The learning police, gym equipment, and more. In this episode, Andy, Emily, and Adam discuss all things structures and routines. How strict should they be? Should we be teaching to the clock? Plus, hear what is suggested for a new teacher in terms of getting the right balance.
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Hi. I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hello. I'm Emily Guille-Marrett.
Hi. I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School Of School podcast. Welcome to the School Of School podcast.
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Okay. Thanks for joining, everyone. So right now, we're going to talk about classroom routines. And I guess the real question is are they important or not? Do you just let the kids do whatever they want in the class? Or should the teacher be a control freak and just control every inch of every second in the classroom? What do you guys think?
There is a time and a place for routine in my view. Maybe I'm a bit old-fashioned, but I think that the whole day there... So there's the kind of natural routines that the children... Like, there's the daily routines, aren't there? The rituals.ß Like, we've got to have our break time and our lunchtime. That's just part of the day. I know some people would say, "No, you don't need that." But within the realms, I think that's useful. Children like to know where they're starting and where they're going and how the day's going to end. And then, there's within the lesson.
So I've seen some lessons which are so routined it's like a script and it's timed. And this is post literacy hour. Do you remember? Oh my gosh. Did you ever teach with the literacy hour, Adam? Did you ever have that experience?
Yeah, it was awesome. So I just came over from New Zealand, just very quickly for the younger listeners. I came over from New Zealand. And I remember being in a classroom and there was a clock on the wall that would tell me when my children had finished learning, that learned something. Right? It was amazing. It was marked. And it said that after this amount of time, your children have finished learning. I got in touch with New Zealand. I said, "Honestly, they're miles ahead over here. They've got a clock that recognizes when kids have learned." Then, I just realized it was a clock. Ridiculous. Yeah. Basically. Yeah. Younger listeners, you had allocated times to do certain things. And I guess the premise was is that children learned in 15-minute chunks or whatever chunks. And at that point you moved on swiftly.
But it's interesting, isn't it? Because behind it was also this principle that there was a need. And this is going back. So this is going back and some of this could be made up. But my recollection way back with the CD-ROM era is that it was also about professionalization. So you were kind of making sure there was this rightly or wrongly a perception that teachers needed to do certain things. And I guess the hour also was a kind of perception that there was a routine to be assured that the teachers were doing, the was it the shared reading, which was the whole class, then you had your guided, didn't you? Then, you're independent. Like, it was all and then in the hour.
And I remember seeing some... So when I went and observed lots and lots of schools, there were those teachers who basically were very comfortable because they're good teachers and they just made it work. And they were a bit flexible with the hour. It was kind of, as long as they felt like things had done, they knew how to read the room. And then, there were times when I would go and visit some poor teachers who... It was literally like 15 minutes for this, wasn't it? And then, 10 minutes for that. And then, 50. And even if they hadn't finished, or the children hadn't finished, they'd set these timers and they were going off. And like, it was quite stressful to observe.
So it was really fascinating as an observer in different schools with what was perceived as new. And then, it loosened over time as all these things happen. And the learning clock, as you say, Adam, changed. And things loosened up. So there was a routine to how an hour should be structured on a national... It was national, wasn't it? It was the national literacy hour.
Yeah. But isn't it remarkable though? Isn't it remarkable that routine dictates? Like, beyond children's learning, you just do this and you move on at that point. And it's actually more important in terms of routine. Now, I would like to think, without question, the people who devised this idea, I would like to think that they thought as professionals, we can judge. But it's that sense of being part of the gang. Eh? It's the sense of this is the routine. This is what we have to do. And everyone comes on board with us.
And I just think flipping neat. That's pretty powerful. And I think that needs to be very carefully considered when initiatives are brought in, particularly with anything that has a suggested timeframe. You know? Because what that suggested timeframe doesn't know is every single child that's sat in front of you.
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But these routines, these kind of rules come into play because, I'm just supposing I don't really know, but the inspectors, the learning police will go out, and they will go out and they'll look at schools and go, "Oh my God. That was a shockingly horrible lesson." Right? And then, they'll see a few reasonable ones and maybe a couple of excellent ones. And they'll go to another school and say, "Oh my goodness. That was shockingly bad." And I think we need to do something about these shockingly bad lessons. Well, what did they do in a good lessons? Well, they did this in good lessons. All right. Let's make a framework for everyone that says, "This is what you must do because I saw a good lesson and it looked like this." Right?
