28 Establishing Routines

In order to turn skills into activities, they need to be both anticipated and practiced. Routines offer an opportunity to reinforce the central course goals and to refine skills. The students know what they are expected to do, and can immediately jump into the first task of the day. This can increase student motivation because it helps the students to act autonomously. 

 The opening five minutes offer us a rich opportunity to capture the attention of students and prepare them for learning. They walk into our classes trailing all of the distractions of their complex lives – the many wonders of their smartphones, the arguments with roommates, the question of what to have for lunch. Their bodies may be stuck in a room with us for the required time period, but their minds may be somewhere else entirely. It seems clear, then, that we should start class with a deliberate effort to bring students’ focus to the subject at hand.

James Lang, 2016


Beginnings and endings are particularly important times to make use of routines. Many educational theorists, including James Lang, discuss the first five minutes and the last five minutes of class as an ideal time to enforce routines. There are many activities you can do during these two key moments to both anticipate the day’s activities, and to reflect on them. 



In James Lang’s book Small Teaching, he discusses a number of strategies to maximize these two time periods. We highly recommend you read this short summary article for a few of these ideas.

Then, download the My Class Routines Template to write out the classroom routine you would like to establish.

Guiding Questions

  • How will you activate your students’ prior knowledge?
  • How will you incorporate practice into your class?
  • How will you incorporate reflection and metacognition strategies into your class?


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