Tuesdays I blog about parent/teacher hot topics & interesting info
Today’s Topic: The benefits of setting a routine for formal learning activities
Weather your personal style is to offer strict structure or loosely organized chaos, most parents and teachers have an awareness of a child’s need for routine. The benefits of setting even a minimum amount of structured daily routines in your classroom and home are many and have been written and discussed in lengthy detail. I’ve listed some of the benefits below:
- Children do not have much control over what happens in their lives. Having set routines can offer a sense of security, organization, stability and comfort because they know what to expect. This can lead to more self-confidence.
- When children know what is expected of them, it helps them to develop self-discipline and better behaviour.
- Routines can help establish good habits (ex. brushing teeth at bedtime), responsibility (cleaning up after play) and even work ethic (helping do household/classroom chores).
Common Home Routines:
- Clean up
Common Classroom Routines:
- Order of lessons/subjects to be taught
- Clean up
- Home time
There is one more routine I would add to both lists: A learning activity routine.
When children are encouraged to perform a learning task, there is a lot required of them (even through play-based learning). They must focus on the teacher/parent, listen to and interpret the instructions, and then act on those instructions. Having a routine that signals focus and action are required, will greatly benefit the process and enjoyment of the learning activity for all.
Home Learning Activities: Learning activities at home (even though they are based in play) are different from normal free-play because there is an objective and there are instructions to follow. Having a routine for learning based activities will help your baby recognize when the type of play is changing; that is, when she is required to do something specific versus, doing whatever she wants.
Our home learning activity routine (wow, that’s a mouthful!) is pretty simple. I gather the materials we need, decide where we will do the activity and tell the girls to come and sit with me in that spot. I sit opposite them and tell them we are going to play a special game (or something to that effect). We always begin with a few songs that use related vocabulary, next I give the instructions and demonstrate how to complete the task, then they give it a try. It’s simple! More importantly, the routine has made them innately aware of the need to focus, pay attention and follow instructions.
School Learning Activities: Since every activity at school is supposed to be a learning activity, a school learning activity routine is not so much to signal that learning is expected to take place but, rather, what kind of learning is to take place, what kind of mental/physical effort can be expected.
I have had the pleasure to work with and observe teachers from all over the world. When I am evaluating teachers who are struggling or have students who are struggling, I often note the lack of routine; a lack of overall classroom routine and more-over, a lack of routine for specific topics. Most teachers do a “pre-activity or warm-up” but often it is only loosely related to the concept, if at all. I cannot go into great detail about this here because it would be pages and pages long, but I will offer a few simple examples of using routines in regular classroom activities:
- The most easy to understand example would be a physical education activity. There is a strong routine of warm-up, play, cool-down. The warm up often includes activities that involve the movements and skills that will be required for play. The benefits are not just to reduce injuries but also enable the body to perform better and even to put the child mentally “in the mood” for doing physical activity.
- Another example I often use is in the area of reading activities. A routine of having a warm-up activity based on the reading topic can be beneficial. For example, a discussion about the topic to be read before doing the reading will turn the child’s mind in the direction of the topic (vocabulary, concepts, associated memories) and will enable them to understand and actually read the passage better. Routines can be set for what to do if an unknown word is encountered (look in the dictionary, ask a friend, ask the teacher, write the definition in a journal, Etc.)
- A visual arts activity could always begin with listening to different types of music or some kind of sensory activity to help get “the creative juices” flowing. Routines for defining personal space, presentation of work and constructive criticism can be put in place (and of course, a clean-up routine).
- Even the smallest amount of routine can help both ourselves and the children we care for.
- Setting a learning activity routine will help children perform better in tasks which will increase their confidence and skill sets.