How To Introduce Supplies and Routines Easily And Effectively

How To Introduce Supplies and Routines Easily And Effectively - by A Word On Third

Welcome to the first post of my Launch Your Classroom Right series! Today I'm going to cover how to introduce supplies and routines, because frankly that's the first thing you're going to really be focusing on in your room. When I say routines, I mean behavioral routines (like lining up, cleaning up, etc.) and academic routines (how to communicate with a partner effectively, how to go book shopping, how to use a calculator etc.). Both are equally important, and if you want a self-running classroom, the first 6 weeks is when you need to focus on this stuff.

Use interactive modeling to teach the necessities.

Interactive modeling is a Responsive Classroom technique which makes EVERYTHING better. I use it every day during the first 6 weeks, and I continue to use it often as the school year progresses. Interactive modeling should be used when there is only one way to do something. If there are many ways to do something, use guided discovery instead. (We'll talk about that later!) For example, there's one way to walk in my classroom with scissors. There are many ways, however, to use base-ten blocks or digi-blocks. Many teachers model, but I think Responsive Classroom's approach to modeling is much more powerful than some other alternatives to modeling. I'm sure you probably do some of these things already (or maybe all!).

There are 7 basic steps to interactive modeling according to Responsive Classroom:
  1. State what you're modeling and why.
    Students need to know why you're teaching this. I might say, "I'm going to teach you how to come to the carpet for reading so we can do it safely and save time throughout our school year."
  2. Model the exact desired behavior.
    Many teachers feel the need to narrate this--you don't have to. In fact, I encourage you not to narrate. Keeping quiet and just doing the task makes interactive more inquiry-based and lets KIDS do the actual work in your classroom. Some teachers will model the behavior correctly and incorrectly. I find it's more powerful to only model what you want in your classroom.
  3. Ask students what they noticed.
    If kids need help, ask them more specific questions. For example, if you modeled how to line up and kids noticed that you did it quickly and quietly, but didn't notice that you faced forward, you might say, "Which direction did I face?" or "What did I do with my body on line?"
    Similarly, if kids say, "You didn't run," ask them what you did do. I will respond with, "If I didn't run, what did I do?" They will then share that you walked. I find that getting kids to explicitly state what you DID actually do is really important. Depending on your school culture, you will get a lot of things worded in the negative. It's OK if you have to say "Well what did I do?" over and over again.
    I like to take it a step further sometimes and ask students why certain steps to a routine or parts of a behavior might be important. I might say something like, "Why might it be important to put your homework out before answering the morning message?" Now we might have a discussion about how I need to check everyone's homework, and having it out right away gives me more time to do that. 
  4. Have a child re-model the behavior.
    Sometimes everyone can do this on the spot. Sometimes you might need to ask kids ahead of time if they are comfortable with modeling. Sometimes a kid won't get everything right--you might have them stop or re-model.
  5. Ask students what they noticed.
    Again, follow the same guidelines as step #3.
  6. Give the class a chance to practice.
    Sometimes everyone can practice at once. Sometimes, you might need to have kids practice throughout the day so you can really watch to know each kid knows how to do this.
  7. Give feedback.
    Some kids will struggle with certain routines and behaviors more than others. You might need to do some small group work around routines and behaviors, and that is OK. Throughout the year, you will need to reteach some things sometimes. Don't think that means that you messed up here. That's normal and developmentally appropriate for kids.
Are you a need-to-see-it-in-action kind of teacher? Here's a great video of a teacher modeling how to talk to a partner at the beginning of the year. You can find more of these videos on Responsive Classroom's YouTube channel, by the way!


Even though there are 7 steps, it's super fast and efficient! Once your classroom has launched, you might even re-model things you've already taught in a condensed version. Rather than modeling a behavior that you know some students know very well, skip steps 2 and 3 from above and just start with a student modeling the behavior. This is great do do after a break or after a substitute has been in your classroom. 

