I was reminded of the importance of routines last semester when one of my graduate students e-mailed me in a panic. The tenor of her class had changed dramatically when the students returned from the Christmas break. In her words, they were wild and completely out of control. As we e-mailed back and forth, I learned that only one thing had changed: Before the holiday, she used a warm-up activity to start each class. Students kept these in a notebook and turned them in at the end of the week. However, she was told by an administrator that she had to take them up each day, grade them, and return them the next day. You can imagine what happened. Along with the busyness of students entering her room, she was trying to hand back yesterday’s work while they were starting on today’s work, and chaos followed.
I suggested she start with entrance slips. Students had five minutes to write down what they learned from the prior day’s lesson and any home- work. While this was happening, she handed back the graded warm-up. Next, as they started on the new warm-up, she took up entrance slips and determined how much she needed to review before she started a new lesson.
By Friday, I received an e-mail update: “My week ended so much better than it began! Entrance and exit slips are now permanent fixtures in my class. The kids have adjusted to them well. I decided to implement the slips in all of my classes, and oh what a difference they have made. I also plan to start read alouds daily...just for 5 minutes. I will begin with something that relates to some of the problems that my students may be experiencing now. I actually felt as though I was about to jump off of a cliff on Monday.” Both she and her students responded well to returning to the routine with some minor adjustments.