Time management in the classroom is a tricky business. It seems like half of ESL teachers I know find themselves running out of time in the classroom and find it hard to fit in everything they’d like to cover, while the other half of ESL teachers have way too much time that they’re unsure of how to fill.
If you find yourself in one of these two categories, I’ve got a great solution for you! Classroom routines and/or reusable routines are a great way to structure your class, fill time, and streamline your lesson plan. Whether you run out of time in the classroom, have trouble finding time to lesson plan, or don’t know how to organize your time, routines are the perfect strategy to use in your adult ESL classroom!
If you said, “Yes! That’s me!” to all or any of the above situations, you may be wondering what classroom routines are, how to choose them, and how to use them! Today we’re going to be talking about everything you need to know to begin implementing classroom routines into your lesson plans today!
What Are Classroom Routines?
So, what are classroom routines? The first step to understanding how to use a teaching tool is to understand what it is! You may not have even realized it, but many teachers already have a classroom routine. Just like a morning routine or a cleaning routine, classroom routines are simply activities or tasks that you do, usually in a certain order, every day (or however often you show, clean, teach, etc).
Are classroom routines the same as reusable routines? Yes and no. Classroom routines often utilize reusable routines. However, the main difference is that reusable routines are specific activities, while classroom routines are a string of activities or tasks.
Classroom routines can help you and your students feel more prepared and in control during class. They can increase confidence, create order, and streamline the learning experiences. The perfect classroom routine makes lesson planning, teaching, and learning less stressful, and gives you more time to focus on connecting with your students.
That’s all well and good, but how do you possibly find the perfect classroom routine? While finding the perfect anything is easier said than done, I’m sharing three tips that have helped me to find routines to help make teaching and learning a smoother experience for both me and my students!
Consider the Planning End of Things
One of the main goals of establishing classroom routines is to cut down on your planning time. Classroom routines need to be sustainable, since the whole purpose of a routine is to be long-term. This means that they need to be adjustable, easy-to-prepare, and appropriate for your students’ proficiency level, your classroom goals and the time frame you have available.
It doesn’t make much sense to choose tasks that only work for a specific lesson, take a long time to put together, or aren’t aligned with your students’ goals. Take a few moments and write down what topics or language skills you want your reusable routine to target (more on that below), what your students need from you, what your goals are, and what the time you’re trying to fill looks like. Are you looking for a routine for the first 10 minutes of class? The last 20 minutes of class? Or a quick 2 minute activity to transition from activity to activity?
What Problem Needs to be Solved?
Everything that you do in your classroom, including your routines, should either help you connect with your students or help your students connect with the language that they need.
A classroom routine can help solve a variety of problems that both you and your students may be facing. They can help build healthy language habits, help prepare your students for the upcoming material, and even give you a ready-made tool to review material. Be aware of what language skills you’d like to build with these routines.
As mentioned above, it’s important to take note of the time frame you’re looking to fill or work within. Classroom routines should be used consistently every class, every week, or in conjunction with certain events (such as tests, field trips, projects, etc).
The perfect classroom routine is going to be one that aligns with your goals, solves a problem that you’re facing, and makes good use of your time in both lesson planning and in the classroom.
Routines Aren’t Created Overnight
While there are factors that make choosing the perfect classroom routine more clear cut, it does take some trial and error. Don’t be scared to experiment! However, be aware that a new routine may take a little while to get used to and to work smoothly.
You won’t know what works and what doesn’t work until you try it out! Even then, a routine may need to simply be adjusted to become a better fit for your classroom needs. Commit to trying a routine for a week straight (for a daily routine), then assess how well it worked and how you can adjust it, before deciding whether or not it needs to be thrown out completely.
If you’re not sure where to begin, ask for help! Look towards your coworkers, online teachers, and/or resources that you have at your disposal to gain ideas and expand your classroom experience. There are plenty of activity ideas out there to help you plan for your students.
If you’re working with beginner-level learners, our newest resource, So, You Need to Learn English, has a ton of different activities and reusable routines interspersed throughout! With over 20 printable worksheets, it’s a great resource to find new activities, routines, and teaching techniques to help you reach your beginner-level adults.
If you’re still unsure of what works and what doesn’t, ask your students. They have the best insight into their own learning experience. Doing an activity review can shed some light on how your students learn best and can become a classroom routine in and of itself! Find out what your students like about a specific activity, what they disliked, and how they would change it to better fit their personal goals.
There are so many different approaches to time management in the classroom, but classroom routines seem to be used by almost all teachers. Not only are they a great way to structure your classroom time, but they help your students internalize what they’re learning, speak confidently, and feel more prepared! Try out a few of the tips above to create your own sustainable classroom routines!
Don’t forget to click on over and learn more about how ‘So, You Need to Learn English…’ can help you start your class off on the right foot and find some new ideas, strategies, and routines to help you meet your students’ needs!
I Want to Hear From You!
How do you structure your class time?
Do you find yourself with too much or too little time on your hands?