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Why Learning Strategies and Routines Are Important for Students’ Success

We all know that learning strategies and routines are helpful when working with students. Most people follow general routines in many areas of their lives. For example, we usually go to bed at about the same time, watch the same tv shows, and eat the same foods and snacks.

Some people think using a learning strategy (such as RACE – RACES) is boring and takes away the fun and spontaneity. That’s really not true. Students often thrive on structured routines they can rely and depend on.

two students working on their learning strategy in the classroom

What is a predictable learning strategy?

I refer to specific methods, such as CUBES – CUBED, RACE – RACES, and my Shaped Math method, as predictable learning strategies. They’re learning strategies that students can repeatedly apply until they no longer need them. They’re predictable, helpful, and comfortable for students. That’s when teachers can gradually phase out the learning strategy. 

A predictable learning strategy is a plan of action explicitly taught by teachers to give students the necessary skills they need when solving an academic problem or task. 

Why should I use a predictable learning strategy?

Most teachers quickly learn they need structured plans to deal with students blurting out answers, talking, homework issues, and behavior problems. These structured routines give students and teachers control, and everyone knows what to expect.

The same holds for work strategies. Many students benefit from specific action steps and strategies that help them start and complete assignments. For example, the CUBES method of solving story problems provides students with specific directions that get them started. Taking small steps to help themselves is better than taking no steps at all.

Plus, students feel confident and flourish when they have a procedure to follow. In addition, having a plan reduces feelings of panic and confusion.

For example, word problems can feel overwhelming and confusing. Students become bogged down by the amount of information and become so confused that they quit working or give up.

two engaged students learning in the classroom

Why is a predictable learning strategy important?

1. Structure and Security

Having an established, familiar method helps students feel safe and in control. They know what to expect and what steps to take next. The strategy provides control, peace, and stability, which we know is vital to students with unstable living situations.

2. Reduces Stress

Everyone wants to appear intelligent and successful. However, when students are worried about looking bad in front of their peers, they freeze and can’t think clearly. Confusion, lack of control, and stress explode into anger when students don’t know what to do. Having clear instructions and an explicitly-taught strategy eliminates that confusion and stress.

3. Efficiency

Having a familiar step-by-step plan helps students move through each step until the task is finished. Students can get to work right away because they have a plan for getting started. 

As students become accustomed to the steps, their workflow becomes smoother and more efficient. Working memory is freed up, leaving more space for learning and action. 

4. Confidence

As students practice and follow the steps over and over, they grow comfortable with the process and steps. Comfort and familiarity build confidence, motivation, success, and satisfaction. That’s the recipe for positive, engaged students and a classroom atmosphere built for learning.

5. Proficiency

As students become more skilled at each step, the overall quality of their work improves. Regular practice helps them visualize the process and what they need to do to complete the task effectively. That’s when teachers see the lightbulb moments, and students finally “get it.” The skill is mastered.

student hard at work in the classroom writing her lesson

What are some easy-to-use predictable learning strategies?

CUBES or CUBED method

The CUBES or CUBED method is my most reliable and proven strategy for math word problems. Many students aren’t sure how to begin when faced with story problems. The CUBES-CUBED method is simple for students to understand and gives them confidence. Moreover, it’s a concrete strategy they can use in the future.

How to Teach Math Word Problems – CUBES Math Strategy

Struggling with math story problems? CUBES to the Rescue!

RACE or RACES strategy

For writing, my students depended on the RACE or RACES strategy. The RACE/RACES strategy helps students organize their thinking and writing. Students learn to answer extended response questions, add details, and extend their answers. Through the RACE/RACES method, students practice writing complete, thorough, and clear responses to text-dependent questions.

How to Teach the RACE Writing Strategy

Daily writing time offers enormous benefits for students

Shaped Math graphic organizer strategy

I love my shaped math graphic organizer strategies for multiplication and long division using the standard algorithm. They provide visual cues that lead students through the process of solving problems. The strategy is adaptable to students’ learning needs and can be gradually phased out as students gain independence.

How to Teach Multi-Digit Multiplication and Long Division

Long Division and Multiplication Using the Standard Algorithm

Disclaimer – These are not the only strategies that can work for students. Not every strategy will work for every student. This article offers ideas and tips for implementing learning strategies that have worked for me in my own classroom through the years.