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Rituals in the Classroom




Ritual:

  1. a way of doing something in which the same actions are done in the same way every time

  2. a fixed set of actions and words, especially as part of a religious ceremony


The rituals you deliver will be very different for elementary and high schools. Rituals in your lessons can be a powerful ally for teachers who embrace them effectively. Maybe you have witnessed the Japanese school ritual where students stand up, greet and bow to signify the beginning and end of class, or some other occasion.


This is sometimes viewed as silly, or ineffectual by some teachers, but the purpose of these rituals is to focus the students and announce that free-time is over and class-time has begun. Some English teachers have the students perform the ritual in English, or add some basic English to the ritual. Others create original routines to officially start the class, such as singing the song of the month for younger learners, or some sort of speaking or writing activity for older learners.


It is sometimes said that students actually crave structure and order, and they seek to know the boundaries. In my experience they also crave chaos and freedom. Including rituals in your class will help your students to focus, settle down, and bring structure to your lessons.


Whether it is singing a song, reciting a motto, chanting some vocabulary for review, writing, or enjoying a game of Word Association (連想ゲーム), starting your class the same way each time can communicate that it is time to focus, and help your students get back into the mental state that they left with last time.



Including a “Quote of the Day” for each class could be a good idea to institutionalise in high school classes. Quotes are useful to teachers because they act as easy discussion starters by setting the theme and topic of a lesson. Students can offer opinions about what they think a quote means, what they think inspired a person to say that, and what modern day situations apply. Quotes also offer a unique opportunity to explore new vocabulary and usage. As teachers, we are often looking for transitional activities to ease into a lesson. Offering a quote of the day can be a great way to align your students’ attention to the theme of the lesson.


Remind students that they will often have opportunities in life to share their favourite quotes, such as in a job interview, during a wedding speech, in a college essay, or on a loved one’s birthday card. It is a universal idea applicable for children and adults - even adult learners thrive on class routines, and can enjoy the presentation and discussion of quotes, slang expressions or an idiom-of-the-day.


Ending your class with a ritual can help bring some positive closure to a lesson, even when some things didn’t go quite as planned. The class might end on an otherwise negative or disorganised note if you skip the ritual. Some English teachers end their classes with a sports-like huddle, having students place their hands in the circle and lifting them sharply to announce the end of class with a thrill. Most English teachers know the importance of a “warm up”, but a “cool down” is equally important for students to reflect on, celebrate, or assess what they have learned. Also to tie-up loose ends, or address some negativity, and bring closure in order to start fresh and positive next time. A routine or set way of ending class will help give everyone a sense of continuity, and it’s a great way to see your student’s long-term progress!


Do you have any rituals or routines you have developed or adopted in your class? We’d love to hear about them in the comments section!


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