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Setting Routines

Routines are an important way to set expectations, establish classroom norms, and build positive relationships in the classroom environment.  Establishing and maintaining routines ensures that both the amount of time and quality of learning are maximised.

Related ECF strands: 1.5,1.6,1d. 7.1, 7.2,7.5, 7c, 7e, 7h, 7h, 7i, 7j, 8.4 and 8m

Why are routines so important?

Routines are a vital part of successful, proactive behaviour management. Routines reduce pupil distractions, make the classroom environment predictable and secure, and the opportunity for poor behaviour diminishes. When routine becomes habit, it makes managing behaviour far easier as a teacher but you must invest in spending time explicitly teaching these routines in order to reap the dividends for the remainder of the year. Routines also allow for the development of student self-regulation – the ability to control and regulate emotional responses. Students are more able to cope with emotions such as boredom, frustration, by relying on classroom routines to redirect their attention, improve concentration and minimise stress. Ultimately, routines allow more time for pupils to focus on their learning. Routines do need to be reinforced and modelled to achieve and maintain the desired standards - students sometimes get out of habits or decide to challenge expectations. 

How to apply routines in the classroom

When starting to develop your routines you should consider two things; the school's behaviour policy and the way you want your classroom environment to be. With these in mind you can spend some time identifying the possible opportunities for routines to become embedded in your lessons. Starting points should include routines for entry into the classroom, beginning of the lesson, transition between tasks and the end/dismissal from the lesson.

Entry to lessons - a great lesson starts at the door. It is here that offers the best early intervention in behaviour management. How you wait for you students, and how you greet them will impact how they respond in your classroom. Make students feel important, valued and appreciated at the door. A consistent routine for what they should do when they enter your classroom should be established - consider what do students need to be doing in order to be ready to learn?

Beginning of lessons - it is vital to get a positive start, and this can be best achieved when students know exactly what they need to be doing at this point. Having a learning task, a silent starter or retrieval activity for them to engage with straight away is one way of making this achievable. The task should require no direct instruction, reviewing or previewing content that provides you with feedback. The task itself should be brief, no more than 5 minutes. Consider what can you do in your class routine to make this as simple as possible?​

Transitions between tasks - seemingly innocuous but effective routines here will increase the efficiency of your transitions and reduce lost learning time. This removes the opportunity for students to become unfocussed, or for behaviour to get out of control. Think about where transitions occur within your lessons and how you can ensure these are as short and simple as possible.

End of lessons - this provides a further opportunity for the assertion of control. This is not to suggest you put on your best dictatorial robes but rather it is a time to remind and reinforce to students the expectation of good behaviour. Common routines here would be standing behind desks, chairs tucked in and tidy tables awaiting their dismissal. What needs to happen in your classroom to ensure the lesson ends in a calm and positive way? 

Some teachers like to involve students in the establishment of these classroom rules and routines, it allows for ownership and encourages self regulation.

Issuing Instructions

As important as it is to have the routines, you also need to ensure that you are communicating your expectations and instructions clearly to your classes. You may feel nervous in those first lesson with a new class but it is vital to be assertive, to be confident and to be positive. How you convey yourself in those first few lessons will set the tone for the rest of the year. Consider how you present yourself to your class and how you speak to to them. This will likely change between the enthusiasm and passion that can be conveyed in an explicit instruction of content to the calm and considered tone when dealing with behaviour. Consider how your body language must also adapt dependent upon the situtation.

When issuing instructions keep the message concise, positive and model. Don't skip the simple steps, complexity can be developed over time. It can be easy to fall into the trap of assuming all the students are understanding and on board until ten minutes into the task when you have to repeat it all again. What is second nature to you, may well be brand new to your class. Tell your students what you do want them to do, and then thank them for doing it. Switching from 'Don't talk' to 'We're working in silence' helps the students to focus on the desired behaviour. Finally, show them what you expect - especially during the early stages of a new routine. Simple, clear steps that have been demonstrated helps them to get it right first time (hopefully!).

You must be clear in your response to anyone not following the expectations. Ensure consistency in the application of routines and following up poor behaviour to achieve the best outcome for all. Remember that failing to challenge behaviour below your expectations means you are permitting it.


  • Click here to read an extract from the Series on Highly Effective Practices—Classroom Routine from Catherine Hoffman Kaser

  • Watch the video below from Calmer Classrooms

  • Create an outline of your routines for your classes - this may also include seating plans.


What are the routines and expectations that you have for your classes? Do they differ between groups? 

How effective are your routines and expectations?

Do all your pupils understand and follow these routines?

What do you find most challenging about establishing behaviour expectations?

Are there any tasks or transitions your pupils often make during lessons that would benefit from a more effective routine?

Why is it necessary to explicitly teach your routines?

How can you improve your routines and expectations to improve learning further?

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