Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Benefits of a Daily Routine

Have you ever watched John and Kate Plus 8? It's a TV show on Discovery Channel about a married couple who has two sets of multiples (twins and sextuplets). The twins are in elementary school and Kate is a stay at home mom with the sextuplets. Well, in one episode (I'm paraphrasing because I can't remember the exact quote) Kate says that her days with the sextuplets are.....vastly different yet shockingly the same. I laughed out loud when she said that because it completely mirrors what I do as a special education teacher. The framework is the same every single day, but the conversations and lessons are so very different. The method to ensure that each day is the same is by scheduling the day according to a routine.

Why would I bother with a routine? As an adult, think about your comfort level related to activities/events where you are familiar with and know what to expect. Think about knowing expectations.

Each morning I drive to school. I know that I need 17 minutes to drive to school, park and enter my classroom by 8:00am. I also know that students begin arriving at 8:10. I know that my plan book is on my desk, my assistant will have read what I want for table work and will have it placed on the tables. That gives me 10 minutes each morning to touch base with my assistant.

Having my routine set when I get to work REALLY helps me. Knowing how much time I need to get to school, what I will be doing and what my assistant will be doing helps me get through my grouchy morning self (also the perfect cup of coffee: just the right temperature with just the right amount of creamer hand delivered to me by my husband...that helps me get through my grouchy morning self, too.) :-)

Setting classroom and home routines helps children understand expectations and boundaries. It helps them to become familiar and comfortable within the day. A routine (as illustrated in my personal anecdote) also becomes a strategy to use during moments of stress or emotion. We tend to revert back to what is familiar and comfortable. Knowing this, it is important to create an effective routine that becomes comfortable. When scheduling an effective routine there are several things that must be kept in mind.

1) Developmentally Appropriate Practice (Ask yourself, what should my students/children be learning? What must be included? reading? centers? math?)
2) Natural times for specific activities (Children get hungry in the middle of the day. If your lunch time is not determined by the school, plan an appropriate time. Young children typically learn best in the morning block and often become tired by the afternoon. Plan academics or pre-academics in the morning and quiet or less demanding activities in the afternoon.)
3) Use the Premack principle! (The Premack principle states that students will generally perform a less desirable task to get to a more desirable task. Check out this wikipedia link for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premack I have a friend who calls this "Grandma's rule." I also use the Pink Floyd song lyrics: "If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?" to explain this principle to my college students. One example of applying the Premack principle in my classroom practice is clean up and snack. When we clean up centers then we go to the table and have a snack.
4) For teachers: check school policies/routines! (Many schools have school routines in place for entrance/dismissal, recess, lunch, specials, reading blocks, computer labs, etc. Your classroom schedule may have some flexibility in some areas but limited flexibility in others. Check first!)
5) Post your routine (Once you have scheduled your routine, post it in your home or classroom. In moments of stress, you can point out where you are in the routine and remind your student/child what comes next. It helps children conceptualize the idea that this activity will not last forever and a more desired activity will follow. Think of you posted routine as if it were an agenda for a staff meeting. When you have a printed agenda in front of you, you can check your progress throughout the meeting.)

Following are three examples of a daily schedule. One is designed for students with special needs in pre-kindergarten, the next is for students with special needs kindergarten-second grade and the final schedule is for third-fifth graders with special needs. You will notice that more specific classroom routines are embedded within the daily schedule. In his book The First Days of School, Harry Wong discusses and stresses the importance of classroom procedures. http://www.harrywong.com/

(I will discuss other specific classroom procedures in later posts.)

Pre-Kindergarten:
Entrance Routine (hang up backpack, put folder in tray, put name on chart, choose table work)
Table Work
School News
Breakfast
Morning Circle
Centers (discovery play, small group work)
Clean Up
Snack
Bathroom
Story
Gross Motor Activity
Lunch
Bathroom
Nap
Video/Interactive Stories online on the projection screen
Closing Circle (Tuesdays: computer buddies, Thursdays: book buddies)
Gross Motor Activity
Dismissal


Kindergarten-2nd grade
Entrance Routine (hangup backpack, put folder in tray, choose bell work)
Bell Work (calendar work, journal writing)
Mainstreaming
Morning Circle
Reading Groups
Snack
Recess
Math Groups
Lunch
Language Arts
Specials (art, music, pe)
Affective lesson
Developmental centers
Pack Up and Dismissal


Third Grade to Fifth Grade
Entrance Routine (hang up backpack, folder in tray, choose bell work)
Bell Work (calendar work, cursive handwriting practice)
School News
Math Groups
Specials
Class Meeting
Writers Workshop and Language Arts
Lunch
Recess
Reading Groups
Computer Lab (individual reading and math practice on computer)
Dismissal

3 comments:

ana pamela perez said...

HEllo i read your blogg and i Think is great! i have a question, I teach Resource MAth and the other day my principal told me that the students needs to be more engage in math discussion, do you have any suggesstion or a book that i can read? thanks!

Michelle_special_ed_teacher said...

Hi Ana-
SO sorry I didn't see your comment originally. If you are still looking for a book, I would suggest you check out some of the Kagan cooperative learning structures. It will give you good ides to incorporate to any subject that will help your students share ideas and discuss.

kristen.hamilton said...

I really enjoyed reading your post! It's interesting to think about routines with the entire classroom as well as with individual students. I am a one-on-one paraeducator, and know first had how important routines are in helping to create a successful day! Our special education department, which has access to ipads, has started using a great app called marble jar, found on itunes at: http://bit.ly/pxwvkR. Those of us in the department using it have found it tremendously helpful with our students. It's a great way for our team and student to collaborate to create lists for our routines and steps or tasks to work towards goals. And the students are having fun using it!