Creating a Positive Start to the Morning Routine

Routines and Rituals in the Elementary Classroom

Have you ever gotten to the end of your school year and, as you sit there in an exhausted heap after the kids leave, think, “I have to do something differently?” I have. I got tired of the same behavior issues with the kids that progressively worsened over the year. And honestly, I wasn’t sure how it happened.  

Create positive starts to the morning classroom routines.
Create positive starts to the morning classroom routines.

I always started the year off strong. Over the summer, I would put much thought and plan into how I wanted my Classroom to run and what I wanted the kids to do at different times. The year would start, the students and I would discuss procedures the first few days of school, and off we’d go.

But as the year went on, I noticed that the “trouble spots” kept worsening.

And by ‘trouble spots,’ I mean those odd chunks of time during the school day when there is no active instruction and numerous little happenings that pull your focus away, where kids seem to act out and make the worst decisions possible. Pack up and dismissal times at the end of the day or first thing in the morning when kids roll into the Classroom. And even reminding the class of the expectations did not make a difference. Even though the kids knew the expected routine, they could not deliver on the results.


If this sounds even partly familiar, I feel you. Frustrating, right? After much research, reading, and probing the minds of other great educators, I finally figured out the answer. The answer to having your students successfully follow your classroom routines is to practice them, not talk about what you want kids to do. Practice the routines.  


The Secret Sauce to learning procedures for the Classroom.

It seems so simple, I know! But you will want to do this. Practice!

During those first few weeks of school, take the time to teach your expectations explicitly. Teach not only the actions but the language and proper responses as well. Role-play with a group of children while the rest of the students make observations on what they notice. Practice the routine and the dialogue of what you want to hear. If you want to listen to children greeting each other in the morning, practice exactly what you would like to see and hear during that time. If you have a list of things you want your students to accomplish in the morning, rehearse what they could be doing.

Practice how they transition from one thing to another. Bring up possible issues or something that could cause a challenge and role-play suggested resolutions. Practice.

Make it fun.

Be a little silly.

Spotlight desired outcomes

and practice. 


Classroom routines offer a sense of stability.
Classroom routines offer a sense of stability; when students know the behavior expectations, they can rise to see them.

Reasons Why Routines are so Important for the Classroom

While researching classroom procedures and policies, I uncovered these nuggets of wisdom on why classroom routines were so important.

  1. Routines make class time more enjoyable for both the students and the teachers.
  2. Routines create purpose and organization for your students.
  3. Routines help build a supportive classroom community and positive relationships.
  4. Repetition and consistency help routines become rituals (effortless).


And my favorite reason:


  1. Routines offer a sense of stability to the students. There are fewer behavior issues when the kids know your behavior expectations and understand how to act.


Practice morning classroom routines.
Our morning classroom routines are something we agreed upon and practiced.

I had to stop assuming my students knew how to act. Just because it makes sense in my head doesn’t mean the children see it the same way. Plus, the little loves are children. They deserve to be shown what to do to meet the expectation. I must model it if I’d like children to write in a journal. If I want children to come in and greet others, I need to show them how to do it and let them practice. If I desire students to “get out their morning work folder and get busy,” maybe I need to be more specific with what the “get busy” looks like.

I also need to practice with the children what can happen when problems arise. Specifically, practice what to do when you can’t find your homework, spill your breakfast, or come in angry or upset. Practice the responses you want to see. It seems simple. But I must remind myself that the children have entirely different experiences than I do, so I must show them how to act and react in our Classroom.


Honor the students and the fact that they have been in school before and get their feedback.

Discuss the “why” of the procedures you are implementing and what you hope to accomplish by the routine. My students were very opinionated about what was happening in class. But we all enjoyed the same things once we listed what we wanted. To learn and grow in a safe and fun environment.


Well-taught procedures and systems make the year flow so much better. A little more effort at the beginning of the year makes for a much more successful school year for all involved.

It is all about repetition and consistency. Once that routine becomes a ritual, it requires very little thought or management because the students do it without thinking about it.


morning classroom routines allow time for individualized assessments for the teacher.
While students compete their morning classroom routines, I complete individual running records, assessments, or help as needed.

How I use my morning time

The school day is packed with all sorts of things to get done. I know. I have a list. And there always needs to be more time. Never. I am always trying to pack more in and continue to build community, yet complete all the required assessment requirements and data reports. Complete the reading, writing, and math running records, and remain sane. Please tell me if this sounds familiar.



I looked and discovered that my mornings could use some work and provide some quality time if used differently. My school has more of a soft start. Kids roll in from anywhere between 7:10 to 7:50, and the tardy bell does not ring until 7:50. So, I knew I needed to have activities that students could complete that would be valuable for their time but not graded or scored because then later arrivals would already be behind. And it can’t be “read quietly” because most students don’t have the stamina to read for extended periods. 

I wanted:

  • Kids were greeted at the door.
  • A quiet environment.
  • Kids working on something.
  • Some community building or self-reflection.  

The kids wanted:

  • to eat breakfast without being rushed
  • to not be behind on work when they just came in
  • to be able to say hey to their friends
  • not to have a ‘busy work’ packet on their desks.


So our morning routine is something we agreed on, and we practice and troubleshoot together and practice for the first few weeks of school. 

Once classroom routine becomes a ritual, it requires very little classroom management.
Once classroom routine becomes a ritual, it requires very little classroom management.


Routines in the Classroom Example


  • I have the Classroom set up with lighting (Himalayan rock salt lamps are great mood setters), music playing, essential oils, etc. (Classroom set up is a different blog post). 
  • A student greeter is at the door or greets everyone who enters. 
  • Students come in and eat.
  • Greet each other with fist bump or high five
  • Answer their opinion questions on the board.
  • Work on their morning journal (I created one that combines positive affirmations, self-reflection, and goal setting for each week – check it out.) 
  • While students complete all of this, I complete individual running records for one of our multiple data points.  I make sure to greet students coming in with a smile and maybe a wave while I work with individual students.


This makes for a beautiful morning routine. Once the tardy bell rings, we transition (that we have practiced multiple times) into our morning meeting. It is a lovely flow.


So whatever you envision, it is possible—just practice.




Hugs, Teacher Friend.  Thank you for sharing your magic with the world and helping your students grow.  The world needs you.



You may be interested in reading:  Creating an Encouraging Classroom

Want to set up positive routines in your classroom?

try:  Student Celebrations

Encouraging Classroom Decor

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