Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Teaching Routines Saves Time and Headaches

Sometimes I have noticed in English learning classrooms the lack of classroom management especially in classes where the teacher is there only once or twice a week.  You have so little time that you are in a hurry to get started teaching English.  The problem is that the time you gain by starting right away is wasted by misbehavior and interruptions.  In his post "How to Teach Routines," Michael Linsin states that "Anything you ask your students to do repeatedly should be made into a routine."

I have found the hard way that taking the time to teach students routines is an invaluable time saver in the long run and it saves you lots of headaches in classroom management.  This summer in our Summer Camp we had rotations at the end of the day and I had to teach one lesson to two other classes as well as my own class.  My class was not a problem because we had spent time setting rules, modeling routines, getting to know each other, but the first day a new class of students came in for rotations I decided to skip any of that since we only had about 20 minutes for each rotation.  Well, needless to say, I had problems with misbehavior within the first five minutes of class.  I had to spend the rest of the class calling students attention over and over again.

The next time we had rotations I was a bit nervous these students were 13 and 14 and there was a group of them that loved to show off in front of each other.  But this time I was prepared to go over the rules and establish some basic routines.  When they came in I received them at the door and directed them to sit on the carpet, instead of allowing them to sit in any desk.  I then went over the rules and modeled some routines. I asked students to then model what they thought I was asking them to do.  When they seemed to be clear I told them they were allowed to pick their own seat, but that if they were not following the rules they would be promptly moved.  It took me about 10 minutes to do all this and the rest of the class went so smooth that when their teacher came to pick them up she couldn't believe it was her class.  The following weeks went just as smooth.

Obviously in a school year class you have to spend more time establishing routines.  If you are using Cooperative Learning the time required to teach routines is more extensive.  At my primary school we used to take about two to three weeks to establish routines and model the expected behaviors.  This doesn't mean we were not teaching the regular lessons while we did this, but all lessons taught were targeted to establish classroom routines. If you only have the students once or twice a week take the first two to three weeks to establish classroom routines and create a good classroom atmosphere it will pay back ten-fold in time saved and class productivity.

If you are teaching Infantil where the students are not reading yet take some pictures of students modeling the correct behavior and some not doing the correct behavior and post these so they are visible to students.  If you are moving from room to room you can make posters that you can take to each class. If you can use tacks to post the posters get sticky tape.  It sticks to the board and comes off clean.

Teaching adults will take less time to establish routines, but it is also necessary.  Sometimes adults students can be very chatty or they ask you a question and start chatting among themselves without giving you a chance to answer. Given that most adults taking classes also have jobs, sometimes tardiness can become a problem.  Establish routines of how they should come in so that you minimize class disruptions.

What strategies do you use to establish routines in your English classes.


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