Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Rituals and routines are essential to positive classroom management and culture, and are part of effective Tier One antecedent strategies that support student engagement and social-emotional learning.
Understanding Rituals and Routines
Using classroom routines is a way to make a classroom run smoothly, contributing to the students’ overall sense of safety and well-being. Routines are teacher-created student-responsibilities that communicate expectations, including procedures to follow when entering and exiting the classroom, how to complete morning work (bellringers), how homework is collected, when and where to sharpen pencils, how and when to clean up for lunch, or something as simple as washing one’s hands after using the bathroom. Routines should be in place at the beginning of the school year and practiced with the class when coming back from long breaks (returning from holidays or stints of virtual learning). They are important because routines provide a structure that is predictable and helps the students build independence. When coming up with routines for the classroom, educators should think about what they want their students to do, how they want them to do it, and why they want them to do it.
Rituals, on the other hand, are activities that help build classroom culture and community. They help build student identity and foster a sense of belonging. Rituals include class songs, inside jokes, chants, and celebrations that support the greater classroom community. Rituals can also help teachers assess their students’ social-emotional functioning and help students self-assess their emotional state. Here are some examples of rituals and routines that you can use in your classroom, whether in face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid instruction.
Types of Routines
What to do at the beginning or end of the day/period.
How to collect assignments or hand out materials.
Classroom jobs (this may look different in a virtual setting, but students can still be responsible for things like being an attendance clerk or timekeeper).
Where and how to take a break.
How to interrupt the teacher.
What to do when you accidentally get kicked out of a virtual meeting or have technical difficulties.
What to do when you’ve finished the work.
What to do when you need help (C3B4Me, 5B’s – my brain, the board, a book, a buddy, the boss).
Types of Rituals
Begin or end each day with a classroom meeting to review the day’s tasks for online learning, reflect on how the day progressed, and pose a fun question (“would you rather fly or be invisible?”).
Ensure that students understand how to respond if learning on a virtual platform – use a simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” response for yes/no type questions or by typing a response using the platform’s chat feature.
Use breakout rooms for group work, virtual discussion boards, and shoutout features. Be sure to highlight key activities.
Start each day outlining what students will be working on for online course work, having a “one-stop-shop” where adults, guardians, and students know where to find the days and weeks assignments. Use visual supports for primary students who are just learning to read and keep the directions simple and straight forward.
Collaboratively create a class contract with students that you reference and change as needed. Have one for online learning and one for in person!
Create a big idea or theme that changes at an expected time.
Display a timeline of events for the school or the classroom that is updated regularly (Padlet works great for this!).
Bake a cake or share snacks at the end of a big unit.
Acknowledge student contributions and special events, such as a birthday.
Create notes or cards (including virtual) for other students.
Pair a new student with a mentor on their first week.
Say a chant each day to build hype before a lesson.
Play an online quiz game (Kahoot).
Hold a virtual show-and-tell.
Include a daily reflection (for physical education, try processing by using actions; for art, have them craft how they feel.)
The most important aspect of routines and rituals is the consistency of application. Students should know what is expected of them and be knowledgeable about what will happen next.
Ensure students practice routines such as lining up and morning unpacking. Support these routines with positive behavior systems.
For online learning, start small. Have students practice turning in assignments and discuss fun topics to start the year. For older students, create screen-cast videos to explain expectations for assignments and discussions.
Remember to review routines and rituals after extended breaks from school. Make it a fun challenge to show you the perfect expectation.
Things to Consider
Building rituals with your students. Make it special and unique to each class. One class may want a unique handshake or a music video to start the class.
Teaching expectations during the first month and making sure students have mastered your expectations. If not, keep practicing!
Incorporating student wishes and cultural identity into everyday routines and rituals. Make sure your routines and rituals are equitable for all.
Having a new student get a “tour” from an existing student or two. Have them explain what is expected.
Be culturally considerate & financially aware. If you choose to do show-and-tell, are there options for families that may not have as much? Make sure to have posters or documents available in multiple languages.
Survey families regarding their communication preferences and how they want their child to participate in the physical or virtual classroom. When you don’t know, it’s best to ask!
Kayla Kingston is the Communications Specialist for MCIE. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, she loves reading, writing, and supporting all things inclusion.