Monday, September 9, 2013

ATUE takes on... beginning of the school year routines!

"ATUE takes on" is a new idea here at All Things Upper Elementary.  We decided we wanted to give you more awesome ideas in a collaborative setting.  
Here's how it works... we've brainstormed some ideas that we think are important and want to share our thoughts.  BUT, we'd love to hear ideas of what you think is important.  Just leave us a comment on this post and we will add your ideas to our list of what else we should "take on"!

This week, ATUE takes on.... beginning of the school year routines! Check out what some of our collaborators think!


Jennifer from 4mulaFun says... 

"Be a STRUCTURE SERGEANT from day one! Showing your student that every minute means business will set the tone for the year and help things flow smoothly for you as well."


Jamie from MissMathDork says..
"Be organized and consistent from day one!  You cannot expect your students to follow every direction immediately.  Take time to practice and model your routines. Students need structure and they thrive on it.  If you make your expectations known and clear, your students will rise to the occasion.  In my room we have binders that stay in the room.  You can read more about them here!"


Heather from 2Brainy Apples says... 

"The beginning of the year is always an exciting time! But, the one thing I do not look forward to is establishing my classroom procedures and routines. It takes time to ensure students know what to expect, and if you don't take the time to make sure this foundation is strong, then you will spend much of the year redirecting/reminding students which takes away from learning time.Once students know your expectations, you are free to teach and not manage behaviors, because the children will be doing that part on their own!

I love having my students create a class book of our rules and procedures. That way they feel ownership, and we can take our time making sure each child knows what each rule and procedure means. They illustrate each rule and procedure, I hole punch them, and place them in a binder. I always put the class book in an easy to access spot for students to read on their own and so subs have a quick look at how things work in our classroom.

I created a product to help you create your own class book for how you do things in your classroom."


Deb from Crafting Connections with Deb says... 

"If you want it... TEACH IT! Break down your expectations into sequential steps. For example, write on chart paper exactly what each student needs to do when he/she enters your classroom each morning. If possible, add photos or sketches for any ELL's with very limited English."


Denise from Yearn to Learn says...

"Take time to teach and reteach procedures. I often overlook doing so because I want to move on with curriculum but end up paying for it later."


Meg from Fourth Grade Studio says... 

"Establishing a culture of learning is SO important. In order to teach literacy in the way I believe to be best (pulling small groups and working one-on-one with students), it is essential that students learn independent reading behaviors so that they can be productive learners while I am working with others. Whether it be learning how to select "just right" books, setting goals, learning about different genres, or monitoring their own independent reading time, I definitely believe we cannot ASSUME students can do these routines without plenty of instruction, anchor charts as reminders, and plenty of modeling! We work very hard in the first weeks of school to establish a culture of reading so that all students can not only improve on their reading--but can learn to love it as well! 

Some of my ideas, forms, and tips can be found in my "Getting Ready for a Year of Reading! How to Launch Independent Reading" resource and you can read more on my blog post about Getting Our Year of Reading Started. "


Kristy from 2Peas and a Dog says... 

"At the beginning of the year every student gets a number based on the class list. This number gets written on everything. From then on making groups are easy, gym squads and fire drills. Yeah for numbers."


Leanne from Leanne Baur's Creative Classroom says... 

"Spend the entire first month of school describing your routines each time the students do something that is not part of the routine. They need reminders. If you use the same language every time, by October they will ALL be good to go! Here is an example: A student raises her hand to ask to use the restroom. This is NOT part of your routine. Say, "Laura, you do not need to ask to use the restroom. Go get the girls' pass, place it on your desk, and sign out in the book." Be sure to have her demonstrate this to the class so they all learn from the experience! "


Amber from Shut the Door and Teach says...

 "There are SO many routines to teach the kids at the start of the year, not only to make the class run efficiently and safely, but also so that they feel comfortable in the room. It can feel like there is so much to tell them, but I try to avoid the lectures as much as possible and get them out of their seats and exploring the room with focused tasks (with low stakes and a high success rate) in order to get them engaged right from the start. One of those tasks is to organize our classroom library! By fourth grade, kids have a pretty good sense of how book bins can be categorized. So although there are a LOT of books, I have a system that gets everyone involved (without pushing and shoving over at the bookshelf or books strewn around in the meantime!). If you want to read more, I've blogged more about it here, and here is how it looks after two days (less than 45 minutes total)."


