class on time).



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In Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students’ Cultural Strengths, Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull (2008) share an in-depth account of the Bridging Cultures Project, a project that was created to support teachers to use cultural knowledge to increase the educational success of their students. Working in col- laboration with a group of seven teachers (who became researchers in their own classrooms and schools) where immigrant Latino students from Mexico and Central America constituted the majority, they report that:

The result of the teacher’s efforts is a mountain of innovation: a collec- tion of strategies and ideas for classroom organization that are completely field-tested by teachers who have come to understand the central role of culture in learning and teaching. The teachers did not set out to explore classroom management, yet it became the first thing that they changed as a result of their new understanding of the cultural values of their students. (p. xiv)

It is not possible to do justice to summarizing all that Rothstein-Fisch and Trumbull’s findings offer us in the short space of this chapter; for anyone who is interested in developing capacity in this area, the entire book is worth a good read. Instead, here we will share some highlights that might be useful in bring- ing a cultural lens to examining the appropriateness of our routines and how we teach them to students, with an eye to ensuring that none of our students is put in a compromised position where they have to act in opposition to what they have come to believe is the appropriate way to be.

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