How to Teach Daily Routines to ESL

Teach routines for every classroom situation, including lining up and going to the bathroom.

Routines and procedures can be the greatest factors in operating a successful classroom. According to Dr. Brandi Simonsen of the Center for Behavioral Education and Research, teacher and student routines are a critical feature of classroom management. When teaching English as a Second Language, or ESL, routines are equally important, but can be more difficult to teach due to the language barrier. Classroom routines should be taught using strategic methods to encourage comprehension and compliance by ESL students.

Write a daily schedule on a whiteboard or in another area that is visible to all students. On the schedule, provide a time for each subject or activity that is will occur throughout the day. If students cannot yet tell time, the schedule will tell them what subject comes next. For ESL students, consider attaching a picture beside each subject description. For example, beside “math,” attach a picture of a plus and minus sign.

Establish a “quiet” signal. There are various ways to signal to students that it is time to be quiet. Some teachers flash the lights on and off. Others use a sound, such as a rain stick or quiet bell. Avoid yelling or speaking loudly to get students’ attention, particularly in an ESL classroom where students may not understand your request.

Teach one routine at a time. To ensure success, have students master each routine. During the first week of school, teach routines as the opportunity arises. For example, 10 minutes before lining up for Physical Education class, teach the procedure of lining up. Practice several times and praise students for a job well done.

Model each routine. Modeling is a powerful way to show ESL students your expectations. Before students begin working on a math assignment, for example, model what a perfect student would look like. If this includes cooperating with peers to find answers, then depict this during your role-play.

Create worksheets for confusing or extensive routines, such as what to do during silent reading time. On the worksheet, include a picture of each step of the routine in a mixed-up order. Have students cut out the pictures and place them in the correct order. Later, have students volunteer to act out the routine at the front of the room.

Shelley Gray has been writing since 2005, with work appearing in the "Interlake Spectator" newspaper and "Manitoba Reading Association Journal." She has been an early years teacher since 2005 and is passionate about education and educational pedagogy. Gray has a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.