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Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance?

It's important to keep routine in our daily life, especially when it comes to children. Routine brings a sense of security and builds confidence in children. Knowing what to expect in their day makes them feel in control of their surroundings. It helps them build the courage to take risks.

But routine can also become boring.

Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance? This blog post explores why we need both routine and novelty, and how we know when to "shake it up."

Brain research tells us that brains need both routine and novelty to grow. Yes, these words are antonyms, but both are necessary for learning to happen. Too much routine can become tedious and dull. Too much novelty becomes confusing and chaotic. How can we find a balance?

The best way to find that balance? Pay attention to your students! This is probably the most important part of being a teacher or a parent: know your students! Watch for signs that they are happy, bored, confused, or content. This is how you know they should continue with a routine, or are ready for a "shake up." 

The beginning of the school year, or right after a break, sticking to a routine is essential. They find comfort in that routine, and are happier and more content. 

But after a while, that same routine becomes the enemy! They need something different. A change. But as we all know, many people fear change. It's a rocky road, so proceed with caution.

Start with something simple. I always love to change the seating arrangement when boredom starts to set in. They get to come into a classroom that's familiar, but there's something different. When they find their new spot, there are loads of smiles! Plus, I love the giggles when they start to walk to their old spot, then realize they don't sit there anymore!

A few other ideas for an easy change from the routine: 

  • change the schedule (be careful, this could cause a domino effect with children who receive services) 
  • bring in a special snack to go with your lesson
  • speak with a funny voice, or use an accent
  • take a break from what you're teaching and have a special lesson
  • take your lesson to a different spot... outside, in the hall, cafeteria, or any extra space
  • wear something unique that will spark their attention
  • introduce some new team building games See these blog posts: Space Balls, Paper Bag Dramatics, Team Building Activities  (these games can often be altered to fit academics)
  • have them wear something to go with a theme
  • bring in a guest teacher or guest reader
  • do some Reader's Theater in the classroom See this blog post: Dramatics in the Classroom
  • plan a craft or art project to go with your lesson
  • get some new books for your classroom library
Once the children are able to handle small changes, it's time for a BIG change in routine!

Here in New England, the winters are long, dark and cold! By mid-January, we always need something big to shake things up! By this time, the children are quite secure in their routine, and basically dealing with "cabin fever" and are absolutely sick of everything! (No matter where you live, I'm sure the children get to this point!)

These are some things I do to help shake them from this state:
For more information about Routine and Novelty, see this blog post: Predictability and Novelty
Routine and Novelty: How Can We Keep a Balance? This blog post explores why we need both routine and novelty, and how we know when to "shake it up."


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