Routines for Success

By: Landmark Outreach Staff

The Landmark School Outreach Program's mission is to empower students with language-based learning disabilities by offering their teachers an exemplary program of applied research and professional development.

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Student success is often measured by their performance on assessments and graded assignments. However, their success during classroom discussions and practice activities is equally important. Here are some classroom strategies related to the first of Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™: “Provide Opportunities for Success.” Providing opportunities for success means reinforcing student achievement at a comfortable level as a means to compel them to take the next step.

When teaching any lesson, begin by clearly explaining to students the goal and the plan of action. This is especially necessary when working with students who have language-based learning disabilities, since knowing what to expect during class can help them feel more involved and less anxious. During any discussions or whole-class activities, incorporate routines to keep all students focused and included. Finally, to avoid disruption of discussions, address behavior issues using a non-verbal system.

Before Beginning an Activity

Teaching students at their level, incorporating models and a variety of activities within a class, and explicitly teaching language and literacy skills can empower students to be successful. At the same time, it is vital to set up each activity or request in a way that students can complete it effectively. The following two strategies will help students better begin each activity.

Give A Plan of Action1

Provide students with a plan of action for the lesson or activity so that they understand its purpose and what they are supposed to do. The plan should include the lesson’s goal, steps to achieving it, and instructions for what students should do.

For example:

  • “To help us learn more about (x), I am going to read this selection out loud while you listen to the new information. Then, starting with Billy, each of you will take a turn identifying one fact that you did not know before.”
  • “To help us remember the steps for simplifying expressions, we are going to take notes. Each of you will write the steps in your notebook, and check a partner’s notes. You should all take out your notebook and a pencil.”
  • “To help us review parts of speech, we’ll be matching labels with words. Each of you will come to the board and label 3 different types of words in the example sentences.”

In addition to these verbal cues to reinforce lesson plans, posting schedules, calendars, and lesson agendas can help students to keep track of what the class has already completed and what is left to be done.

Give Explicit and Simple Directions

Many students have difficulty remembering and following directions. Create more opportunities for success by following these guidelines2:

  • Gain all students’ attention before giving directions.
  • Give only one or two-step directions at a time.
  • Use simple, concrete, specific language.
  • Have students repeat or restate the directions.
  • Write each step of multi-step directions on paper or the board.

Class Discussions

During class discussions, outgoing and confident students who process language quickly often dominate the conversation. Other students seldom participate due to shyness, uncertainty, or a slower language processing rate. To empower all students to engage successfully in discussions, try one of the following turn-taking strategies.

Round-Robin Turn-Taking3

Create a round-robin format so all students can participate successfully and equally in discussion. This predictable pattern enables students who process language slowly to predict when they will have to answer and better prepare their responses. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of particular students when assigning seats and determining where to begin the round robin.

For instance:

  • When having students complete tasks where the possible responses diminish as turns are taken, start with the less capable students (e.g., “Name a noun in the following picture.”). This guarantees that their answer hasn’t already been presented.
  • Conversely, when giving a more complicated task, having a stronger student respond first to model an appropriate answer can be helpful (e.g., “Recite the sentence pattern.”).

Ball Passing4

Make possession of an object, such as a ball, the cue for answering a question or contributing to the discussion. While it may seem simple, it encourages students to focus on the discussion since they know they might be required to participate at any moment. This activity may be done with the teacher passing the object to selected students, or with the students passing it to one another.

Note: Prior to passing the ball to the first student, ask students to write down their answers/ideas to ensure that those with expressive language weakness or slower language processing will have an answer ready and be able to participate successfully.

Non-verbal Cueing

Non-verbal cueing strategies can be effective in a variety of educational situations; the following examples focus on behavior management. When a student's behavior distracts from the class activity or discussion, sometimes stopping to address it verbally can compound the situation. Creating non-verbal systems that reinforce positive behavior and address negative behavior when it occurs can support the flow of class and provide students with feedback on their performance.

The following examples of non-verbal cueing strategies recognize positive behavior and cue needed modifications to negative behavior. While these example strategies aim at elementary or early middle school students, the concepts can be modified for older students (e.g., tap on students’ desks or stand nearby to refocus them, or make notations on a desk in removable dry erase marker or on post-it notes).

Stamp Rewards

In this picture of a Landmark elementary student’s desk, the “stamp chart” on the right recognizes positive behavior. Teachers first identify a behavior they would like to see (e.g., “Take out your homework without a reminder.” or “Proofread your work with greater independence.”). Then, when they observe this behavior from the student, they stamp the chart. In this way, teachers non-verbally acknowledge the behavior as it happens, thus reinforcing the idea that they notice and appreciate the gains the students are making. When the chart is filled, students earn a small reward.

Stoplight Cueing

This corner of the desk demonstrates the velcro “stoplight” system for self-monitoring and behavior management. All students begin with the green light above the other two, signifying “keep doing what you are doing."

  • If a student demonstrates undesirable behavior (e.g., speaking without raising a hand or being called upon), the teacher removes the green light to denote the first warning with no consequence.
  • The yellow light is now at the top, signifying "caution–slow down and think about your actions."
  • If the student continues the behavior, the teacher removes the yellow light, leaving just the red light, signifying “stop the undesirable behavior,” then meets with the student in the hall to provide a strategy for changing the behavior.
  • If the behavior continues, the teacher removes the red light. The students know this means they must leave the class and see an administrator or counselor designated to address behavior issues.

For the full text of Landmark’s Six Teaching Principles™, including “Provide Opportunities for Success,” click here.



Click the "Endnotes" link above to hide these endnotes.

  1. Landmark High School Social Sciences Department, Morgan Talbot - Assistant Head
  2. Adapted from a presentation entitled “Landmark High School’s Expressive Language Program” by Linda Gross and Caitlin Parker, given on November 9, 2012.
  3. Landmark Elementary-Middle School Language Arts Department, Peter Harris - Head
  4. Landmark High School Social Sciences Department, Morgan Talbot - Assistant Head

Landmark Outreach Staff (2017)