Blair from One Lesson at a Time says...

We all know that routines and procedures like lining up, coming to the rug, going to the bathroom, etc. are critical to having a classroom that runs smoothly. But in addition to teaching these, make sure to allow plenty of time to review and practice instructional procedures and routines throughout the first month of school. It can be tempting to dive headfirst into the nitty-gritty of the curriculum, but the time you spend reinforcing behavior and routines during learning time will pay off exponentially throughout the year. 

For example, if you utilize centers in your classroom, don't try to use that time to pull small groups right away. Instead, set each center up with a student-run activity, and move from group to group monitoring and reinforcing expectations. 

Also take time to explicitly teach your students HOW to work independently. This is a routine in and of itself - model, review, and practice it the same way you would your procedures. What does independent work look like? What does it sound like? What questions should students be asking themselves as they encounter difficult concepts? You can hop over to my blog, One Lesson at a Time, to pick up a free Independent Work Checklist that may help you and your students. 


Jennifer from Teaching to Inspire 5th  says...

"The beginning of the year is such an important time, full of getting to know you activities and teaching rules and procedures. In the past, I always started the year with many engaging activities to get the students excited about school. However, I never really had activities for teaching rules and procedures. Now I do! I make my procedure and rule teaching interactive, engaging, and cooperative. We do scenarios, sorts, and even super engaging activities like creating iPhone apps for our class rules! The kids love it and they remember the procedures and rules so much easier this way. Take a look at what I use here.


John from An Educator's Life  says...


I think it is because I teach older students (6th grade), but for years I would think that I could show them a couple of times and then the would magically remember what was expected. NOT true!
I have learned to model, but still hold students accountable for their actions. If I have shown them several times and they fail to follow through or do it correctly, they receive a consequence according to class rules. In the past I would let them off the hook because "we were practicing", but I learned that that mindset does more harm than good. Now, by being firm and holding students accountable, I have far fewer issues at the beginning of the year and beyond.

This year has been my best year at being consistent, modeling often, and being firm in my consequences. I can already tell it is going to be a better year. WAHOO!"


Jen from Out of This World Literacy  says...

One goal I have that is part of my beginning of the year routines is to begin building a classroom community. I love to use interactive read aloud picture books to help. First, I have the kids sit at the carpet in a 'squircle' (square/circle). Yes, the big fifth graders do this too! This way we can all see each other when we are talking. One of my favorite books to read is "Ira Sleeps Over."  

It is about a boy going to his first sleepover. He is worried his friend will laugh at him if he brings his teddy bear. He goes back and forth throughout the book, trying to decide if he should take his bear. At the end of the story, the kids turn and talk about what favorite animals or objects they have, or a sibling has, that might be embarrassing. They share their thinking with someone sitting next to them. Then we share as a class. In the end, we talk about how everyone in class does not need to feel embarrassed about the things they are thinking and sharing as we learn all year, because nobody in the room is going to laugh at's a great bonding lesson!!!

To see this lesson and 39 other reading and writing workshop CCSS lessons, visit my unit of study for launching the reading and writing workshops.


Andrea from Right Down the Middle says...

"Each year, my students made personalized pennants of their goals for the year. In addition to writing their individual goals, the students would also include how they would accomplish these set goals. I took a picture of each student, attached it to the pennants, and then laminated them. I hung the pennants across the room in rows as a constant reminder for the students to remember their goals. They absolutely loved this. Year after year, my new class would ask about the pennants. This always helped set the stage for a new year and a new opportunity for my students to shine. "


And there you have it! Thanks so much for stopping in for this edition of...

Remember, if you have ANY requests on what you would like us to take on, just leave them below!


  1. Hi to all of my old friends! I love the way ATUE Takes On looks! It looks just the way I had pictured it when I mentioned it on the survey! I can't wait to read more of them!

    1. Hi Peanut,
      Thanks for pinning us :) Hope your year is off to a good start!

    2. Hi, Amber! It is completely and utterly stressful, but I am surviving. I hope you're off to a great start as well! :)

    3. I'm so glad you like it! We miss you so very much! If you ever want to chime in, or 'guest post' let us know!

    4. Awww, thanks, my friend! After I get through this school year, things may look a lot different (and sunnier) again! I will definitely keep in touch and let you all know! xoxo


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