Ten Blog Posts to Start the School Year: How I ACTUALLY Teach~ Routine

I learned early on in my career that what I need, and what students appreciate in a classroom, is routine and predictability. It helps with classroom discipline and planning. It helps us get more work done. So, most of my school days look like this.

My day starts with the Emerson Sports Academy, a program a couple of colleagues and I started eight years ago. Our student-athletes follow a weekly routine of reading and note-taking for two days and three days of sport skill building.

In my English class, students start the day by writing down the agenda in their planners. It’s boring. It’s predictable. It takes no real skill (although it does help me see who needs glasses) and it helps students stay organized.

While I take attendance, a student reads the blog. This is a student’s digital account of the previous day. It helps remind students what we did, allows absent students to see the activities and homework, and gives families and other teachers the opportunity to follow along. Our blog also provides a primary source record of our class and gives every student the chance to present their work in front of the class several times during the school year. We also review grammar here, because inevitably there will be mistakes in the blog that allow us all to review misplaced modifiers, homophones, capitalization and comma rules, etc.

After the blog, we get to work. Students share their homework (reading a summary of the assigned chapter or a book of their choice). I do a quick check to see who is reading, who is not, and to discuss the book with small groups. Then, one or two students share their summaries and we discuss specifics from the book.

Then we get to work in our English notebooks. We take notes answering text-based questions or analyzing plot or character. This would also be the time for a mini-lesson about figurative language or the use of allusion or whatever else we might be examining. If it’s a reader’s workshop day, we might look at a reading strategy or read an article or poem.

For the last 15-20 minutes of class, students start writer’s workshop or reader’s workshop, depending on the day. Students work on assigned writing or free-choice writing, read assigned texts or books of their choice.

We end the day reviewing homework and cleaning up our spaces and that is the basic routine we stick with. In a classroom, of course, things change every day, so no two class periods or days are ever the same. The more I think about it, the more I think routine might actually be why I've taught for so long. It's the structure that keeps me going. 


  1. Thanks, Noriko. I've found that there's a certain finesse I need to use to strike that elusive balance between routine and spontaneity. Sometimes I feel like my routines come off more like drudgery to my students. For example, my students often find no value in writing the daily agenda because they never plan to look at it again. I don't want to get rid of our routines, but I want them to have value for my students. Otherwise it becomes a small battle every day where I have to give in and let the routine break down, or act as an authoritarian, demanding compliance. I don't like either option. Have you felt this same friction?

    1. I have, Michael, particularly when end-of-the-year feedback indicates that some of these routines are ones my students say aren't helpful (writing down the agenda, specifically, or calculating their own grades.) But then I think about the skill these routines instill (organization or understanding of how grades work) and I decide I'm going to keep doing them. I haven't gotten a whole lot of push back, though. Most of my students seem to like predictability even if it sometimes gets monotonous.