8 Must-Haves in Your Primary Classroom Routine

This image highlights some early fall centers, which are a key component to a primary classroom routine.

If you’re a teacher to primary students you already know that having a routine is essential for a smooth classroom experience. But what exactly needs to be in that routine? So glad you asked! Today we’re talking about the essentials for success! Come along as we explore some of the must-haves in your primary classroom routine!

Crafting a Perfect Primary Classroom Routine

So, what goes into a perfect primary classroom routine? While there are some essentials you’ll want to include, an important factor to keep in mind is that every classroom will be different. You will likely find that even every group of students is different from year to year! As each new group enters your room each year, you may have to tweak, fine-tune, and alter your primary classroom routine just a bit. Embrace this! We want to create a learning environment that suits our students. Oftentimes, this requires a bit of flexibility on our part.

Keeping this in mind, there are some must-haves that I have found absolutely need to be included year after year. If you make sure to weave these activities into your primary classroom routine, you’ll be in good shape for a successful year! Ready for tips? Let’s get to it!

1. Hands-on Learning Activities

This picture shows an engaging literacy center for back to school. Centers are an important part of learning in lower elementary.

Let’s start with the most important, in my opinion! Primary students are young children. These new learners need engaging, hands-on learning activities to fully absorb the material you are teaching. Endless worksheets and flashcards simply won’t cut it here friends. While these are good tools to include, what students really need to thrive are hands-on learning activities! These absolutely deserve a place in your classroom routine!

I find that the best time to use these activities is during center time, which is an absolute must in itself. Whether you choose to use hands-on learning activities as partner games or independent learning centers, these will make a huge impact on how much students absorb and retain from your lessons. The idea is to make the practice activities fun and appealing to catch (and keep) their interest!

In my room, I’m a huge fan of using thematic teaching units that focus on different seasonal themes each month. This helps keep things interesting, while also ensuring students get the practice they need week after week. Not to mention, the themes are just plain fun for students! They love focusing on a specific topic for a few weeks as we work through it together.

2. Fine Motor Activities

This photo highlights a sight word activity that utilizes building blocks.

Primary students need lots of practice with fine motor skills! Making sure to weave fine motor skills into your classroom routine is an absolute must in my book. This can be as simple as choosing center activities that utilize clothespins, play dough, spinners, building bricks, or other manipulatives. It’s also a great way to “kill two birds with one stone”, as you’re targeting fine motor skills along with academic concepts. The added benefit here is that students feel more like they’re playing, rather than learning. These Building Bricks Mats have a high appeal among kids and allow them to work on sight words while at the same time developing those fine motor skills!

You can also be intentional to include time in your classroom routine to work on activities that require the use of scissors and glue. These supplies require careful control of the hand muscles and are a great way to practice fine motor skills in a fun way. My absolute favorite way to do this is with crafting!

3. Learning Crafts

Another crucial part of a primary classroom routine is seasonal crafts. This photo showcases some of my favorite classroom crafts like a frog, reindeer, bee and more!

Speaking of crafting, this definitely deserves a place in your classroom routine as well! Many teachers feel like there might not be room in their day for crafting, but when you choose crafts that target other skills or tie into your lessons, they’re a great way to cement the topics you’ve been studying.

For example, when we are learning about the Frog Life Cycle, we finish up the unit with a craft that has a spinning wheel to show each stage of the lifecycle. This activity is fun for students, helps them remember each stage, and allows them to share what they learned with their parents. It’s the perfect way to wrap up any unit, and also targets fine motor skills as well! What’s not to love? For more info about the benefit of incorporating crafts into your classroom routine, be sure to read this post!

4. Small Group Instruction

Learning in small groups is another key part of a successful classroom routine. This photo features some easy readers that are perfect to use in small groups.

Just as students need center time, they also need dedicated time for small group instruction. During this time, you should plan to group together students with similar skill levels to offer the most personalized support. Many classrooms find that they only have time for reading in small groups, but if you can find a way to work in small groups for math as well – your students will only benefit!

During this time, you can use activities that require more direct teacher support and oversight. Games are a personal favorite of mine for small group time since students love them so very much. This helps build anticipation for small group time. They look forward to coming to my table and working with me, which is a big win in my book! Small group time is also a great opportunity to use reading passages and mini readers on a specific topic you’re studying such as sharks or bees. The smaller group sizes allow you to differentiate by skill level and choose passages that fit the needs of your students!

