I love structures and routines. I feel like each year I add more and more, and they really do help the class run well, giving scaffolds for discussion and groupwork and classwork etc.
I also think the start of class is very important. It’s like a first impression you’re making each day. So, a few years back, I started each class with a moment of silence. I wanted students to pause, put aside all the stress of other classes, friend drama, hallway noise, etc, and get their mind ready and focused on my class.
But that wasn’t enough. I wanted something that was genuinely me/math/my class. Thus began the mathetation (think meditation). At the start of every class, the lights go off, students pause whatever they are doing, I ring a (virtual) gong, and we mathetate. At the start of the year, the chant may just be spelling the word math (M-A-T-H) in a slow chanty voice or reciting a few digits of pi (3 point 1 4 1 5 …) similarly. Later in the year it can turn into repeating a formula or fact that students should be becoming fluent with (quadratic formula, sin(pi/4), law of cosines). So, not only are they focusing on math class, they are also having a chance to recite a formula out loud twice a day. I’m helping them study! Also, after a few weeks of school, this (as well as the end of class) is student run. My two students of the week (I call them the Newton Award Honorees), choose and lead the mathetation.
It’s cheesy. Kids roll their eyes…but they (and I) love it. Once last year when I was absent, the sub was passing out the work to them, and they insisted that she turn out the lights and mathetate with them before they could begin!