Positive Behavior Supports: Routines & Procedures

Everything we do through the course of our day works best when we know and understand the routines and procedures that help us to act effortlessly with little thought. When we drive the same route to work each morning that is a routine that we have learned, practiced, and solidified in our brain so that we eventually get to a point that we do it without much effort. It is a habit we have created within ourselves from what was originally a step by step procedure. These routines and procedures operate in many different ways in our mind. Without them, things would be more difficult and time consuming.

When we first learn to fill the dishwasher as a child, we typically have an adult who directs us through the procedure of which items go where so that we can get the most out of one wash cycle. After a while this procedure becomes routine and we can work through it without trying to remember where the cups go, versus the flatware. Routines and procedures are a crucial part of an effective and well managed classroom. They help to manage classroom efficiency by giving students control over their environment. They help them to establish a predictable pattern of expectation. They can help to reduce anxiety so that students can focus and learn without fear of what to do next. Children with neurological differences, executive functioning difficulties, or even typically developing children who are new to an environment, operate best in a setting where they can work independently according to a common plan. The more consistent the environment, the more calm most students will be within it.

Tier1StrategiesPart1Classroom procedures must be taught, monitored, evaluated, and retaught. There is a cycle through which these procedures become a classroom routine. It is not something you teach the first week of school and expect students to perfectly follow for the remainder of the school year. Just like when we determine to restrict something in our own lives and over time our bad habits creep back in, students who are not reminded and redirected toward the correct execution of a procedure will not develop a proper routine. They may develop of a routine that is less than what you had hoped or worse, nothing like you had in mind. It is your job as the teacher to monitor them and provide feedback.  This cycle of teaching, evaluating, correcting, and reteaching is as much a part of your job as teaching them to spell and count. One of the biggest obstacles to student learning is student behavior. Teaching them routines and procedures in a key in the process of teaching proper behavior.

Routines & Procedures may include:

Morning routine: what to do when they arrive each day. Here are some ideas:

Lunch routine: what does it take to get from the classroom to the lunchroom and back to class. What should the line look like?  Where will we sit? Where are hands and feet expected to be? Who sits where? What is the voice level expectation? How do I buy my lunch? What if I brought my lunch? What is my parent is joining me for lunch?

Hallway procedures: how to walk down the hall. Where are hands, feet and mouths during this transition? Where do we stop? When do we start? How do we handle things that do not go as planned due to others in the hallway? I will cover this in more detail on a future post. Here are some ideas:

Attention Getters: Here is a great example of procedures for gaining attention:

Managing student work: turning it in, missed work, etc. Here are some real life examples:

End of day or end of class procedures: What should students do to prepare to leave you room? What should they take with them? What should they leave behind? Where should they leave materials? Here are some examples:

This is not an exhaustive list of routines and procedures for the classroom, but a good example of where to start. It is never too late to implement these in your classroom. They not only support your students need for structure, but support the teachers ability to maintain that structure.


Alphabet of Thankfulness: D is for Daily Routines

Children learn best through repetition. So, it is important to offer repetitive activities for reinforcement of skills you are teaching. In younger grades and in every level of special education, a morning calendar time is important for so many areas of learning. Click here to for more on Morning Meeting – Circle Time.

In addition to  morning meeting or calendar circle, there are other daily routines that students need to be taught. These include social skills and things as simple as toileting or hand washing. When students of any age or level know what is coming next or what is expected of them, they find it easier to focus on what they are doing now. Many times, student misbehavior is caused by perceptions of things to come. To alleviate negative behaviors, students need a routine in which they can relax and know their time frames and boundaries. Some example of these would be as follows:

Toileting Routine:


Obviously you could add more or less to this as needed.

Picture Schedule:


This is a small section of a full day schedule

Hallway Procedures:


Students change the location they are headed to before they leave the room each time.

These picture cards were created in Board Maker, but could easily be created with clip art or by taking actual photo’s of activities and locations. Each has velcro on the back so it can be removed and manipulated as needed.

Teacher Area # 1

Notice I didn’t say, “teacher desk“. That’s because I don’t have one. I started the 12-13 school year with a desk, in fact I finished over half of that school year with a desk, but in the Spring a new student moved into our room who liked to hide under our desks when avoiding work. Actually, this student hid under anything low enough to the ground to effectively conseal him. For some students this is a sensory issue. For example, the light in the room may be too bright for them so they want to put their face or their whole body under something. For others it may just be an avoidance mechanism. Either way, by removing the desk(s) and other items of interest from our room, I was able to assist this student with his ability to make more appropriate choices. What teacher spends much time sitting at a desk anyway? Certainly not one in a self-contained special education classroom.