And I think that's where this kind of thinking comes from. And then, people say... They start dictating the structures. Right? But what you're trying to do really is compensate for the fact that maybe that was a bad day, or that was a bad teacher, and there are bad teachers, or that was a bad whatever it was, whatever the reasons were that that lesson didn't work particularly well. And then, you start putting structures. It's the same in business. Right? Like, why do you have policies about, I don't know, whatever it is. Right? Like, expenditure in a company. Right? And why do you have to have a purchase order system? That's because if you don't, some people will run away. Right? But really what you want to do is you want to get your business away from that. You know? You don't want to have to do that. Right?
But maybe it's you're kind of penalizing everyone into a system because some people have made choices that you weren't particularly happy with as a administrator of a business. Right? And it's the same kind of thing. And it kind of worked their way into the system. And then eventually, somebody realizes or recognizes, "You know what? This is kind of not really working." And then, it swings in roundabouts. Right? But somewhere in the middle, there's an answer. Like, I think you need some routines in a class.
So when we did the lesson study filming, going back now around three years, for the course, the academy course, what was really interesting was when you went into schools where they had very challenging environment, I'm talking about like schools in not the types of areas where the children will be getting a tremendous amount of support at home, the schools that were doing exceptionally well in those types of places, all had very, very clear classroom routines. So in the previous episode you brought up, Adam, you said about like, "It's such a pain to get the textbooks out," for example. You know? "Oh, we don't want to do that. I'm just going to put it on the whiteboard. It's so much hassle." Right?
But they had super clear routines that that wasn't chaos. Because you could waste 10 minutes doing that with a bunch of six year olds. Right? "All right, everyone. Get your textbook." That could take 10 minutes. Right? And you don't have 10 minutes. So routines for things like that are super important so that you can be efficient in the classroom. But yeah, if you're teaching to the clock. "All right." Your six and a half minutes are over for the exploration on this lesson."
And you have learned. It has been eight minutes. Therefore, you have learned. Right. You're done for the day. Out.
Yeah. So a new teacher, what are you going to suggest to them? Where's that balance?
I think routine's important. I think that where routine and where you kind of prioritize routine use the word efficiency. I think time efficiency. Right? Because every child only has like, on the day we're recording this, they'll only ever have this day in class once. That's it. That's our one shot at it. Right? So we get X number of hours to work with that child on this day. They're never ever getting it back. So we need to maximize that. So I think that those routines you're talking about, knowing exactly what to do and how to do it, so you are ready to learn. I think as long as you've got those routines and it's all structured around being ready to learn, then that's the first thing that you've got to do in your classrooms. You know? You just must do that.
I often say in training one of the coolest things I've ever seen was I used to see the teachers going out setting up the gym equipment in the hall. You know? Like, big mats and stuff. If you've not seen it before, there's quite a bit of sort of bits and pieces of material that needs to come out. And there was a guy we worked with who was very good at his understanding PE but in a really holistic way. But he said, "Why are those wee children; reception children, so like three years old; why is their teacher spending their lunchtimes and mornings setting up the hall? It must take them ages. They don't have a cup of tea." So he said, "Get the children to do it. Really easy. Just put the pictures up on the wall that they have to replicate." And he said, "Brace yourself for the first couple of weeks. Yeah. It's a going to be a bit chaos, but don't worry because over the year you watch what happens." And honestly it was priceless, right?
They pick up a big mat and there's about 100,000 of these wee little reception children around the edge of the mat, all little feet going like the clappers, "Here we go." And then, they'd go and pick up a football, all 100,000 kids around the football. Everyone's desperately trying to get their hands on the ball to bring it around. But the point was is at three years old, you've got a workforce of 30 out there setting up their own lessons, knowing exactly what to do. Super efficient. And I think that that is better for everyone. There's that sense of responsibility for the children. It means that the teacher can do what they need to do with that extra time. You know?
And I just think it's those sorts of things that if I was giving advice to an NQT is set those up, because once they're set up, the time to learn is maximized. And it's very difficult, I think, to buy back learning time if you don't have those sorts of things set up and if you try to do it in conjunction, or you try to do it while a lesson's going. I think that's really difficult. So that would be what I'd tell them when it comes to routines in the first instance anyway.
So what do we think? You know? I think it's like... I don't know. I don't think there's no rules to this. Right? But you need to pay attention to it. You need to be very sensitive to classroom routines, I think, is what I would say. No routines is bad. Too much routine is bad. Every class is different. Every pupil is different. Teachers just need to be really good at reading this.
Yeah. I think you're right.
I'd say some form of routine is essential, but that routine is not uniform.
Yeah. And you can plan the chaos within the routines. Right? I think it's the secret. It's chaos and routines. Right?
It's like we've got an hour to be chaotic and that's a routine. Right?
All right. Thanks, guys.
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