The Importance of Routines

This is my first blog since becoming a co-headteacher in September.  What a six months it’s been!  It’s an absolute privilege to lead the brilliant staff and students at Durrington.  Being able to do so with co-headteacher Chris Woodcock is fantastic.  Co-headship is a great model for school leadership and I think it’s a model that will become more common in the future.  That’s a topic for a future blog though.  For now I want to rewind about thirty years, to when I was an NQT.

My mentor at the time was a great science teacher called Dave Holmes.  Dave was my teaching idol.  Managing a class of students appeared effortless for Dave.  This included the rather challenging year 10 class that I shared with him.  Whilst I struggled to keep Tom, Natalie, Kevin, Kelly et al in their seats, Dave had them eating out of his hands.  He shared his wisdom with me, during one of our rare NQT meetings.

‘There’s no secret to it.  Have strict routines and stick with them rigidly.  Sort out the microdiscipline and the macrodiscipline will sort itself out and be relentlessly consistent with this’

Initially I struggled to understand some of this, let alone implement it. Nonetheless, I stuck with it, even though, I wasn’t convinced about there being ‘no secret to it’.  To me, it seemed like Dave had superpowers!  Slowly though, things got better.  As they did, it became clear that there were two key words in Dave’s advice – routines and consistent.

Routines have always been integral to maintaining a calm and purposeful classroom.  As we all look to tackle the Covid legacy in schools, routines have become more important than ever.  For two years and through no fault of their own, children missed out on the essential routines of school.  No bells, no lessons, no start of lesson routines, no end of lesson routines, no lesson transition routines etc.  Our students here at Durrington are fabulous, but we can’t underestimate the impact this may have had on them and their peers across the country.  So with this in mind, we are being really explicit about these routines, with a view to supporting all students with embedding these critical habits. 

What does this look like?

  • On the threshold – all teachers are at/just outside the door to their classroom, on the bell, welcoming students into their classroom as swiftly as possible.
  • Do now task – teachers have a ‘Do Now’ task ready for students to complete independently and in silence as soon as they enter the classroom e.g. retrieval questions.  This is not a task that requires the rest of the class to be ready e.g. reading aloud together.  Teachers then narrate the positive as students get on task.
  • Pastore’s Perch – as soon as the register has been completed (in silence) teachers go to Pastore’s Perch and be seen looking, to ensure all students are on task, focused and silent.
  • Sweeping – staff who are not teaching (teaching and some associate staff) are high profile in the corridors, encouraging students to move with pace and purpose to their lesson.   
  • SLANT – when teachers are ready for the input stage of the lesson, they remind all students to SLANT .  During their input, teachers remind students about this, by using comments such as ‘eyes on me please’.
  • Sit up straight
  • Listen carefully
  • Ask and Answer questions
  • No interrupting
  • Track the speaker
  • Means of participation – teachers are explicit about how they want students to do things.  This may be how they answer questions, how they start a task or in a science lesson, how they will carry out the steps in a practical.  More on this here.
  • Increase the participation/thinking ratio – teachers use strategies such as cold calling, think pair, share and mini white boards, to increase the number of students who are thinking and participating in their questioning and the lesson. Adam Boxer writes about this brilliantly here.
  • Orderly dismissal – at the end of the lesson, teachers ask students to stand behind their places and  in silence and then wait for this.  They then dismiss students one row at a time.  When done consistently across the school, this makes a considerable difference to the flow of students into corridors.

Instructional coaching is a key element of our CPD model at Durrington and is supporting us with embedding these routines across the school.  It does this by utilising many of the professional development mechanisms, supported by the EEF’s Professional Development Guidance Report e.g. instructing teachers how to perform a technique; modelling the technique; rehearsing the technique; monitoring and providing feedback.  This is as applicable to developing approaches to managing behaviour, as it is to developing pedagogy.

So routines matter. To finish, here’s another piece of wisdom, but this time from Doug Lemov:

“We get angry at students because we say ‘pay attention’ and then they don’t do what we asked them to – and then we shout at them – but in fact it is not clear whether anyone has actually taught them what it means to pay attention to someone in the classroom…those habits of discipline, knowing the right way of doing something, are critical to all the more sublime education outcomes that we seek.”

Shaun Allison

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