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2020 – Establishing Academic Rituals

Assessing the Impact – Who Needs Rituals and Routines

All students benefit from rituals and routines. They support optimum cultures and climates in classrooms, build comfort zones for students to support optimum behaviors, and they provide proactive interventions that do not have to involve punishments or recriminations. Students who are at risk, however, must have rituals and routines that support their development of the confidence and competence need to be an independent learner and performer. Some of the at-risk factors that can be offset by rituals and routines include:

  • Attendance Issues – Research indicates that missing five days of school can have a negative impact on a student’s performance and 10 days absence has a significant impact on performance. At Educational Directions (Ed Directions), we consider patterns of missed attendance to be an “at risk” indicator. For any student whose name appears on the chart below, there should be a plan for monitoring and maintaining attendance. There are a number of rituals and routines that can be used to increase attendance.
Grade level/courseStudents who missed more than 10 days of virtual schoolStudents who missed five to nine days of virtual school
  • Success Issues – Research indicates that students who are one or more grade levels behind their cohort group, or who regularly underperform on rigorous assessments, may not have personal expectations that will support growth in a standards-based environment. Ed Directions identifies this as an “at risk” indicator. Any student whose name appears on the chart below would need specific support from the beginning of school, and any student whose name appears on both columns should probably have an adult mentor who formulates and monitors an individual support plan.
Grade level/courseStudents more than one grade level behind their core group (days missed)Students identified as “less than proficient” in more than one area on state assessments (days missed)
  • Engagement Issues – Research indicates that the level of student engagement in work is as important as the design of the work in determining student learning. Students must highly engage in learning work to maximize learning and highly engage in assessment work to maximize performance. Any student whose name appears on the chart below will need support from the first day of school including “personal” rituals and routines to support their learning and performing. Any student whose name appears on both lists on the chart below would benefit from 1) an engagement plan beginning on the first day of school and 2) an adult mentor to monitor and provide individualized encouragement and support.
Grade level/courseStudents whose engagement in learning work was insufficientStudents whose engagement in performing work was insufficient

There are number of other areas that can be addressed with rituals and routines. It’s important to note that for students to reach the levels of expectations established in state standards and use learning effectively in real-world situations, students must have confidence and competence. The suggested method for standardizing the rituals and routines that establish core “success competencies” in all students is by first examining the students who will be participating in the school/classroom/course and determining the specific rituals and routines that they need to develop their competencies and their confidence. Ed Directions recommends a multi-step approach to building rituals and routines to the mastery level in all students:

  1. Assess the students and identify the priority rituals for a class or group of students.
  2. Research responses to the needs of the class or group and establish the rituals and routines that address those needs.
  3. Market the rituals and routines to school support staff and instructional staff.
  4. Instruct adults in reasons for and elements of rituals.
  5. Have adults model and do shaping practice to “standardize” adult understandings of the rituals.
  6. Build a personal action plan for each adult, indicating how they will roll out. Then implement the rituals and routines.
  7. Standardize instruction and shaping practice for students (within the first three days of school) and schedule ongoing shaping practice (for the first five weeks of school).
  8. Monitor student use of rituals and routines and provide shaping feedback.
  9. Enable student observation and critique of rituals performed imperfectly by the adults or other students.
  10. Schedule periodic reviews of rituals with students to seek improved practice.

The Ed Directions coaching toolkit contains a variety of tools that our coaches have used to facilitate building packages of rituals and routines. Some of these include “best practice” rituals and routines for classrooms and homeschool environments and can be used in the design phase to determine what standard practice will be in a school or classroom.

Facilitating Rituals – Building Classrooms for Learners

RitualConsensus of what will be standard practicePriority
Getting ready for class    
Entering/starting class    
Starting class work    
Staying highly engaged    
Asking questions    
Answering questions    
Changing activities    
Submitting work    
Changing materials    
Listening to a speaker    
Viewing a video or presentation    
Sustained silent reading    
Conducting research    
Performing an experiment  
Working in groups or pairs  
Getting ready for an assessment    
Ending class and transitioning  

There are other facilitating rituals that make it easier for the teacher to teach and the learner to learn. But this course set is critical in a virtual, hybrid, or regular classroom setting. These rituals reduce lost time, inappropriate interaction, and negotiations over what is to be done.

Effective Learning Rituals

This set of effective learning rituals and routines supports building independent, effective learners. These rituals and routines provide all students with a set of core capacities that will enable them to be successful in this subject and this school year.

RitualConsensus of what will be standard practicePriority
Active listening or viewing    
Identifying learning priorities and accountability  
Analyzing tasks and seeking clarity  
Working to completion and checking work  
Translating learning    
Creating meaning    
Reading to learn    
Seeking assistance in reaching proficient performance  
Real-world reading    
Refocusing attention    
Using discipline language    
Organizing materials    
Writing in response to reading    
Writing in response to thinking    
Authentic writing    
Revising work to meet a standard  
Critical reading/close reading    
Using criteria to critique something or someone  

While there are a number of effective learning rituals and routines, this particular course set is designed specifically to prepare all students for success in class and success on state assessments.

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