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How to be relentless with your classroom routines – PP46

The topic of the week is Relentless routines.

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This week, Paul turns his attention to the importance of being relentless with routines in your classroom.

Paul says we need to be relentless because students don’t change overnight. Often, teachers introduce a routine, try and teach it very quickly and are then disappointed when half an hour later the children can’t remember it.

It takes time to create routines in your classroom that are really effective.

When student teachers are amazed by the behaviour management of experienced teachers which appears to be effortless and almost ‘magical’ what they don’t see is that those expert teachers have been relentless in teaching those routines to the students.

Paul refers to his experience in Pupil Referral Units where new pupils have to be persuaded even to enter the building. The only way to change that behaviour is by gently introducing the smallest steps in routines. To create the situation where that PRU pupil feels able to come into the building may take a few days.

Common teacher mistakes in teaching routines:


  • Teachers try to teach the routines too quickly
  • Teachers give up too quickly
  • The routines only exist in the teacher’s head

The danger of not being explicit immediately about the routines you want to see is that children only find out about them when they ‘do the wrong thing’. They experience constant negative reinforcement of poor behaviour.

The children spend most of their time trying to guess what’s in the teachers head.

It often seems that when you start a new job, the children are compliant. It’s easy to think you don’t have to worry about behaviour management. It’s easy to think that you don’t need to teach the routines you were planning to. However, this is a ‘honeymoon period’. Two weeks later, the children are starting to show their true colours and things are starting to wobble because you haven’t taken the opportunity to embed those routines.

Stand back, create and display routines

Stand back and really think about the messages you are trying to give to the learners. Where do they see the routines? Where are they posted up?

Choose one or two key messages – display them in appropriate places. Examples of good routines to start with for Newly Qualified Teachers might include:


  • Lateness
  • How to come into the classroom and what to start doing when you arrive
  • Group work
  • ‘End and send’ for when children leave the classroom
  • Individual table work (have this stuck on the desk)


As an NQT, limit yourself to teaching one routine at a time or maybe two. Write routines carefully in three steps. Describe the routine in writing and avoid using ‘don’t’ or ‘no’. Frame the behaviours you want positively. Avoid words like ‘respect’ – they are too woolly – you need to ‘pin’ the behaviours you actually want to see.

Here’s an example whole class teaching routine from Paul:


  • Follow instructions first time
  • One voice (only, at a time)
  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself

These are really clear so you can draw attention to them and praise children who are working according to the specific behaviour mentioned on the routine.

You might choose to create a series of pictures, like modern smartphone icons which represent the behaviours you want in the routine. These can appear on the interactive whiteboard, be printed out and put on desks or be used in your written feedback to children.

This is also a great way to approach routines for those with additional needs. Icons, photographs or pictures can work very well and make your approach less verbal, a little more subtle and the images can start to make sense where words can blur into the walls.

Use your routines and catch learners who are doing the right thing

Tell the learners the routine before setting them off on the task. This seems obvious but many teachers make this mistake. This can spiral into lots of negative reinforcement very quickly.


  • Establish the routine and run it through with the children first
  • Ask questions to check their understanding of the routine
  • Show them where the routine can be found
  • Catch learners doing the right thing
  • Peg their behaviour back to the routine
  • Consider making a tally next to the routine of how many times you have caught your class doing the right thing
  • Celebrate the success of your class in following the routine


This may seem laborious but the work will pay off as your class become used to using the routines.

Children love routines

Without structure, children can get bored, lost or confused about how to spend their time. A little bit of structure, in a routine can help enormously. Teach routines positively rather than with big sticks and remember most children want to be like the other, to follow the same routines.

What about older children?

As children get older, we start focussing less on behavioural routines and more on learning routines – learning attitudes. With younger children, routines are all about the teacher’s decision making – as the children get older, it’s more about their own personal routines but supported by teaching them learning attitudes.



  • Stand back from your classroom and look carefully at the messages that are coming out
  • Focus on one or two routines
  • Display them clearly – in words, icons, photographs or pictures
  • Walk students through the routine before you do the activity
  • Immediately catch them doing the right thing
  • Focus on ‘shooting one rabbit’ – getting one routine embedded and then move on to the next
  • Focus attention on routines where you need them in the room
  • Start to get a little creative – listen to the podcast episode for details!

Please let us know how it goes for you or ask any questions you’d like to!

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