Reteaching Routines

It’s never too late to revisit or reteach any classroom routine. In fact, here’s a story from the Responsive Classroom newsletter by a teacher who started her whole year over in November!

While hopefully you don’t need to take such drastic action, you probably have some everyday routines that could use tightening up around this time of year. Is it taking longer for your students to respond to the signal for quiet? Has lunchroom behavior taken a turn for the worse? Are you feeling frustrated because children aren’t cleaning up as thoroughly now as they did in September? Try using a condensed version of Interactive Modeling to reteach:

Begin by offering a quick, positive, engaging reason for students to care about the reteaching.

You could try to pique students’ interest: I’ve been collecting some data about how long it takes us to get quiet when I give our signal. Yesterday it took about 30 seconds each time. That means that over the course of the day, we are using about 10 minutes to get quiet. In a week, that is 50 minutes! If we shortened our time to 10 seconds, we would have 30 extra minutes a week for doing more interesting things. Let’s aim for 10 seconds every time today. We’re going to practice now so we can see what ten seconds feels like.”

Or, start from a place of empathy and belief“I know it is hard to keep from chatting with friends during transitions. When I’m at meetings, I often want to talk to my friends when I’m supposed to be doing other things, so I know how you feel. But, even though it’s hard, I know you can avoid chatting and come straight to the meeting rug when you need to.”

Either of these techniques will be more motivating than venting your frustration—”I’m noticing that it is taking you longer and longer to get to the rug, and it’s so unfair to make your classmates wait on you!”—even though you may feel tempted to complain.

Then, ask for a volunteer to demonstrate the routine as you practiced it at the beginning of the year.

Next, let students share what they noticed. Be sure especially that they pay attention to the “tricky” parts—voices off during lining up, quick and neat clean-up of materials during a transition from desks to the circle, or a quick response to the signal for quiet.

Have the whole class demonstrate the behavior. Pay special attention to the challenging aspects, and use reinforcing language to let students know what they did well: “You responded to the signal in about eight seconds. I saw people helping each other remember what to do, finishing what they were doing quickly, and really focusing on me quickly. I’m going to give the signal again in about 10 minutes. Let’s see if we can do it just as well and quickly then.”

Practice again shortly afterwards. 

For more step-by-step examples of using Interactive Modeling to teach routines, see “Behavior Challenges in the Homestretch? Interactive Modeling Can Help,” an article from the Responsive Classroom newsletter.

It’s important to make re-teaching positive and to convey your firm belief that students can improve. While belief alone will not change student behavior, consistently demonstrating your faith that students can and will meet your expectations really does make a difference.

Interactive Modeling: A Powerful Technique for Teaching Children Get step-by-step guidance on how to use Interactive Modeling to teach a variety of skills throughout the school year. Includes practical tips, real-life examples, and sample lessons and scripts that you can adapt for specific classroom needs.

For even more ideas, have a look at our Interactive Modeling board on Pinterest!

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.


Tags: Quiet and Other Signals, Revisiting Rules