5. Read Aloud Time in Your Classroom Routine

I love books! Reading is a personal hobby of mine, and I want students to develop the same love of reading. Because of this, I recommend including some read-aloud time in your classroom routine on a daily basis. Most teachers are already doing this, but it’s important enough to mention it again! Reading to primary students helps improve literacy skills and allows you to connect books to the topics you’re discussing. I have a ton of favorite picture books that are perfect for read-aloud time. If you need some new inspiration, check them all out here!

6. Word Wall

This photo features my free printable "word wall" letters. Using a word wall with students is an important part of my classroom routine.

Are you using a word wall in your room? If not, this is a great practice to include in your classroom routine! Word walls are a place where you can post words your students are working on. This will vary by age and skill level. For younger students, you might have vocabulary words with picture cards to help grow language skills. For students who are a bit older, your word wall might include sight words or spelling words. Either way, it’s a huge benefit to your students!

Many teachers take a twist on this by calling it a “sound wall” and will organize the words they add to the wall by sounds, rather than letters. Whichever method you choose is great! As long as students have a visual as they work on vocabulary or spelling words, you will see the benefit!

I like to introduce a few words at a time and staple them up on the word wall. Then during circle time, or your morning meeting (more on that next) take some time to review the words on the board. You can use a fancy pointer, call on students to read words, or discuss the meaning of vocabulary words. This practice will enhance your classroom routine and help your students learn new words! Grab these FREE word wall letters if you want to get started with this!

7. Morning Meeting

I love including read alouds as part of my classroom routine, and this photo shows a teacher reading a picture book to her class.

Speaking of a morning meeting, if you’re not already doing this – it’s an absolute MUST in your primary classroom routine. A morning meeting is a time when you will meet with your students and set the tone for the day. During this time, most teachers have a specific list of items to cover each day. This routine helps students know what to expect and start the day off on the right foot. In the primary classroom, your morning meeting might include:

  • calendar time
  • review of current topics/skills
  • song/rhyme time
  • read aloud
  • word wall
  • community building

Think of this time as an opportunity to review, check in with your students, and get the day started off on a positive note. This is also a great opportunity for community building before you split off into groups or centers for the day! Adding this to your classroom routine will have a big benefit to students in the long run.

8. No-Prep Practice Activities

Color by code, like what is shown in this photo, and other low-prep activities are must-haves to any class!

Last on my list of must-haves in your primary classroom routine is a variety of no-prep practice activities. These are essential for many reasons! Primary students need lots of opportunities to practice new skills before they will achieve mastery. This means that you’ll need to provide some engaging ways to practice things like letters, numbers, and sight words. While centers will fill part of this need, having some go-to no-prep activities will always save the day! I use them for:

  • morning work
  • fast finishers
  • homework
  • substitute teacher activities
  • last minute centers, and more!

The key to making no-prep practice fun is to choose activities that your students enjoy. My favorite practice activities to meet this need are color by code! Students love these engaging practice pages and you’ll be able to target just about any skill or concept you can think of. The pages I like to use are editable, meaning you can add any skill you’d like. This makes differentiation simple and also allows you to customize and increase difficulty throughout the year as student ability grows. For a free sample of my color-by-code activities to try in your room, click here!

Make Your Classroom Routine Work For You

Well, what do you think, friends? We’ve talked about your morning meeting, center time, weaving in fine motor skills, making time for crafts, and more! Which of these essentials are you looking forward to adding to your classroom routine?

Keep in mind, these ideas are only the beginning! As you craft your own perfect, primary classroom routine, you may find that you have some holes to fill. The idea is to create a routine that works perfectly for you and your students. And don’t forget every classroom is different! It’s all about finding the balance of activities that work best for you and your students.

Save These Ideas for Your Primary Classroom Routine

This list makes crafting your primary classroom routine simple and effective. Pin this post on Pinterest so can easily keep track of these ideas!

If you want to perfect for classroom routine for the next school year, then you have got to check out these 8 must have components to add to your classroom routine! I also share some fun resources you can add to your routine like engaging literacy and math centers, fun classroom crafts and other hands-on activities!