Building Materials

According to James Clear, “The 3 R’s of forming a habit are Reminder, Routine, Reward.”

After reading this, my initial instinct was to test all of the habits that I could think of… the process went like this…

Habit: Brushing Your Teeth in the Morning
  • Reminder: Your breath stinks and your teeth feel gritty.
  • Routine: You brush your teeth with toothpaste.
  • Reward: Your teeth are clean and you will be less likely to have dental problems.

Habit: Speeding
  • Reminder: The speed limit signs that you are passing or the speedometer.
  • Routine: Going over the speed limit.
  • Reward: You get where you are going in less amount of time.

Habit: Study-Skills
  • Reminder: Assessment is written in your agenda with a date or you have a study guide.
  • Routine: Study before an assessment.
  • Reward: You receive a good grade or you are less anxious about the assessment.

Habit: Effective Teaching
  • Reminder: Most would say the “test” or “standards”, but most importantly… the pairs of eyes looking at you every morning.
  • Routine: Always learning and trying new strategies, differentiating instruction, making connections with the students.
  • Reward: You see student growth, academically and personally.

So, yes, I understand and as far as I can tell, the 3 R’s make sense… Test it out on a habit you have.

Formed Habits

What does this mean for our classrooms? Life is full of routines, plans, and habits… our students’ lives are filled with them already, no matter what grade level you teach.  What should we do with the habits that have been formed?
Step One: Awareness

Have your students identify habits that they have formed that are school related.
Once this list is created, have them put smiley/frowny faces by each of their habits.

Step 2: Reflect
What caused the habits that you listed?
What makes a habit a smiley/frowny face?

Healthy Habits (Smiley)
Unhealthy Habits (Frowny)
Step 3: Reflect
  • What makes this a healthy habit?
  • What are the rewards from having this habit?

Step 4: Action Plan
  • How will you make sure to maintain this habit?

Step 5: Action
  • Have the students to carry out their plans and visit their progress.

Step 6: Reflect
  • Thinking long-term, how will this habit help you?
Step 3: Choice
  • Have each child to choose one frowny face habit to focus on changing.

Step 4: Action Plan
  • Have the student make an action plan that they plan to follow to change this habit.

Step 5: Action
  • Have students to carry out their plans for at least a month and document their progress (high and low points)

Step 6: Reflect
  • Have students reflect on how they feel about their accomplishments in their progress.

Forming Habits

What about the habits that we would like for our students to form and be on that list? Let’s be proactive, and form habits before not-so-good habits are formed!!!  As we all know personally, it is much harder to undo a habit, than form one. We have to brainstorm a list of habits that we would like for our students to form… I know you are probably thinking, I already do… they are called procedures…  At the beginning of each year, we spend an insurmountable amount of time going over what to do when you need a pencil, or to go to the restroom, if you have a question, how you turn in a library book, or walk in the hallway… and yes… they will get used to these procedures and will eventually become habitual.  However, the type of habits that I am suggesting you brainstorm are those that they can carry throughout life.  

Here is my list of habits for my fourth graders…
  • They have a  passion for learning.
  • They show growth in the area of independence.
  • They are seekers of information.
  • They have a “not-okay” attitude of failure.
  • They are friends.
  • They have an openness to try something new.
  • They are not afraid to take risks.
  • They become leaders of their own learning.
  • They develop a love for technology.
  • They have hearts of sincerity and honesty.
  • They have the ability to help one another.
  • They show bravery to speak their opinions.

These are some pretty tall marching orders for eight and nine year olds, but so many crave healthy habits, and so many love knowing they are making decisions for themselves.  I promise you, I have seen students achieve everyone of these habits.  It is doable.  

Hardwork? Yes.  I am not going to lie… I am a gauge everyday; knowing what to say and when to say it, knowing when to let them be independent and when to jump in, knowing when to be a teacher and when to be a mentor, knowing when to push and when to stop…  

Habits are building materials. Would you rather have a house built with straw, sticks, or bricks?  It is a choice everyone has to make. We must give our students the tools to make the right choices to stand sturdy and strong with healthy habits. If we do our job, these habits will withstand any trial that may come their way!  

Wondering how I achieve the habits mentioned above with my students? Be on the lookout for Part 2 of this blog.


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