Back-to-school means back-to-routines, right? Right! However, there may be a learning curve when it comes to getting students back in to their routines, especially after they have been out of them for a summer (or, in the case of 2020, for about 6 months!)
This is part of the summer slide. The summer slide refers to knowledge that kids lose, usually in reading and math, over the summer break. A study in 2015 showed that students in grade 3 to grade 5 lost, on average, about 20% of their school year gains in reading and 27% of their school-year gains in math over their summer vacation. Younger children are likely more prone to this slide because they are in an important stage of their development and just getting into the routine of school.
So, how can you help your students find routine after a summer of fun? Consider these three tips:
1. Make mornings predictable
Students always love to know what’s coming next. As a teacher, you can make their mornings predictable by doing the same thing every morning (hint: It doesn’t have to be boring!) By following a routine each morning, students will know what to expect and be able to get their day started independently.
2. Give a “heads-up” before transitions
When you have a schedule, you have to keep everyone on track. This means that students are sometimes interrupted when they’re doing their work because it’s time to move on to the next activity. To gently ease students from activity to activity, try to give a “heads-up” before transitions. This can be as simple as, “Class, you have five minutes left before we move on,” or you can get creative!
Music works wonders as a transition. Playing a song can notify students that their time is almost up. Songs have natural transitions- you can usually tell when a song is coming to an end. Try an instrumental song if you don’t want to break their concentration.
3. Give students time to socialize
If you’re finding your students won’t stop talking… let them talk! This can be difficult when you do have a tight schedule to follow. However, at the beginning of the year especially, it is important for students to have time to talk with their peers and catch up.
Find ways to put conversation time with peers into your daily schedule. One way this could be done is with an afternoon meeting. As students are coming back from lunch, have them sit with a buddy and chat. You could give a discussion topic (related to something you’re learning about, or not) or just watch the conversation flow naturally. You could let students pick their partner or assign partners to let students get to know everyone in their class.
All of these ideas will help get your students into a routine before you know it. Even if you aren’t headed back to the classroom yet, you can be applying all of these tips during distance learning, too!