In most families, summertime means a relaxation of schedules and routines. But…here comes the school year! It’s time to get back into the swing of routines. More than just getting everyone out the door on time in the morning, routines help young people develop important life skills.
- Routines provide the external structure that children need while their internal structure (planning, organizing, evaluating) is still developing.
- Routines allow some things to be ‘automatic’ (eventually!). Having agreed upon bedtime and morning routines eliminates having to make decisions about these things every day. Expectations are clear, so parental nagging, reminding, coaxing, can be minimized.
- Routines help children become more independent and gives them a senst that they are capable.
- Routines can help children cope when unexpected events or life situations occur. The inner sense of safety and security provides them with the resilience to handle life stresses.
Hints for successful routines:
- Build them in one at a time. Know that you as the adult will be the person doing the follow through. Over and over again. That is part of the process, so setting aside annoyance, frustration and resentment that this is hard work is helpful.
- Invite your children to problem solve and construct some of the routines with you as is age appropriate. For a morning routine, you might start with when you or your children need to be out of the house and work backwards. First think about what has to happen and what order would be helpful. With young children this can be like solving a puzzle with you. It takes awhile, but also has them thinking in a different way.
- Build a visual “map” or routine chart. After you and your children figure out what will happen, you can do a dress rehearsal in the middle of the day. Take pictures. Have your child arrange them in order on a large sheet of paper or hang them on a ribbon.
- Let the routine chart be the boss. When your child gets distracted, instead of reminding him or her what comes next, ask, “What is next on the chart?”
- Expect mistakes. It takes a lot of practice for children to organize their lives in a linear way. You will need to be the person who follows through. Again and again. Smile as you do it. They are learning from you!
More on routines for families.
Routines in the classroom help students feel have a sense of order and stability: they invite a feeling of safety and security. Although setting up routines takes time and energy, once routines are established, you can simply refer to the routine it invites a sense of collaboration from students. “What is next on our schedule?” or, “What was our agreement about lining up?”
Some guidelines for setting up routines from Positive Discipline in the Classroom by Jane Nelsen, EdD are:
- Focus on one routine at a time.
- Involve students in developing the routine. Students are more likely to follow the routine if they’ve been involved in setting it up, and have agreed to it.
- It’s helpful to use visuals – charts or lists – that can be posted in the classroom, for reference.
- Practice routines, especially at the beginning of the year, and periodically throughout the year. Sometimes we assume students know things that they may not.
- Follow through with kindness and firmness.
Here are some tips to get you started in building your classroom routines:
- Which routines? Classrooms are complicated. There are a lot of moving parts. We often expect kids to know what to do at school, and get frustrated when things don’t go smoothly. With a little bit of thought and planning on your part you can help your students be more successful in knowing what to do. Over time you may want routines for things like: attendance, signal for getting attention, distributing materials, cleaning up,morning entry, task, turning in work, coming in the classroom from recess or break, fire drills, drinks and bathroom, transitions in the classroom, putting materials away, noise level during work time, lining up, leaving the classroom, positive time out, and end of the day.
- Teach: Once you have decided on the routines you want to implement, it is important to teach the expectations for each routine to your students. It is helpful to give students a chance to see the routine in action through role play. Be as clear and consistent in your expectations as possible.
- Practice: Once your students have been taught the routine, they’ll need some practice! The more kids practice the more likely they will be able to follow the routine independently.
- Pause and Reflect: It is important to pause and notice how the routine is working. When students are following the routine correctly stop and allow them to recognize what it looks like and sounds like if the routine is working. If the routine decide if the routine needs to be modified or if the class just needs more practice.
More on classroom routines. In addition, Scholastic has a whole collection of ideas about classroom routines from teachers.
School is finally out and the start of the new school year is a safe distance away. If you are like most teachers, part of your brain will be thinking about what little things you might improve in your classroom next year and those thoughts will be murmuring at you all summer. One of the things that you might want to think about is how to set up classroom jobs in the fall. Students do better when they feel like they are connected and that their contributions matter. It helps them feel capable. Meaningful work in the classroom helps build a sense of excitement, community and interdependence from the very beginning of the school year.
