Banking routines

Investing in learning

Hey 👋

Happy equinox. This week, we’re continuing our theme with a look at banking routines

Big idea 🍉

Routines are valuable, but only once they have become automated. Until then, we must treat them as an investment.

First up, routines are sequences of action which are prompted by a cue, all of which happens with minimal thought. They have the potential to enhance student learning, confidence, and belonging. And free up teacher cognitive capacity to monitor learning and be more responsive.

When we begin to establish a new routine, we will often be less skilled in it and our students will be less familiar with it. As a result, during this time it can often be fairly effortful, and we can be tempted to give up. However, this effort is not being wasted. It is merely being stored 🔋

If we stick with it, the routine will eventually become automated, the effort required to run it will reduce, and all that stored potential will be released (this is what James Clear calls The Valley of Latent Potential). From then on (and forevermore), we will reap the dividends of our investment.

How long does it take for a routine to become automated? Well, it depends on two things:

  1. How complex the routine is.

  2. How often we run the routine.

For a simple routine, such as drinking a glass of water with breakfast, we can reach automaticity after 20 repetitions. However, for more complex routines (such as most of the stuff we do in schools) it can take more... up to 40 or even 60.

So, depending on how often we see our classes and how often we run a routine during a lesson, it could take anywhere from 1 to 10 weeks to fully realise the returns on our investment.

This might seem like a long time. However, it will quickly pale into insignificance as the routine continues to reward us repeatedly with only minimal effort… long into the future. This is why in school... it pays to bank routines.


  • Routines can be hugely valuable, but only once they are automated.

  • It can require substantial effort to run a routine to get to this point (20-60 repetitions).

  • But when we get there, the routine will pay back forever.

For double the links (on the importance of activating prior knowledge, rehearsal for assessing student thinking, and an unsurprising finding regarding the role of real-life problems in maths tests), sign up to Snacks PRO → join here

May your night and day be of equal measure.

Peps 👊