Building Healthy, Productive Routines For A Successful School Year

Hoot Teacher Ms. Elizabeth Tornatore gives her best tips on how to create routines that will help your student succeed this school year.

For many of us, a new school year brings feelings of excitement and wonder that go along with new opportunities. New school years can also bring about nervousness or anxiety as families transition from the freedom of summer to the routines of the school year. This 2020-2021 school year packs on an additional level of anxiety, as the uncertainty of what learning will look like continues to grow. 

Why Build Routines?

If you are anything like me, you thrive in an environment of predictability and structure. Many of our routines needed to adapt or change altogether at the beginning of the pandemic, because students and family members were learning and working from home. Maybe, as a result, you noticed an increase in negative behaviors in your student, or your student showed signs of anxiety while navigating these changes. 

I have found that most of my students are just like me, in that they prefer a predictable and structured classroom environment. They want to know what to do when they arrive, what to do when their pencil breaks, etc. While this may sound cold or boring at first, it provides limitless potential for student creativity and growth. When students know what to expect when they walk in the door, their minds can focus on the learning task at hand, rather than worry about all the “extra.” 

As a bilingual teacher, I recognize the importance of language learning routines. If you have students learning a new language this year, there are certain routines that will help them succeed. Maybe you label different items around the home in both languages, so students come to associate the words. Students can and should help with this! Or, maybe you build a routine of reading one or more book in the target language each week.  The classroom teacher should be able to offer text suggestions.

Routines at Home

School settings are not the only place routines are important for students. Think about a routine you or your family have. Now, think about if that routine was different every time you did the task. Not only would the job at hand take a lot longer, but you might even need to restart the task, and feel a sense of frustration. You can still do it, but not as smoothly or confidently as you could have if the routine was normal. 

Student routines start at home and set them up for a successful day at school. These can be as flexible or rigid as required; each student and family is different, and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.

Implementing and/or Strengthening Healthy and Productive Routines

This does not have to be an overwhelming task! The steps below are a suggestion for thinking about and implementing strong back to school routines. 

  • Think of a past area of struggle or anxiety for your student. Maybe this is getting out of bed in the morning, remembering to put their homework folder back in their backpack, or how to access certain online learning systems, for those doing remote learning. Try to identify the cause of this struggle. Did they stay up too late the night before and now they’re too tired to wake up? Is the homework folder always in a different place of the house? Are there too many usernames and passwords to remember? Now is your chance to get out in front of those struggles for the new year.
  • Think of a short-term goal you have for your student. This is likely the action students will do: wake up on time, put the folder in the backpack, log in successfully.
  • The long-term goal is the why. Why is this important for your student to do? Will they be more successful or in a better mood if they don’t wake up tired? Are their grades slipping because they don’t regularly turn in homework? You get it.
  • Now, the real task is the how. It is very important for the student to be part of this process. If the routine doesn’t work for them, or is “prescribed” to them, they will check out before they even begin. Maybe you make a day-project out of creating a landing spot for their backpack and homework folder, where it will always be in the same place.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat! Consistency is key with routines. It is easy to let it slip a few times, but trust me when I say that both family and student benefit from consistency. Extrinsic motivators may be necessary for some students, such as creating a sticker chart and providing some extra screen time when 5 stickers are collected. However, instilling intrinsic motivation will help in the long run! Students should understand how sticking to this routine helps them in school and at home.

As we all head into this next school year, one thing is certain: nothing is certain! However, instilling productive and healthy routines at home helps students and families control what they can, and be more prepared to adapt to the rest as it comes.

How can Hoot Reading Help Establish Routines?

Hoot Reading can help your student establish a productive routine with regular, one-on-one, online reading practice with real classroom teachers. Register for fall lessons at