In general, students are capable of doing much to contribute to the classroom than we expect of them. Get creative in thinking about jobs. Could it be a student who hands out the Band-Aids, monitors the classroom energy footprint, helps monitor the classroom agreements, or welcomes classroom guests? Could you step back a bit and hand responsibilities to students so that you are free to use time more effectively? Of course, it won’t save time at the beginning as you take time for training. But that time will be an opportunity for community building as everyone learns new skills.
- Start making a list of different kinds of jobs your students could do in your classroom.
- Think about how you might get them involved in writing (or drawing) their own job descriptions. These can go in a notebook, so that when you rotate jobs, the new job holder has a list of what to do.
- Help students understand how every job helps the classroom by asking questions. For example, “How would this job benefit our class?” “What would it take to do this job well?” “What would happen in our class if no one did this job?”
- Use modeling and practice to teach jobs. It’s important not to assume that children know what they are supposed to do.
- Change it up. Develop a system of rotating jobs, so that each child gets to do each job during the semester/year.
- Pause and reflect. Reflect with students occasionally on how jobs are going. Revise job descriptions and responsibilities throughout the year.
- Notice student success. Be specific (e.g.: “I notice that all of you have remembered to do your jobs today; I noticed the ‘floor cleaners’ picked up all the paper from the floor – your dedication helps our community”)
- Level up. Think about how meaningful work could be applied to school-wide jobs. Contributions to the whole school build school community.
For more ideas on student jobs check out the list in your copy of Positive Discipline in the School and Classroom Teachers’ Guide.
What have your children done to contribute to your family this week? We aren’t talking about making their own beds or cleaning up their own toys, but helping out with the work that all families need to do: setting the table, walking the dog, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom. True, as a parent, sometimes it is just quicker and easier to get the jobs done by yourself. But what is your child learning when you do all of the work? How will he learn the life skills and responsibility he needs to be independent? Your child may know that he is loved (because he is) but how will he know the sense of belonging that comes from having your contributions valued? How will he develop the sense of how capable he really is in life? If you don’t have a system for sharing family work, summer is a great time to start. Here are some tips:
- Take time for training and work with your children until they can do the task on their own.
- Provide child-sized equipment (broom, gardening tools, etc) to encourage involvement..
- Brainstorm a list of all the jobs that are required to make a household run. That will include things that your children might not be able to do and it will increase their perspective. The list might include things like: Paying bills, buying grocer, putting gas in the car, earning money, doing the laundry, vacuuming, cooking 7 days a week, washing dishes, walking the dog, watering plants, taking care of the garbage and recycling, setting the table, etc.
- Invite your children to choose 2-3 jobs each that are developmentally appropriate. Make a chart or use popsicle sticks in a jar to set up a routine about who does which jobs and when.
- Make family work fun (sometimes anyway). Have a ‘chore time’ so everyone is working at the same time – sing or play music.
- Rotate chores (if possible depending on children’s ages), to avoid boredom.
- Be willing to trade. Sometimes kids just get tired of their job and want a day off. It is fun to be able to trade. “Don’t want to clear the table? Will you do my job of (cleaning the kitty litter/folding laundry etc) instead? Great! I’ll trade for today.”
- Separate allowance from household work. Family work is something that everyone does because they are part of the family – not because they get paid. It is important to learn that we do things because we are part of a group and because it is the right thing to do. Not everything we do is tied to a “reward.” Allowance is also something you get for being part of the family – but the two are not linked. If you want to make arrangements for opportunities to earn “extra money” by doing special jobs that is different.
Here are some more ideas: Sharing Work and Play. Family work: Whose Job is It?
If your school is one that actively teaches character traits or values we hope courage is on your list. Yet, talking about courage or even reading stories about courage doesn’t always help students be able to use their own courage. Instead of focusing on heroism or bravery, we suggest framing courage as becoming your best self. You can share stories the stories that heroes tell after the event. It is common for them to tell their audience that it “was just the right thing to do.” Ian Grillot, who interrupted the shooting in Kansas City in 2017 is one of those heroes. From his hospital bed he said, “I was just doing what anyone should have done for another human being. It’s not about where he was from or his ethnicity. We’re all humans. I just felt I did what was naturally right to do.”
Children face tough situations every day including: making new friends, giving a presentation in class, deciding how to stay connected with friends when they don’t want to join in an activity, as bystanders when other people are being hurt or for some, just getting to school. For some students, just showing up to school is courageous. Here are some ideas to nurture courageous attitudes in the classroom:
- Talk about courage using the frame that it is about being your best self, even when it isn’t easy to do that.
