The Impact of Classroom Routines on Science of Reading-Informed Lessons


In this blog series, Savvas author, educator, and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright will guide us through the importance of effective classroom management when delivering Science of Reading-based instruction, along with practical strategies you can start using right away to help lead your students to reading proficiency.

Routines can either make or break any lesson, including Science of Reading-informed lessons. The best planned and the most data-informed lesson can easily be derailed if students don’t know where to gather their materials in order to engage in the lesson. Or if students are talking out of turn because there’s no clear routine on how to answer a question. Or if the teacher is constantly stopping the lesson to redirect behavior.

Savvas - Classroom Management: Setting the Stage for the Science of ReadingThis is where classroom management comes into play. Without a plan for effective classroom management, everything you’ve done to create an explicit and systematic lesson will be overshadowed by interruptions and loss of student focus. 

I call these types of lesson disruptors “lesson bandits.” Luckily, all of these lesson bandits, which can happen to the most well-intended teacher, can be avoided, or at least significantly diminished, by teaching high-quality routines to students so that they know what to do before, during, and after each lesson.

What Are Classroom Routines?

Classroom routines are the behavioral practices that students engage in consistently to optimize learning and minimize disruptions. Effective teachers teach routines throughout the school year. Each time students are expected to use a new reading resource, text type, or engage in a new response procedure, this requires a new routine. 

Effective classroom routines that can support Science of Reading-informed lessons, include:

  • How to get ready for reading lessons
  • How to engage in the lessons 
  • How to transition from one lesson to another.

Why Are Classroom Routines Important?

Classroom routines can significantly impact the quality of Science of Reading-based instruction. If we want to effectively teach Science of Reading-informed lessons, we need to ensure that we invest time in establishing effective classroom routines, and minimize disruptions that can distract you from teaching and learners from learning 

How Do I Plan For and Teach Classroom Routines?

Effective routines are planned and taught via explicit and systematic mini-lesson demonstrations. Designing explicit routines requires that teachers use the following: examples, counter examples, visuals, gestures, student engagement, and feedback. Designing systematic routines requires that teachers teach their students how to complete a routine in a step-by-step, sequential fashion. 


For example, one effective routine for use during phonemic awareness lessons is to teach students to engage in Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down responses. Science of Reading maintains that all reading lessons are enhanced via student engagement. Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down is one way to engage students during Science of Reading-informed lessons. 

This routine is most effective when teachers introduce it in an explicit and systematic fashion. For example, first gather students in a whole-group formation:

Then, state the name of the routine by saying “Ok boys and girls, today we are going to learn a new way of answering questions during phonemic awareness instruction called Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down.”

Then say, “Let me show you how to do this routine.” Then use sequence words like, “First, second, third, last” etc. when explaining each step.

For example, boys and girls, when I ask a question and say show me your answer using your Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down you will do the following. First, if you think the answer is ‘Yes’ you will put your thumb up high in the air so I can see it but without touching your neighbor, and be sure your voices are on level zero.” As you say this, demonstrate it. 

Then say, “Now you show me how you would answer.” Provide student practice, observe, and give corrective and/or affirmative feedback as needed.

Next, say and demonstrate what they should do if the answer is “No.” You can tell the students, “If you think the answer is ‘No,’ put your hand in the air with a thumbs down sign.

Repeat this mini-model routine lesson until most students can demonstrate all of the steps in the routine while requiring little or no feedback. 

Investing the time to explain, model, provide student practice opportunities and use corrective and/or affirmative feedback as well as to sequence each step in a routine is essential for supporting the success of Science of Reading instruction

Tips: The beginning of the school year is the ideal time for teachers to reflect on their previous years’ routines that they know from experience will optimize teaching time and minimize disruptions. Similarly, this is an ideal time to think of newly needed routines that could support Science of Reading instruction. 

One way to evaluate if your classroom routines are supporting your Science of Reading instruction is to carefully observe students as they engage in a newly introduced routine. When most of your students are able to perform all of the behavioral expectations you taught with minimal teacher feedback your routine is set in place.


About The Author

Lee Wright, Ph.D.

Dr. Wright began his career as a kindergarten teacher in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For over two decades, he spent time as a literacy coach, Texas statewide staff developer, and professor of education. Today, he trains educators on topics that focus on the importance of effective classroom management, small-group instruction, and early literacy. He is a coauthor of Three Cheers for Pre-K and myView Literacy from Savvas Learning Company.