My little corner of the room

I used to think of my desk as the place where I worked, but I actually work all over the room, not at a specific desk. Getting rid of my desk showed this to me very clearly. Other than the initial discomfort of finding all the things that were originally in my desk drawers that were moved to the filing cabinet, I have not missed having a desk. Honestly, I kind of enjoy not having one. It just took up space that I could better use for student needs. I have played around with different tables; straight, round, and horseshoe. When I moved to this new room, jackpot! There were two horseshoe tables which enabled me to place one in an area that is set up for language arts and one in the math-science area. Both are key spaces for working with multiple students and both areas need this kind of functional table.

There are several key items in the above photo which I would like to point out:

      • Filing cabinets – there are actually two of them back to back which serve a few purposes; separating my area from students at the computer tables, providing an additional place to post items I need to have at an arms reach.

My filing cabinet wall. I saw it on Pinterest!

  • Narrow computer table – I love this table. It just happened to be in my room when I moved to this campus last year and I brought it with me to my new room this year. It is just the right size to hold my computer, phone, binder, etc. and yet narrow enough that a student would not benefit much from crawling under it. Perfect!

My computer desk


Lesson Planning Binder


Substitute Binder

  • Personal effects on the wall and not on tables and shelves – It helps to feel at home in my classroom, especially on days or weeks when I feel like I live there! I recommend putting things up high so that students do not accidentally break or misplace them. Some students would be very sad to have hurt you in that manner, and you too would be sad if you lost something of importance.

My bulletin board filled with mementos and certificates.


Self Crafted sign for the wall – Decorated acrylic letters

It’s important to have your own teacher area, but it’s not important that it looks the way you remember a teachers area from your own childhood. Do what’s best for your students and make it your own!

Related articles

Morning Meeting/ Circle


Calendar & Weather center

There are so many great skills to practice each day in a calendar and weather activity. We call it our morning meeting, but at this point we are not all meeting together in one spot. We have found that it helps to separate our students into centers allowing each to work to their strengths and learning styles. The following activity has been put into a folder or bound as a book for each student. It used to supplement and create repetition as well as offer support for other skills including data collection, graphing, writing name, writing numbers, and support many other important skills!

For some of my students, the day begins with an interactive calendar or weather app on a classroom iPad. For one, it begins with physically updating the wall calendar and weather data center. For others it begins with a self-directed slide show at a student desktop computer in my Technology Center. Click on the bolded links below for some of what goes into my students self-directed PowerPoint:

Rise & Shine & Welcome to School Today

They can do this in their seat or standing up and joining the motions. My students love to be welcomed to school where they feel important.

Macarena Months

Singing this every morning not only helps them to learn the names of the months, but teaches them in order so they can use that knowledge to decide which one comes before and which one comes after another.

Days of the Week Song

Again, a catchy memorable song to learn their days in a fashion that allows them to answer yesterday, today and tomorrow questions in the future.


My students love this rap which not only covers the seasons, but what the weather feels like in each season as well as how to spell each one.

Color Farm

Learning colors with a song and a visual helps students to remember them more clearly. I have another color song that I used last year, but it only introduced 4 colors. For half the year, one of my students could easily identify those 4 colors, but did not know the others and had trouble learning them until we added this video.

Alphabet Song

I have a student who was non-verbal for the first 14 weeks of Kindergarten, until he started singing along with the alphabet song. By winter break he was talking to his parents by calling them Momma and Papa for the first time in his life. By the second week of first grade he was talking in full sentences saying things like, “thank you Mrs. Hardisty” and “No. You can’t do that in here.” It’s so inspiring to see them come alive and change their behavior for the better as they learn to speak and advocate for themselves.

Count to 100

I have students who could not count past 32 the week before we implemented this set of video’s, and two weeks later they are counting to 97! The visual and auditory delivery functions together to create a counting pattern that the students can easily remember.


Counting school days per month using tally marks

Students tally each day and then count their tally marks at the end of each month with this worksheet.


Marking the date on the calendar

Students write the month in their best handwriting and write down the number for each day of the month on this worksheet. Often my students have dysgraphia or other issues with writing so we tend to use markers with students who need more support with their writing skills.


Great exercise for counting and writing numbers in sequence

Students see how the numbers increase as the month moves forward.


Calendar Data Sheet laminated for reuse

The above page can be laminated or placed in a page protector so students us the same page every day and paper can be saved.

Graphing daily weather for each month

Graphing daily weather for each month

Any time we can add graphing to our daily routine I welcome it. Students need to be able to chart and find trends in various ways to support their learning in science and math especially.

I found this freebie at Mama’s Learning Corner. It’s also posted on my Pinterest Science Board.