Bright Idea: Using Visuals to Establish Routines and Expectations

Setting routines and expectations is so incredibly important at the beginning of the school year. It will be an uphill battle for the entire year if you and your students aren't on the same page. I learned very early on in my teaching career to never assume ANYTHING when it comes to routines!

One thing we spend lots of time doing at the beginning of the year is set expectations for classroom and school routines. From transitioning to the carpet, transitioning back to desks, how to organize desks, how to use the pencil sharpener, how to find a book and put it away, lining up, walking in the hall, using the bathroom, hanging up back packs, and so much more, I can't stand the sound of my own voice by the end of the first week of school!

In order to set these routines, my students and I develop rubrics and use lots of photos to create anchor charts we can refer to throughout the year. The first kind is a 3-2-1 anchor chart. In my school, we are striving for 3s. This first chart shows students how to line up to walk in the hallway:
We start by making a list of appropriate lining-up behaviors. Then we practice lining up like a 1: YIKES! I take a picture. Then we sit back down and try it again; this time we are a 2: ALMOST... I snap another pic. We sit back down. Lastly we are a 3: PERFECT! Notice the colors too: red for 1, yellow for 2, green for 3. Green = good to go! After I get the photos printed, I will put the chart together and we review it again. It's hard to tell in the above photo, but the chart hangs right by the door to remind students what to do. 

The awesome thing about the 3-2-1 poster, is that I will hold up 3 fingers, 2, fingers, or 1 finger to signal to the kids where we're at. I also train my kids how to remind others around them to be a "3 Line." You know, because shouting at friends to be quiet and shushing them loudly is COMPLETELY counterproductive. So I teach them to tap their neighbor on the shoulder, give the quiet sign (putting a finger to their mouth, as if to say "shh"), face forward, and be a 3 again. I will change my fingers as we improve, and as soon as we're a 3, it turns to a thumbs up, and we are on our way! I also have green, yellow, and red cards on a ring that I will hold up when we are in super crazy situations, like coming in from recess.

The next one hangs in the hallway. Each student gets one hook, although each hook has two hooks, one on top of the other. So we talk about how backpacks need to be zipped and hanging up, with lunch boxes on the top shelf. As it gets colder, we also talk about how to hang up and organize snow gear. It's quite the balancing act, but it IS possible to hang up snow pants, winter coats, and backpacks on the hooks. And most kids usually have a tote bag too, to carry their snow pants and boots home. Does it require a bit of rearranging? Yes. But I want my kids to be responsible and take care of their belongings.
The second kind of routines anchor chart I have is a list-type poster. Last year I noticed a lot of my kids slouching in their seats or resting their heads on their desks or arms during learning time. So we came up with a list of what "Ready to Learn" looks like. Then we practiced, and I took some pictures of kids who were ready to learn.
I hung up this poster at the front of my room so that I could refer to it if I needed to. There was some serious competition to be in the photos! :) I've also made posters like this for what the Daily 5 stations look like, what math work time looks like, what it looks like to work at a computer/with an iPad, etc.

In case you're wondering, I do this with my class every single year. I do not keep these charts from year to year. I feel that creating these charts together helps students "buy into" the routines, plus I want to use THEIR photos, not photos of my class from previous years. Also, each class has different needs. Last year was the first year we needed to review "Ready to Learn" behaviors, but this year *fingers crossed* we won't have to do that.

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  1. Great idea! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Love it!! Thanks for another great idea!

  3. Love it! I have been meaning to take pictures of "good" behaviors every year, but this is more fun! Thank you so much for sharing!
    Second Grade is Out of This World!

  4. Great idea! Like you, I get tired of hearing myself talk about routines. Ugh! Love the idea of holding up fingers.

    Teaching Little Miracles

  5. Such a good idea. I need this for my backpack hooks. They are always all over the place. Thanks for adding another thing to my to do list! :)


  6. Great idea! Love the posters and how this helps students buy in to the classroom procedures. Thanks so much for sharing!
    I Want to be a Super Teacher


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