- Write courage stories. Have your students write about what it means to be their best self and about a time where they were able to be themselves even if it wasn’t easy, or they were anxious or afraid.
- Model noticing courage. You can write post it notes or quiet comments that start, “It took courage to _____ (ask for help, tell your friend to be more respectful, make a special effort to welcome our new student.) When you start noticing it, they will notice it with each other as well.
- Help them see courage in their own lives. Invite a discussion about the courage it takes to say, “no” when the majority (or their friends) are saying “yes.”
- Lift out acts of courage in the stories you and your students read. Examples are everywhere because that is part of what makes a good story. Biographies and memoirs are particularly rich, though they tend to elevate the idea of a “hero” which separates them a little from your students. Think of Simone Biles, Ruby Bridges, Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln.
Examples of courage are all around us. We tend to notice only the big events though: a parent lifts a car off the leg of a child, a stranger who jumps into a river to save a drowning person, a teenager who steers a bus to safety when the busdriver passes out at the wheel. At Sound Discipline we notice that people who do courageous things often don’t feel courageous in the moment. When interviewed they often make comments like, “I just did what I had to do” or, “Anyone would have done the same thing.” We think courage is the movement someone makes in the direction of becoming his/her best self. When we look at it that way we can see that courage shows up every day in common circumstances. Making new friends, helping a stranger, looking for a different solution to a problem, having hard conversations or just trying something new are all courageous. Having courage leads to success and happiness. Here are some ideas so can you inspire courage in your children:
- Teach your children that courage is not the absence of fear, but doing something in spite of it. From the outside, courage may look impressive and powerful to our children, but from the inside it can feel uncomfortable or like anxiety, fear or self-doubt.
- Encourage your children to try new things. This might be activities that “stretch” them, provide a challenge or something new that might be scary or hard: music, sports, drama, or joining a club. Children have a natural desire to master skills. This can grow their sense of self.
- Give them courage of thought. Help them ask questions, be creative in problem solving or think of new ways of doing things.
- Notice and comment when they demonstrate courage. For example, “It took a lot of courage for you to ask to join that group of kids,” or “I noticed you helped Mrs. Smith carry her groceries.”
- Be the example. Model trying new things, solving difficult problems and taking appropriate risks. Talk to your children about how it felt on the inside as you tried something new. It helps them to know that adults also feel afraid or nervous and keep trying.
At Sound Discipline we often begin workshops by asking teachers to imagine a student returning to visit as a young adult. We ask them to think of what gifts or qualities they hope that student will have acquired. The list is long. It often includes things like compassion, empathy, confidence, problem solving skills, healthy relationships, respect for themselves and others, communication skills, integrity, passion for something, and perserverence. When we ask them how easy it would be to teach a young person with those skills, they smile and tell us it would be easy. Educators have a responsibility to teach academic content and pressure to have their students meet certain standards. Sometimes under all that stress it seems hard to help students develop the very skills that will make it easier for them to learn.
When schools are able to empower students with social skills learning communities thrive. It doesn’t happen all at once. Just like academic skills, social skills require explicit instruction and opportunities to practice. Here are some places to start:
- Teach self-regulation. Brains work best when they are not stressed. Using brain breaks and short mindfulness practices throughout the day helps students stay regulate. Then they are more likely to respond appropriately.
- Model that mistakes are opportunities to learn. No one can learn math without being comfortable making and fixing mistakes. The same is true for relationships with peers. They won’t be successful with friendships until they can learn to recognize and repair mistakes. Teachers can model making and repairing their own mistakes as one way of teaching their students. Offer students plenty of opportunities to fix their mistakes without shame or blame.
- Use encouragement rather than praise. Saying, “I notice that you are excited (or upset) today,” “Thank you for your help” allows students to feel felt or seen.
- Use Positive Discipline Class Meetings. These are structured gatherings that start with compliments followed by problem solving. The routine of working together to solve problems in a manner that is always helpful not hurtful teaches students much more than problem solving. They learn to listen, respect differences, have empathy, practice kindness, share their ideas, be patient, be creative – and most importantly know that they are part of a community. They develop a deep sense that they are capable of making their school or community a better place. For specific lessons on how to teach class meetings you can take a workshop or get a copy of the Teachers’ Guide.