Once I started doing this, my classroom became a million times more organized. Students knew exactly what was expected of them. Some things you might want to introduce through modeling in the first few weeks are:
  • Bathroom routines
  • Packing up/unpacking
  • How to organize a desk/cubby
  • How to come to the meeting area
  • How to write a notebook entry
  • How to sharpen pencils
  • How to talk to a partner
  • How to line up
  • How to talk in the hallway
  • How to clean up

There's many, many more things you could teach, but that's a start for you!

Teach students through guided discovery.

Now, remember up top when I said to save this for when there is more than one way to do stuff? This is really fun for kids. It's inquiry-based learning and allows for a more student-centered culture in your classroom. The steps to introduce things through this method are similar to interactive modeling, but of course they allow for more student input since there is more than one correct way to do whatever I'm teaching. The basic steps to teaching through guided discovery are:
  1. Introduce your material/routine.
    You're going to introduce the thing you're teaching. If I introduce a material, I like to get kids to make observations about the material too. For example, if you're introducing unifix cubes, get kids to notice that they click into each other, that they are all the same size, etc. These qualities are important qualities to understand during math lessons. If you introduce a material center, maybe kids should notice how it's organized.
    It can be really fun, especially for the younger kids, to spend a few seconds introducing a mystery item. I've been known to pull mystery items out of an opaque bag at the beginning of guided discoveries. It's not super important and doesn't need to be used each time, but it's definitely going to increase student engagement. If you have a more novel material, you might ask kids what they think it is first.
  2. Generate ideas.
    How can kids use these tools? They can make a train with unifix cubes, they can measure, they can add, they can divide... see what ideas kids come up with! You can even chart them, but I wouldn't waste too much paper on this unless you think kids might need to remember it for the future.
  3. Model ideas.
    Now let a few kids make trains, divide with them, add with them, measure with them, etc. just for a few moments, in front of everyone. Kids might do this all at the same time (so everyone is engaged) or you might have a few volunteers act for everyone.
  4. Explore.
    Now the kids can go off and explore for 10 to 25 minutes or so, with the understanding that they will share what they did at the end of class. What did they come up with? What patterns did they notice? Use some reinforcing language with your students and take note of any interesting student behavior at this time. It will help you out in class later if you already know that Sally isn't the most careful or precise counter in the world or that she is a beast at measuring things!
  5. Share.
    You can have students share what they did with a partner, have kids share with the whole class one at a time, or have the students do a museum walk. You want kids to reflect at this point.
  6. Clean Up.
    This is when you'll teach all of the procedural pieces. Where do the unifix cubes go at the end of math? How do you clean them up?



And, of course, there are more videos with guided discovery on Responsive Classroom's YouTube channel. I try to introduce the supply caddies in my classroom (which have markers, pencils, crayons, etc.) through guided discovery on the first day of school. I tell kids I'm going to hang up their finished products. They don't stay up for long, but now I've got the kids feeling a sense of ownership in our room since their work is hanging up on day 1.

Some things you might want to introduce through guided discovery are:
  • Art supplies
  • Math manipulatives
  • Science tools
  • Classroom Library
  • Dictionaries
  • Electronic Devices
These two things are my saviors for the first weeks of school because they are EASY, EFFECTIVE, and WAY more interesting! The kids are engaged instead of hearing you drone on and on like the teacher in Charlie Brown. I get to learn a lot about my students when I pay attention to how they act too!

Are you a neat freak?

A few other cool tips I've seen online for getting your kids to clean up your room effectively all involve picture cues. For example, if you've got a certain way that you want your caddies organized, you might try taking a picture of a clean caddy and displaying it on each supply caddy.

In my classroom, I have a math cart that I house many math manipulatives on. I used washi tape and labels to indicate where each box/container/item belongs. Kids can always find materials this way (since there's only one place they belong in the cart), and your classroom stays super organized. I section off the top of my cart like a grid with the tape. Now I don't need to help my kids clean this at the end of the day. These two things are things I'd suggest getting your kids to notice through questioning during interactive modeling or guided discovery.

So, what's something you want to try for this post? Any modeling or guided discovery tips you've tried that help you? And also... WHEN DOES YOUR SCHOOL YEAR START?! Mine starts on the 1st (with no kids) and on the 6th (with kids).

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