Do you currently have a start of class routine? How is it working for you?

I’m going to start off today with a little admin insight.

Did you know that the most issues that happen behaviorally in a school, happen during unstructured and unsupervised times? And a lot of that time is passing time. 

We started a new tardy policy at our school. One of the things that has to happen for our tardy policy to be successful, is that our teachers need to be in the hall. 

It’s great because the teachers get to see students outside of class as well as who and how they are interacting. It’s also great for the students because they are getting greeted as they enter class. Which is building teacher-student relationships.

When we first started, we got a complaint from a teacher who was concerned about losing that passing time to prep. Her complaint was valid. As a CTE teacher, you could be teaching multiple preps and every minute is crucial. 

So today, I want to address how you can build relationships and still be ready for your next class. You do this by having a great system or routine in place where students can be working for the first five minutes.

Some schools may call this bell work or starters. Its purpose is to get students ready to learn in your class.

When you are creating this routine, think about last year. What worked and what didn’t? If you weren’t teaching yet, look back to your favorite classes.

Here are some tips to continue your brainstorming about your start of class routine:

Making Sure Your Start of Class Routine is “Sub-proof”

This first tip is top priority: “subproof” this routine. What I mean is make this routine possible to run smoothly whether or not you are the one teaching that day. 

In the past, I had relied heavily on having a PowerPoint or presentation. This slide show usually had a review question or journal prompt. While this use of technology is simple for you–it’s not for the substitute. 

Logging in to your computer is one challenge, but getting access to these files is another. So, rethink the idea of using technology that is teacher-driven. 

This could be a major shift in your routine, but it will pay off in the end. Can you think of a way where this routine could be student-driven in your class and automated? Check out this post for more on preparing for a substitute teacher.

**Note: We’re planning and creating the system–not coming up will all the content for this routine. It will be better for you to come up with the overall structure now, and insert later. 

For example, if you want to use review questions. You don’t need to come up with questions for the entire year. All you need right now is to know you want to have the students use a review question.**

Design Your Start Routine From Your Students’ Perspective

My next tip is to think of your class from a student’s perspective. 

What do they do when they come in? 

Do they have questions as they arrive? 

Are they going to need supplies or materials that day?

Do they need to go back to their locker? 

Is there a designated area to pick up papers or materials?

How can you answer those questions for your students each day quickly and easily? Could you use visual cues to let the students know the answers? 

For example, elementary schools do a really great job of this because a lot of their kids can’t read. And if they can read they’re reading simple words. 

They use colors and simple images to convey a message. One of these messages is for recess. Students want to know whether they will be having an inside day or an outside day. 

In a school I was recently visiting, they had a few signs by the exits to let students know. One side was red and one was green. It was flipped over to let students know how to prepare for that break each day.

Taking this idea, perhaps you have a checklist on your whiteboard. It could have a list of the frequently needed class supplies shown as vinyl stickers. Before class, you could place a check mark or circle the items that they will be needing.

Use Visual Cues to Automate Your Start of Class Routine

Speaking of visual cues, my next tip is to have a countdown timer where the students can actually “see” how much time they have left.

One option here is to use an online timer, but it does require tech. My favorite alternative is a timer is this one. When you set it, the red circle gets smaller and there is beeping when time runs out.  As part of your routine, a student could set the timer each day. 

Like us adults, students like to know what is going to happen each day. So, this next tip is to have a dedicated space where students can find out what they will be learning. 

With multiple preps, it is easiest to have this information ready for all your classes each morning. Use passing time to build relationships, don’t waste time writing on your board. 

This dedicated space could be a white board, bulletin board, easel, or large sticky-notes. 

What can you do to let students know what they should be doing or learning that day? You could even use this space to put learning targets that they are working on or have already reached. 

Give Yourself Permission to Change What’s Not Working in Your Start of Class Routine

My last and final tip is: change your routine if it’s not working. 

If something’s not working, if it’s not saving you or your students’ time, then change it.

As a review, when you are planning your beginning of class routine, make sure that it is “sub-proof.” Next, use visual cues to let students know what is coming. With that, have a dedicated space where they can get the information they need. Finally, change what isn’t working.

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