Do Routines Need To Be Done Perfectly?

Smart Classroom Management: Do Routines Need To Be Done Perfectly?Routines make everything easier.

Because they . . .

Transfer excellence to everything you do.

Cut way down on misbehavior.

Save loads of time.

Keep students on task and purpose-driven.

Free you to observe and supervise.

Which is why anything and everything you do repeatedly as a class should be made into a routine.

This underscores, of course, the importance of establishing routines the first week of school.

But it also begs a question we’ve gotten a lot here at SCM: Do routines need to be done perfectly?

The answer: Yes they do . . . and no they don’t.

Let me explain. On the yes side, in whatever way you teach and model how you expect your students to perform a given routine, then that’s how it should be done. In other words, it needs to be perfect under the parameters you’ve set.

Otherwise, you’ll struggle knowing whether or not your expectations have been met. Furthermore, the routine will get progressively worse over time, and your students will be left wondering if what you say is really what you mean.

On the no side, your routines can be performed in any way you deem is best for learning.

How that looks to a Marine drill instructor, for example, may not be perfect according to their definition. But for the culture you’re trying to create in your classroom, it may be precisely what is needed.

Here at SCM, we believe that as long as there is no disruption to learning, you should allow for a level of freedom in your routines. In this way, you support, and even enhance, the enjoyment of being in your class.

Therefore, if you want your students to be able to talk politely while entering your classroom, then you should allow it. A perfect routine isn’t one that matches the precision of a marching band.

A perfect routine is one that is performed as taught.

The key to turning the vision of what you want your routines to look like into reality is in the teaching. It’s in defining for your students exactly what is and isn’t okay for every transition, activity, or type of lesson you do repeatedly.

For elementary teachers this means extensive detailed modeling and practice in order to prove your students know for certain what a perfect routine for your classroom looks like.

For middle and high school school teachers, you’ll do less and less modeling the older they are, but place greater emphasis on providing clear instruction.

In any case, once your students demonstrate that they understand what you expect—however much leeway that allows—and are able to perform your routines flawlessly, it’s your job to observe and verify that they do them as taught.

And if they don’t ? If one morning your students enter your classroom like they’re walking into an arcade?

Then you redo the routine. You reteach it in even greater detail. You eliminate every last excuse and misunderstanding. You raise the bar, tighten the definition, and ask even more of your students.

After all, perfect, although unique to you and your classroom, can never, ever be an acceptance of anything less than what you know is best for your class.

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10 thoughts on “Do Routines Need To Be Done Perfectly?”

  1. Thank you as always for your clarity! One thing I have found that works best is when some routine is not done properly- I simply stop. Have everyone go back to their seat or outside the classroom (depending on what routine you are doing) and request that the routine be done exactly as it was taught or was always done previously. I have never had to reteach it. It has always been done perfectly! It is almost as if they were testing me to see if I really did care about doing things the way I had taught them.

  2. I cannot thank you enough for your guidance! I bought your HS book-this was my 1st week and after modeling and practicing routines all week-my biggest challenge is requiring hands up when I’ve never done that and I’ve forgotten a couple of times! By Friday, I was reminding and in Monday they start with their 4 Learning points a day, reminding them that behavior affects learning-a call back-“ we start every day with an A”-rambling I know but in my way home Friday-I realized-it has been a great week and I wasn’t mad 1 moment of the week!!!

  3. You’ve used “begs a question” incorrectly. You’ve raised a question. Begging a question is a term for circular reasoning.

    • Hi Patrick,

      I think it fits well. According to Merriam-Webster – Begging the question means “to elicit a specific question as a reaction or response,” and can often be replaced with “a question that begs to be answered.”

  4. Hi Patrick,

    If you want to correct the grammar and spelling of other teachers on this site, you’ll have a full time job, but this seems overly technical.

    In terms of formal logic, you are correct. “Begging the question” in logic means to base the answer (argument) on the answer to a question that has not been established. For example, to say, “All my students want the new iPhone because it’s the best phone out there” is a logical fallacy because it was not established that the new iPhone is the best phone. The question being begged is, “Is the new iPhone the best phone?”

    However, from a practical, everyday communications standpoint, why quibble? Michael obviously wasn’t engaged in a formal debate process; he is engaged in everyday communication. I think we all understood him to mean, “It raises the question…”

    Apparently, even Mirriam & Webster has added this everyday usage of the term to its official definition.

    My point in belaboring this point? Michael’s obvious meaning here raises an interesting question about his SCM technique that I, and many other readers, are interested in. Getting bogged down in some term from Philosophy 101 is not helpful. What IS helpful is learning what makes a great classroom experience for everybody!

    Debbie Brown, PhD

  5. Thanks again to Michael for consistently stockpiling his free treasure trove on the web! I have a question for middle and high school teachers – how many of you allow students to talk when they enter the classroom? How many require silence? When students enter my room they are expected to complete their planners for the day (copy agenda & H.W. off the board) sharpen pencils, take out materials, etc. The last three years I have required complete silence before the bell and after the bell rings during this beginning of class routine. What do you do? Thanks in advance for sharing.

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