Top 5 Back to School Classroom Routines

Establishing daily classroom routines is so important for you and your students. Children thrive on routine, familiarity, and consistency. Today I want to share 5 classroom routines I used every day in my classroom. They were staples in my classroom and made my classroom run smoothly with little to no behavior problems, regardless of the class.

top 5 classroom routines

1. Establishing a Positive Learning Environment

After 23 years of teaching experience, I learned that children are more motivated by praise and positivity. I’ve used three strategies over the years to create this environment. Mitchell Money has been by far a favorite. My kids all have their own bank (a pocket chart with numbers on it). I always carry laminated pretend dollar bills around with me. When I see a positive behavior, I give the student a dollar. They put the money in their bank. At the end of the quarter, they can shop at the Mitchell Store. So, I only have to open the store 4 times a year. I offer trinkets but most of the time, I offer opportunities to have lunch with me. Honestly, even if I never had them use their money, they would love earning it.

pocket chart Mitchell Money bank for classroom behavior management system

The second way I create a positive community was through a daily “You Make my Heart Smile” certificate.” Every day I look for something special that happened. Instead of giving the certificate to them that day, I issue it first thing in the morning the next day after announcements. I tell a little story and give it to the deserving student. This is the BEST way to start your day. You are celebrating positive behavior and setting the stage for the day. You can grab these “You Make my Heart Smile” goodies here for free.

You Make My Heart Smile certificates for classroom positive behavior management

Finally, we read “A Little Spot of Kindness” by Diane Alber during the first week of school. I create a kindness jar and circle spots for my students to earn their own spots of kindness. If I see them doing a kind gesture, they get to move a pom pom and put a circle sticker on their spot. When the jar is full, we DON’T have the typical classroom reward. Instead, we do a special kindness activity for someone in the building using one of the activities in my Spot of Kindness Activity pack.

2. Movement Breaks

Let’s be honest, kids need to move. By providing educational movement breaks when needed, your students will be set up for success. I love to play a few staple games in my room that are both educational and provide movement. The first one is Bank it! I have tons of math and literacy versions of this game. I have two free Bank It! versions you can grab here.

Bank It! movement break activity for the classroom

I also have different Animal Adventures in both Math and ELA. These are fun too, and everyone moves right at their own seat area. I have some great Back to School Movement Adventures that are perfect for the beginning of the year.

Animal Adventures movement break activity for the classroom

Finally, I have a free ”That’s Me” activity that I keep up in the front of the room. When we need a short little break, I pull a few cards and we play.

That's Me movement break activity for the classroom

3. Transitions

What do you do with those fast finishers and then the children who procrastinate? Every morning I open my computer and I create lots of tabs. The tabs are my student-led transitions. I have LOADS of google slides as I’m sure many of you do now too. I choose 3-4 google slides activities that pertain to what we are learning in both math and phonics. When I have about 50% of the class done, the finishers head up to the SMART board and I open the tab. They complete a slide, select the next slide, and call on the next student. Meanwhile, I help the children who need support. Those children who procrastinate work because they want to do the slides. It is highly motivating for all. You can check out my Google Slides resources here.

using Google Slides for classroom transitions and fast finishers

Another easy activity I have prepped for classroom transitions is a book on tape or CD. I set a few out for the week. I pick a student who is finished to lead the story by holding the book and I help the other children.

book on tape or CD for fast finishers and classroom transitions

4. Accountability

I am not a fan of changing out the weekly jobs, but I want all my students to have a vested interest in running our classroom. So, I started hiring students for one job for the entire year. Believe me when I tell you it was life changing. I don’t assign it right away as I want to get to know the children.

classroom jobs chart

After a few weeks, I find needs in my classroom that will make it run more efficiently. Before the end of the day, I post a few positions. I talk about the responsibility and then they can apply. They put their name on a sticky note next to the job. That evening, I choose who I feel will best fit that position. The next morning, I hire them for the position. I give them a You’re Hired certificate that you can grab here for free. I repeat this process until everyone has a job and my classroom is running smoothly.

You're Hired classroom job certificate

Here is an example of how I would choose a job: If a student always finishes first, I make them a paper passer if they applied. A student who needs more movement breaks might be my office helper. Check out some of my job bulletin board templates for more classroom job ideas.

5. End of the Day Classroom Routines

The end of the day is as important as the beginning of the day. We wrap up each day with this free end of the day chant. We sing the chant and I ask 4 questions about something they learned that day. They LOVE it!

End of the Day chant positive classroom routines

After we finish the chant, I draw a popsicle stick. One stick says fact and one says opinion. We write either a fact or an opinion on this dry-erase board a parent made me.  Finally, while we are all packed up and waiting on buses, we play Charades. It is so simple and fun.

Check out these recent back to school posts from my blog:


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I’m Megan, a first grade teacher and a mother to 7 amazing children. I love to create and collaborate with teachers. When I’m not teaching, I love spending time with my family, baking and playing tennis.

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