Back to School Resources:

Learning New Routines

This page is part of a larger series titled Back to School Resources 2020.  To see the full list of topics, visit the Back to School Resources 2020 Landing Page.  



As schools determine what “Back to School” means for them in the Fall of 2020 in light of the COVID pandemic, administrators and teachers are developing flexible policies and guidelines in order to be responsive to new health information, government regulations, and parent concernsBack to school will not be “back to normal” as social and behavioral rules are developed under these new guidelines. For many students, this creates uncertainty which leads to stress and anxietyespecially for those who rely on predictable routines 

Some Tips for Getting Started:  

  • Know the new guidelines and identify new social and behavioral rules. 
  • Consider ways to use pictures, words, and videos to introduce all students to their setting and new routines prior to the start of school.  
  • Identify students who may also benefit from a more personalized story or video to make meaning of the new routines.  
  • Offer a tour to students who may benefit from seeing the classroom and practicing the “new way”, prior to them entering a classroom full of peopleInvite the student to choose one or two peers to bring along and extend the invitation to them too. Learning new routines is more fun when you’re doing it with friends. For students new to your school, choose a peer ambassador to join you. 

Explore the Resources

Use the tabs below to explore the resources associated with Learning New Routines.

Below are ideas on how to support students as they learn the new routines and rhythms of the school year:

Social scripts, Information Stories, and Social Stories

  • Think about the perspective of your audience to create meaningful and effective stories. 
  • Jump into their shoes: Take time prior to creating a story to investigate what it means to see the world through the student’s eyes. It is only through this lens that you will create a story the student will connect with.  
  • Be proactive and positive by introducing stories in a calm and comfortable environment. 
  • Make a book (see example) with this template. Create word document, slide it into a protective sheet and store in a three ring binder.  
  • Create duplicates so the student has access to the story at home and school.  
  • Consider where the student is developmentally.  
    • Does the student need concrete examples? Use photographs of the actual environment, materials, and people the student will be interacting with. Take pictures of the student to use in the book. 
    • Does the student use PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or other communication cards? Use visuals the student is familiar with. 
    • Does the student enjoy drawing or coloring? Have the student illustrate pages of the story. 

Please Note: All Belong understands Social Stories™ accurately describe a context, skill, achievement or concept according to 10 defining criteria. This distinguishes genuine Social Stories™ from social scripts, social stories (lower case s), information stories and checklists. For more information check out this presentation from Carol Gray: What is a Social Story?

Social Script Slam Book

Create a social skills slam book to help students get suggestions from valued friends instead of adults.  Below are some tips and examples:

  • Decide on the skill you want to target and develop simple questions based on the skill.  
  • Ask the student to choose a few peers he or she respects and would like to use as advisors. 
  • Include pictures of the peers and speech bubbles with the advice.  
  • Create pages for different skills making sure you include the student in the decision-making process of choosing peers. 
  • Example of skills related to face masks: 
    • When do you wear a face mask? 
    • How do you deal with the feeling of the mask on your face? How can we keep it on your face? 
    • What can we do if you need a break from the mask? 

Power Cards

Use Power Cards to use the student’s special interest/character/hero to help make sense of new routines, rules, and social situations. 

  • Gather information from the student or parent/guardian about the student’s strengths and special interests. 
  • Search online for images to use or have the parents/guardian send you pictures of the “real thing” 
  • Be creative. Perhaps you have a student who is interested in the video game Minecraft?  Perhaps find a Minecraft font to download and use. 

Students may need a reminder of why the start of the school year looks different this year. Learn together by building a common understanding of why school is not the same as when we left in March. Search for a resource that is developmentally appropriate to meet the needs of individual students. Here are some examples:

As we prepare for the future return of in-person education, face masks are often part of the plan, both for educators and for students.  While the requirement of face masks will be an adjustment for all students, you may have students who are particularly adverse to wearing them.  Below are some suggestions on how to support these students in light of new school strategies:

  • Show students that you as the teacher will also be wearing a face mask. Send a welcome letter with a picture of you with and without a face mask Have a few friends take pictures of themselves with and without masks and share with the student.  
  • Do you know someone who sews? Perhaps work with a parent who can sew or another contact with ties to your school and allow the student to choose a design that is meaningful to them. Have a few masks made and include a mask for a favorite stuffed animal, doll, superhero figurine, or friend. Start wearing the mask for short periods of time in the house or in the classroom.  
  • You can wear a hat to school! Sew buttons onto a hat, such as a baseball cap; secure the face mask elastic to the buttons to relieve pressure on the ears. Wearing a face mask might be a bummer for some students, but getting to wear a hat to school is awesome! 

    Picture from
  • Sew buttons onto a headband; secure the face masks elastic to buttons to relieve pressure on the ears.

    Picture from www.happytogether
  • There may be students that are not able to tolerate wearing face protection. Make sure adults and students understand this is what some students need. It’s not bad. It’s not wrong. If needed, create a visual that indicates this for the student to wear throughout the building. 
  • Sticker: I am not able to wear face protection. Thank you for wearing yours to keep me safe. 

Other Helpful Resources:

  • Masks for Older Students 

The need for social distancing will require different practices and habits for our students.

For example, greeting people will look different. Decide what this will look like at your school and provide examples for students.  Below are some ideas on alternative ways to say “hello”.  

  • No Touch Greeting: air hugs, wink, spirit fingers, wave, bowing, curtsy, tip our hat.  
  • No Hands Greeting: with a little touch: hip bump, elbow bump, foot bump.

 Other Helpful Resources: 

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Hygiene Etiquette for Kids: See the example below of using peers to model proper behaviors.  

Other Helpful Resources: