19 Elementary Classroom Procedures, Routines, and Examples

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about our classrooms and trying to brainstorm ways to make the beginning of the year go even smoother than last year. Maybe you’re a seasoned teacher, or maybe it’s your first year. 

Either way, establishing clear procedures and routines from day one in your elementary classrooms, regardless of grade level, is extremely important. 

Let’s talk about the importance of classroom routines for a second. 

Picture yourself getting a phone call from your principal at 2:30pm on a random October Monday. Let’s pretend your principal is a talker, and you know this is going to be a 3 minute conversation, easy. 

There are 2 ways this could go:

1) You tell your students you have to take this phone call and while you do, they should take out their unfinished work folder silently and begin working on one of the assignments. Your students know the routine and quickly grab their unfinished work folders to get started. 

OR

2) You keep having to pause, remind students to be quiet, and interrupt your principal because the noise level is out of control and students keep getting up from their seats.

Now, I’m guess the first scenario sounds much more ideal to you because it sure does to me! 

Important classroom routines and procedures, being taught well, is the difference between chaos and calm in the classroom. It’s not simply about having classroom rules. 

Creating a positive classroom community starts with all members knowing what’s expected of them during each part of their day; the expected parts and the unexpected parts. 

The first weeks of school are the optimal time to start embedding effective classroom procedures into your practice. You want your students set up for high expectations from day one. 

You want them to know how much you value them and how much you value teaching them. Effectively doing these things means creating consistent routines.

What is the difference between classroom procedures and routines?

Let’s start with defining exactly what procedures and routines are because sometimes they can be used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing.

Classroom Procedures

Step-by-step instructions for specific tasks and activities that occur regularly in the classroom.

Classroom Routines

The habitual ways in which students and teachers carry out daily activities and transitions.

Essentially, your procedures become part of your routines. This means that as you create ways of doing certain actions, or procedures, you will add them to parts of your day, which become your routines.

Why teach routines and procedures

I don’t want to scare you, but not putting in the effort to teach these things early on, will make for a hard year! 

Think about your own days. You probably have routines you follow that keep you from getting behind and overwhelmed. Within those routines, you also likely have certain procedures mapped out for certain actions. 

A very simplified example is ordering groceries. 

You likely have one day a week where you plan out your meals or get your list in order. You either look through the items you have to make a list, or you grab the list you’ve been making all week. Then, you’ll have a something in place for actually getting the groceries. You may go shopping on the same day, or you might order and pick up your items from the store. 

Either way, HOW you go about finding out what you need and want to get for the week is your procedure and WHEN you order/get the groceries is a part of your routine.

Having these in place helps your weeks feel smoother, ensures you don’t starve, and helps you organize where your time and attentions should be spent.

We all need routines and procedures in our lives, and the same holds true for you classroom. 

Reasons why you need to procedures and routines

Here are 4 reasons you absolutely should focus on established routines and procedures in your classroom are: 

1) Promotes a Positive Learning Environment

Ensures a structured and predictable atmosphere conducive to learning.

2) Enhances Student Independence

Empowers students to grow in managing themselves, their belongings, and their learning.

3) Maximizes Instructional Time

Reduces time spent on addressing disruptions and increases time for teaching.

4) Reduces Behavioral Issues

Provides clear expectations, reducing uncertainty and undesirable behavior.

Before we get into what to teach, let’s talk about how to teach routines and procedures.

This is my fool-proof method for allowing your students to learn by actively engaging in the target skill you want to teach. These steps allow students to get involved in the routine, not just hear you talk about it. 

We all know kids learn best by doing, so we want to give them lots of opportunities to do so.

Steps to teach Routines and Procedures

  1. Tell students what you want them to do
  2. Show them what to do as you are doing it
  3. Have student notice what they see and hear 
  4. Choose a couple of students to repeat the activity
  5. Ask students to again share what they see and hear
  6. Optional: You can add in a non-example (a way you don’t want students to complete the routine/procedure), but just know that this can be tricky at times. You may have a kiddo in your class that looks at the non-example as a way to get a few laughs from peers. So, it could be a useful tool, but it could also backfire on ya! Up to you.

You can use anchor charts to give students more visual supports as you teach these routines and procedures. 

Remember, younger classrooms will need you to repeat this process a few times (and maybe a few more after that) until they really get the hang of things. 

Effective teachers know, you don’t just have a good classroom routine magically; you make it! The best ways to create effective classroom management, is to keep practicing these important pieces of the day.

Set aside time the first days of school to teach these following routines and procedures, and reserve plenty of time in the coming weeks to continue doing so. 

Let’s get into some of the routines and procedures you’re going to want to add into your day starting with the very first day of school.

19 Routines + Procedures You Should Teach

Safety Procedures

1. Fire Drill Procedure

Description: Steps to follow during a fire drill.

Teaching: Explain the importance of fire drills, demonstrate the procedure, and practice regularly.

2. Lockdown Drill Procedure

Description: Steps to follow during a lockdown.

Teaching: Discuss the reasons for lockdowns, demonstrate, and practice the procedure.

3. Bathroom Break System

Description: Procedure for bathroom breaks.

Teaching: Introduce your bathroom break procedure and explain when and how to use it.

4. Hallway Behavior

Description: Expected behavior when walking in hallways.

Teaching: Explain and model your expectations for moving throughout the building.

Beginning and End-of-Day Routines

5. Classroom Entry Procedure

Description: Steps for entering the classroom calmly and ready to learn.

Teaching: Model and practice entering quietly, putting away belongings, starting morning work, or coming back from another room and waiting for instructions.

6. Attendance and Lunch Count

Description: Make sure you have a procedure in place for taking attendance and lunch count. 

Teaching: Show students how to use your system, such as a visual chart or interactive whiteboard when they enter the classroom.

7. Morning Work/Activities

Description: The first task students will engage in to start the day.

Teaching: Provide clear instructions and examples of what students need to gather, how they should start, and what to do if they have questions, etc.

8. End-of-Day Cleanup

Description: Routine for tidying up the classroom at the end of the day (or whenever it needs a good cleaning).

Teaching: Assign specific tasks to students if you like using classroom jobs (e.g., picking up trash, organizing desks) and practice daily.

9. Packing Up Routine

Description: Organized routine for packing up at the end of the day.

Teaching: Provide a checklist and practice the steps for packing up quickly and with limited chaos!

10. Dismissal Procedure

Description: Safe and orderly end-of-day dismissal.

Teaching: Explain dismissal order (e.g., bus riders, parent pick up) and practice lining up for dismissal.

Transition and Movement Routines

11. Transition Between Subjects

Description: Smooth changes between different lessons.

Teaching: Use consistent signals (e.g., clapping, chime, call and response) and practice transitioning.

12. Lining Up

Description: Orderly method for lining up.

Teaching: Demonstrate and practice lining up in a specific order (e.g., alphabetical, by table).

Classroom Management and Organization

13. Desk Organization

Description: Keeping desks tidy and organized.

Teaching: Show students how to take care of their materials and general procedures for keeping items neat.

14. Classroom Jobs

Description: Assigning responsibilities to students.

Teaching: Explain and assign jobs and responsibilities, rotating weekly, or whatever works for you, and model for each task.

Learning and Instruction Routines

15. Group Work Guidelines

Description: Expectations for working in groups.

Teaching: Model cooperative behavior and talk about how to listen to others, what to do if there is a problem, etc.

16. Independent Work Guidelines

Description: Expectations for independent tasks. 

Teaching: Explain what it looks like to focus during independent work and practice skills.

17. Technology Use Protocol

Description: Guidelines for using classroom technology.

Teaching: Provide clear instructions on appropriate use and model with classroom devices.

18. Distribution and Collection of Materials

Description: Efficient system for handing out and collecting supplies.

Teaching: Show students how/where they should hand in their finished work, and model how helpers should pass out/collect materials.

19. Interruptions and Guests

Description: Expectations for when a lesson is interrupted or when a guest arrives

Teaching: Practice procedures for when new people enter the classroom such as parents, paraprofessionals, other teachers, etc. Also have a procedure in place for when you need to shift gears unexpectedly (independent reading, unfinished work folder, etc.)

At this point you may be thinking, “that’s going to take a lot of time!” You’re right, it is. However, the time you spend at the beginning of the school year teaching these important routines and procedures, means less time solving problems the rest of the school year. 

All of these 19 routines and procedures are a great way to get a head start with your entire class on creating a classroom environment that works for you! There is no wrong way to set up routines and procedures…except for not doing it. 

Whether you’re an experienced teacher, or if it’s your first time in your own classroom, routines and procedures are effective ways to begin building a smooth classroom management plan.

My best advice: try not to get overwhelmed with all the things you “have to do.” I encourage you to start small, be consistent, and adapt these routines and procedures to fit your unique classroom needs.

As you learn more about your kids and the needs of your students, you’ll likely tweak some things down the line. We’re not looking for perfect here, we’re just looking to ensure everyone knows what’s expected of them.

Remember, if you don’t have expectations for things like turning in work, getting out materials, and managing technology, you’ll have 20-30 little people doing it how they think it should be done. 

While building independent thinking is great, we really don’t want to give the responsibility of how an iPad should be handled to a 5 year old, right?

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