Artists deliberately set up routines

The artists used routines to create atmosphere and as a way of being in the activity as a group. Routines were a way to get the group performing with one responsive voice and one networked body. Artists’ routines were distinctively different to everyday classroom routines; they often reinforced norms from their disciplines – such as rehearsal and warm-up in dance.

A story of routine

Mike collects the children from their classroom and walks them to the drama room where they always work. They are a mixed age group of children, from five to seven years old and the twenty five or so of them are accompanied by a teacher and two teaching assistants. Once into the drama room Mike clears the central space and then asks the children and staff to form a standing circle. Every session begins in this way. Mike begins with a ‘zip’ where a zip and gesture is passed around the circle, first one way and then the other. This is followed by some imaginary zip tossing around the circle and then some chanting, often accompanied by rhythmic clapping.

Mike: DO you want a cup of tea?
Children: YES, I want a cup of tea.
Mike: WOULD you like a cup of tea?
Children: YES I’d like a cup of tea
Mike: UH uh uh uh uh uh uh
Children: UH uh uh uh uh uh uh

This is a well-established routine and is used with variations throughout the session as means of focusing children’s energy and attention and transitioning from one activity to another.

The rhythmic nature of the activity in the circle is important, as are the nonsensical words that are used. The circle is fun and in the moment. There is no embarrassment in saying or doing ridiculous things, as everyone is doing them. The circle requires concentration and engages the whole body. The pleasure of the activity is in being part of a whole. It also positions Mike as leading activities without him resorting to any direct ‘teacherly’ instruction and it brings the group to order without any need for overt disciplinary intervention. It is the combination of routine collective fun, mind and body that makes repeating this activity not simply bearable, but also positively anticipated.

Video materials

A selection of videos from our Vimeo channel on the use of routine can be viewed below.