It would be hard to overstate how important a regular school schedule is to the success of your elementary students.
Humans of all ages simply like comfortable routines… we like to know what's going to happen next. Sometimes it is good to shake up a routine to get out of a rut, but that’s not true in your elementary school classroom.
In your classroom, the faster you can establish a schedule, the better off your students will be.
Video tips: how I manage my daily schedule
First day = first schedule
I start working on a schedule from the very first day. As I outline in this first day of school article, a definite schedule tells the children immediately that they are “in school” and it's time to learn and not play. (Okay, we do play a little bit, but you get the idea.)
I take my classroom schedule so seriously that I post it on the white board every day, and my children have come to rely upon that. If your classroom is filled with kids who are always asking “what's next?” then I recommend putting a few notes up each morning telling them what to expect.
Just like adult participants in a training session or seminar, everyone wants to know what's on the agenda for the day.
The key to covering content
Aside from the calming effects of a regular classroom schedule, it is very important to understand its impact on your ability to get through all of the content that you must cover. There is an awful lot to teach our kids and the amount that is expected goes up with each grade level.
Without schedules, teachers find themselves chronically short of time at the end of day and end of the week (and even the end of the year) for getting through all the required content.
Every day that you slip behind adds up until you find yourself without time to do the last chapter in math or the final lesson in reading even though these skills will be tested on a high-stakes assessment.
I realized pretty quickly that a well-developed school schedule is critical for continuing to push through content while allowing plenty of time for review and re-teaching.
Start your schedule with a morning greeting
I start my classroom schedule by building community outside the school before the first bell even rings.
It is so important to go outside and “greet” our children and not just “get” our children to bring them into the school. When I say “greet,” I really mean that every single child should get an individualized greeting every day.
Video tips: morning greeting ideas
Think how special you would have felt as a young elementary student if a trusted adult had been excited to see you every single morning and took the time to use your nickname, compliment your hair clip, or notice your new glasses or haircut.
I know how I would have felt – I would have been thrilled to see my teacher walk out the door. That's how the children in our classrooms should feel: excited and ready to learn – from you. Don't be subtle! Say the exact message that you want the children to internalize:
I'm so happy to see you and I'm so glad you're here!
Aside from developing students who are super excited to start learning every day, here's another great benefit: Parents notice.
There will always be some parents who hang out on the playground until their children walk into the school building. I frequently have parents give me feedback that they are amazed about the positive reception their children get every day. It makes them feel so much better when they know that the teacher is excited to see their child and, consequently, their child is so happy to be at school.
A lot of you out there are currently parents or have been parents of young children. Isn't this exactly what you would love to see from your child's elementary school teacher?
Even something as simple as meeting and greeting before the first bell can be a huge and positive step in building a close-knit and fun classroom community. Make time for it in your school schedule and see what a difference it makes.
By the way, don't forget the tardy kids; they are usually late through no fault of their own. When one of them walks into the classroom, give them the same individualized, positive “Good morning” just as if they had been on the blacktop.