ESL Class: Daily Routines
Your ESL class should always have a daily routine to follow to allow some structure. We all need routines throughout our days. They keep us focused, keep us productive, and help us know what to expect.
Your ESL class is no different – when your students feel confident that they know what to do and what comes next, you will find that class runs smoother, discipline is much easier, and the general chaos that can accompany teaching young learners fades away.
After a while, you’ll often find students getting the right books out for the next lesson before you’ve even told them to! Here are the essential routines that every ESL classroom should have.
At the beginning of class
As soon as your students step into your classroom, they should know exactly what to do.
Since students will probably be arriving at slightly different times, they need a few things they can do self-sufficiently while they wait for the stragglers to arrive and for lessons to begin.
In general, plan on about the first 5-10 minutes of class being just for these routines and for students to settle in. Try to give every student, even the ones who arrive a few minutes late, the chance to get through all of your beginning of class routines.
Turn in homework
have a designated pile for homework assignments to be placed in as soon as the students arrive.
Most of the time, students will be given some sort of lesson planner by the school. You can start the day with some simple things on the board for them to copy into their planner: the date, their homework assignments for that class, a few spelling words or grammar patterns, an interesting fact, etc.
Some students will get to class very early and quickly finish getting their assignment book set up.
Having a daily journal prompt on the board is a great way to engage them while giving yourself the leeway to wait for late students to get settled in.
Sentences/vocabulary words to copy
If your students are not quite at a level where they can handle five minutes of free writing, you can instead give them a list of that day’s vocabulary words or a simple grammar pattern to copy into their journal and practice.
If your students are more advanced, or if they tend to get bored with journal prompts quickly, write a simple but interesting question that you will discuss later as a class, and have them prepare their thoughts and opinions about the question.
Once class starts, having routines will make your transitions between lessons flow like clockwork, and will keep your students focused on their work instead of wondering what is coming next.
Warm up routine
Instead of jumping right into a lesson, start out with a quick warm up. Even if it is only a couple of minutes, this is the perfect time to get your students warmed up to speaking English, and review any vocabulary or grammar from the last lesson.
Ask them questions that they answer together as a class or individually, have them turn to the person next to them and ask a few questions, or do a few quick repetition activities.
This could also be the responses to the discussion questions, if you are using that at the beginning of class.
Word/phrase/idiom of the day
Each day (or week), introduce a new word or phrase by writing it on the board, giving them a simple definition, and giving them a few minutes to use it in a sentence.
The idea is that it’s not something they need to memorize, write down, or ever be tested on, just something fun or interesting to introduce them to, that you will encourage them to use throughout class.
It’s a fun little routine that helps expand their English beyond what is in their workbooks and that can serve as a little mini-break between larger lessons, or a good transition back to class after a short break.
Transitions between activities and subjects, or to and from break times, can be some of the most challenging times for a teacher.
Following a predictable structure in every class is a huge part of having smooth transitions. Having a set routine for transitions is crucial, as well.
For example, determine exactly what you will say to them to let them know it’s time for their weekly spelling quiz, and train them to know that that means they need to clear their desks and get out a blank piece of paper.
At the end of class
Your dismissal routine is just as important as the beginning routine. Especially if they are going right home after ESL class, students can get pretty excited and dismissal can turn into complete chaos if you don’t have clear routines set up.
Students need to have a sense of class finishing up. They also need to have time to wrap up any work or final thoughts they have, clarify any homework that they need to do, and have an organized way to be dismissed.
Here are a few suggestions for keeping the end of your class from becoming chaos:
End your lessons at least 5 minutes before dismissal
You know that once the bell rings, or once the minute hand shifts within a few ticks of dismissal time, there is nothing that even the best teacher in the world can do to keep students focused on a lesson.
Make it easy on yourself and be sure to give yourself at least a five minute cushion for dismissal routines.
You can always use a little 1-2 minute filler activity if the bell hasn’t quite rung yet, but if you are still trying to get students to copy something into their assignment books at 1 minute past, it’s going to be chaos.
Go over planners
If you had your students write in their planners at the beginning of class, get them out again to go over any changes to the homework assignment, double check their understanding of what they have to do, or copy down a new vocab word or phrase they learned.
Cool down routine
Just like you had a warm up at the beginning of class, it’s a good idea to have a brief cool down at the end.
This can be as simple as having them repeat a few sentences, asking them questions about the lesson, or having them turn to the person next to them and have a quick 1 or 2 sentence conversation.
All that really matters is that you stay consistent with it.
Establish how they will be dismissed
Will you dismiss them one at a time to line up at the door and wait for the bell? Will you stay in your seats until dismissal time and let them gather their things and leave one row at a time?
If it’s a smaller class, will you let them all simply get up, gather their things, and go on their own as soon as they hear the bell? If there is no bell, what will you say to let them know class is officially over?
The exact routine that you use will depend on your school, your class, the time of day, and what works best for your students, but what matters is that you have a clear routine for how they will be dismissed.
Every ESL class’s routines are going to be slightly different, and you will find that they subtly evolve over time as well.
But creating good, solid, efficient routines in your ESL class allows you to make the best use of your time, and set up your class to run smoothly so that you can focus the majority of your energy on what really matters: teaching.