We all find comfort in routine. We all have rituals and routines for doing everything in life from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night. Routines help us know where we are, what we are doing and how we are doing it. The key to a good routine is that we know it so well, we don’t have to think about it. Once we stop thinking about it we have the capacity to focus on other things.
In a school environment routine is one of the pillars to a good classroom. It helps create a positive atmosphere and prepares students for the lesson ahead. It helps build successful relationships between students and yourself. It helps establish your authority as the expert in the room.
I value routines and work hard to make sure that they are right, they are useful and they are working. They have to be able to work within the context of the class, the school, the students and yourself.
Routines can’t be a fixed thing and they do need to be flexible. I find that when students get too comfortable with the routine, they start to shape it themselves. Sometimes this can be good. It can create a greater relationship between the students and yourself as you develop a shared sense of ownership over the routines. Sometimes this can have a negative impact. The reasons for establishing the routine can become lost.
My Key Stage 3 routine is the one that is the least flexible. It is there for a wider range of students, of differing abilities, attitudes and aptitudes. So establishing a safe, well ordered and pleasant working environment with boundaries is the prime driver for my routine here. As such, it is pretty much the same every week and throughout the year.
- Students start by lining up outside the door to the Drama Studio. They should be silent before they enter but the corridor is so busy and loud it’s difficult to enforce.
- Students enter the studio while I greet them and they put their bags by the side of the room and either sit in a circle or get a chair to sit in the circle. Each individual class will always do the same thing here and it depends on what time of day it is and who was in the studio before them.
- They sit boy / girl.
- Once in a circle, we begin by asking a question for them to think about while I take the register. The question is relevant to either the learning of the lesson or prior learning.
- We then discuss the question and discuss the learning objectives before moving on into the starter phase of the lesson.
This is where the routines may start to differ, but generally there is three different routines we alternative between. The first would involve a practical starter that involves the students leaving the circle and getting into groups. The second would involve a practical starter that the students will do in the circle. The final is a solo or pair written starter. Rarely do we go beyond one of those three routines. Even though it is different the students will know what is required of them and how the process will work.
Moving on from the starter, the lessons have three more components that the students will be also be able to identify as they know them. The learning phase is the component that has the least amount of similarity in it from lesson to lesson. This is because I want to make sure that the activity suits the learning.
The vast majority of Key Stage 3 lessons then follow ICER. It is a way of creating ideas from the learning, creating a performance, evaluating the performance so far and then rehearsing it to improve it. Whatever the content or style of the performances, this process remains the same each lesson.
We close the lesson with a routine way as well. No matter what happens, whether the students perform or are going to perform in the following week, students come back into a circle for a debrief. This debrief can range from a full plenary to a rhetorical question about the learning.
Key Stage 4 and 5 the routine becomes a little more flexible. The groups are far more active, interested and eager to get on with the work.
As an example of how that routine changes, my Year 9 class used to line up outside the door. They then started to ask to come in. Now they all come in by themselves. They go in a get a chair to make a semi-circle around the projector screen. At the moment they do this, and hopefully they will continue to do that, then the routine becomes more of a shared ownership. But if they start to chat and stand around before getting chairs, then the routine has started to fail and I to take back control.
Once in we generally do some kind of warm up. We discuss the activity we’ve done and how it can help in our practical work. Then students do a quick quiz on key terminology – only 4 questions. I give a breakdown of the GCSE, which includes everything we’ve done and everything that there is still to do. Then go through the lesson objectives before getting on.
Like Key Stage 3, at the end of the lesson the students come back as a whole class. We answer questions, clarify information, complete a plenary or discuss what comes next in the process.
The repetition of the way the lesson starts and ends is important. The Drama lesson is a journey, one which by nature the students do by themselves but guided by you. There is a lot of personal risk involved in that journey as students are creating and performing someone different to themselves. The routine at the start and end of the lesson is one way of helping students in that journey. It helps them come from a completely different subject and mindset, to entering the space and being ready to be creative and imaginative.