Good habits are worth being fanatical about.
One night last winter, I read for a few minutes in bed before I fell asleep. This one small change in my usual routine caused a daylong cascade of missteps. After I finished reading, I put my glasses on the bedside table. I didn’t turn off the ringer on the grandfather clock that chimes every quarter hour. I didn’t turn the heat down.
Because I didn’t turn the heat down, I woke up in the night overheated. Once I was awake, I couldn’t sleep through the clock’s chiming, and my sleep became restless for the rest of the night. I double-checked to make sure my glasses case was in my purse before I left for school, but when I got there, I had no glasses. They were still on the bedside table. Luckily, I keep a pair of “cheaters” at school, so I was able to see—I was just “glasses off/glasses on/where are my glasses?” all day long. And I was tired from the lack of solid sleep. All because I read for a few minutes in bed before I fell asleep.
This has me thinking about routines in the classroom. Certainly, children who come from chaotic homes need the regular routines we establish in our daily schedule. Probably even the children who come from well-ordered homes with strong routines thrive on predictable routines at school.
Sometimes I worry that my classroom routines have become ruts. Then mornings like today’s happen, and I see how one small change from the routine causes a trickle that can build to a virtual waterfall of havoc. This helps me remember that even if a routine is a rut, it keeps us on the path and moving in the direction we need to go.
Other times, I feel like a predictable schedule that is teacher-driven becomes a tyrant’s agenda in the eyes of the students. Even young children need to have choice and agency in the flow of their day. So within the structure of the workshops that are in place in order to cover the content required, and within the parameters of the pull-outs and push-ins by support staff, I give small breaks here and there, and I designate chunks of time once a week for “reading/writing work time.” This allows students a modicum of control in the flow of their school days.
For this winter’s routine, I plan to read in bed for as long as I can stay awake. My glasses will be in their case in my purse, and I’ll be using the “cheaters” that live in the drawer of my bedside table. The heat will have been turned down, and the clock’s ringer clicked to silent before I sink against the pillow and lose myself in my book. It’s always true that tomorrow will be a better day because of the routines I establish for today.
This week we look at routines and structures for literacy workshops and professional development. Plus more as always—enjoy!
Mary Lee Hahn
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Mary Lee Hahn has been teaching fourth or fifth graders for more than 30 years. She is the author of Reconsidering Read-Aloud (Stenhouse Publishers). Mary Lee and her colleague Franki Sibberson blog about their reading, writing, and teaching lives at A Year of Reading.
Bitsy Parks is stressed from trying to “cover” all the lessons in the first required reading unit of the year with her first graders. She takes a deep breath and decides to integrate more of her own lessons into her instruction.
Cathy Mere is the substitute leader of a meeting, and the experience makes her realize the importance of always slowing down and taking the temperature of the room when beginning professional development sessions. She shares her seven favorite routines for slowing down and reading the room.
Jennifer Gonzalez presents nine ways online teaching should be different from teaching face-to-face.
One way Franki Sibberson considers her routines for thinking and learning is to ask herself a critical question: Who am I learning from today?
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Tara Barnett and Kate Mills give guidance and support for varying the structures and routines in literacy workshops.
What’s the difference between a lesson and a minilesson? Christy Rush-Levine finds flexibility is just as important as length in making minilessons work well.
In this week’s video, Hayley Whitaker leads a minilesson in kindergarten on how to plan a narrative writing draft.
In an encore video, Bitsy Parks explains the routines and procedures in her first-grade reading workshop.
Matt Renwick reflects on the traditions and rituals that strengthen a schoolwide literacy community.
In this quick video, Jean Russell explains the importance of establishing norms, choice, and a framework for coaching cycles. She also provides two forms to use when conferring with teachers during cycles.
Todd Warner shares research on the six routines that separate the highest-performing leaders from their average peers.
Nothing will sustain you more potently than the power to recognize in your humdrum routine, the true poetry of life.
That’s all for this week!