Preparing Students to Become Independent Learners using Routines & Procedures

It’s the start of a new year! Day one is either right around the corner or has just recently taken place. The beginning of the year is filled with so many fresh faces watching your every move and listening eagerly for the next direction. With all this newness, it can be easy for students to get overwhelmed and confused. There are new materials to be used, new seating arrangements to explore, new friends to meet, and quite possibly a new teacher who has different expectations from last year along with new routines and procedures that need to be learned. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to teach your students the routines and procedures of your classroom in order to help them become independent learners in your space.

Envisioning Language

Start your conversations with envisioning language as a means of setting a positive tone for learning. Help students frame a vision for the year ahead by telling them your hopes and dreams for the class as a whole. Share your goal of having a class where students follow routines and procedures — including morning arrival, afternoon dismissal, correct use and care of materials, and transitions — so students can be as independent as possible.

Interactive Modeling

Interactive Modeling is a strategy to teach students the proper way to complete routines and procedures in order to help them successfully and independently navigate various responsibilities. Interactive Modeling works by explaining what you will model for students, modeling it for them while they observe, then giving them multiple chances to practice while you provide feedback and answer any questions. There is significant power in using Interactive Modeling. No routine is too big or too small – if it is important to you, it should be important to them.

Examples of Routines and Procedures to TeachExamples of Routines and Procedures to Teach:

  • Responding to the chime
  • Transitions
  • Moving chairs calmly and safely
  • Opening lockers
  • Gathering and returning materials
  • Components of morning arrival and afternoon dismissal
  • Various drills
  • Borrowing and returning books to the classroom library
  • Signing out for the bathroom
  • How and when to use an electric pencil sharpener
  • Removing and returning technology to the cart
  • Correct use of playground equipment
Reinforcing and Reminding Language

As students learn the many routines and procedures of the classroom, remember to reinforce their efforts often and remind them as needed. Students need to know their teachers see their efforts and successes. As teachers, spending time carefully watching our students allows us to reinforce when routines and procedures are learned, followed, and mastered.
We also need to use proactive reminders before students begin a specific routine or procedure to set them up for success. Keeping our language brief and clear minimizes the delay, while maximizing results! Reminders should also be used if we see our students faltering during a transition to help them get back on track.


Taking the time to help students envision what being independent will look like, modeling it, and using our language to coach students will ensure increased success in completing routines and procedures. It is important to continue supporting students’ growth as independent learners throughout the year by providing opportunities to expand their skill set through scaffolding. By encouraging students through our words and offering them experiences to build on what they are already able to do, we build the academic and social-emotional competencies that students need to be successful in school and beyond!

Tags: Classroom Rules, Encouragement, Reinforcing Language, Routines, Transitions

7 Replies to “Preparing Students to Become Independent Learners using Routines & Procedures”

  • Hello,
    I work with students with significant disabilities, and having a classroom routine that students follow is so important! I love the idea of using interactive modeling to support student in learning the classroom procedures and routines. I really think that interactive models will support them in understanding the skills they need to learn the classroom procedures and routines, and then following up with reinforcing and reminding language will support me in maintaining those procedures and routines throughout the school year. I will definitely be sharing this with my colleagues.

  • Hi,

    Your post was a great reminder of the importance of setting routines at the beginning of the year. Working with first graders that come from a half day kindergarten, there are a lot of routines and procedures that are new to them. I like how you mentioned using proactive reminders to set students up for success. This is so important for young students. Your list of routines and procedures inspired me to create a list for the beginning of the year.

  • Hello,
    I do agree with you in that interactive modeling and reinforcing and reminding language are super important for students to engage and take ownership of those expectations and routines. In the school I work at that is our focus for the first two weeks to create well managed classrooms so that learning can occur throughout the year.

  • I love the part where it says teaching students to become independent learners, and then giving them time to practice is so important. I like the reminder of scaffolding these skills so all students can be successful.

  • I feel that the interactive modeling is an important step for building inclusion independence. As the grade teacher uses the modeling steps, the student can receive a multi sensory approach to viewing and acting the behavior. They will also receive essential feedback. The student can then see peers present the desired behavior. Many of the children we serve look to peers for cues. Utilizing their peers in the learning process can help them use natural supports, and be less Para-prompt dependent.

  • “Envisioning Language- Start your conversations with envisioning language as a means of setting a positive tone for learning. Help students frame a vision for the year ahead by telling them your hopes and dreams for the class as a whole.(quoting article).

    I love this statement! In my 30 years of working with children I have never told them my vision, hopes and dream of our school year. I am looking forward to doing this.

  • Young children thrive on the use of a routine even as young as 2 years old. I find it grounds learners and gives them a sense responsibility for their environment. Throughout this day it is important to give each part of the day language and modeling that highlights their learning and the importance of why we come together. It is key to helping them gain confidence in their ability to learn and be successful in reaching their goals.

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