Updated: May 18
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***This blog post was written by my virtual assistant, Kristina, a first grade teacher in Canada.***
Classroom management is definitely a buzz word in the education world, and I understand why. How many of us have had a class that seems unruly or misbehaved at times? How many of us have had to revamp things to make our routines work for our class? Each group of students is so different and sometimes the strategies used one year don't work the next, but that’s the beauty of teaching. Each year...strike that, each day…. is different and sometimes we just have to try something new. So I thought I’d put together a list of 10 of my favorite management strategies.
1. Teach Attention Grabbing Routines at the Beginning of the School Year
During the first week of school, I like to teach my attention grabbing routines. I usually have three or four attention grabbers. One year, I started out with just one attention grabber and my students stopped listening because it was “getting old”. Thus, I decided to use a few attention grabbers so I could have options. Here are some of my go-tos:
Clapping in a pattern and students repeat and put their hands on their head. I like having students put their hands on their head because then they stop what they are doing.
Chants such as “One, Two, Three, Eyes on me” and students say “One, Two, Eyes on You” or “Hands on Top” and students say “Everyone stop!”
Flicking the lights
Singing a song to the tune of Frere Jacques that’s an echo between students and teacher
Teacher: Are you listening?
Student: Are you listening?
Teacher: Yes, I am
Student: Yes, I am
Teacher: (give whatever instruction you want): Put your hands on your head
Students: (repeats whatever instruction you give): Put your hands on your head
Teacher: (continue giving instruction) Eyes on me)
Student: Eyes on you
2. Specify a Line Up Order
My students are constantly saying “He budged” or “I want to be at the front”. I’ve even had students in tears because they never get to be at the front. So, to combat this, I’ve made a line order. I usually do it in alphabetical order. However, some years, I’ve had to create my own order because the two “J” names fight when they’re together. Having a line order stops all arguments. Sometimes, I’ve switched up the line order half way through the year where I just simply reverse it….the kids at the back get a chance to be at the front.
3. Use Designated Turn In Bins for Each Subject
I have bins at the front of my classroom for each assignment we are working on. There is a bin for Math, Language, Handwriting, Science, etc. When the students have finished something, they put it in the bin. This frees up a lot of time from students asking “Where do I put this?” because the students know right away where to put things.
4. Set Up Early Finisher Tasks and Activities
There are so many awesome resources on TpT for early finisher tasks. I’ve seen teachers make binders for kids with activities, booklets with activities or have bins with activities. I think these are great ideas. I also like to have early finisher tasks that I don’t need to replenish. I have a running list of activities my students can choose from when they finish an assignment. The first thing on the list is to finish anything from earlier in the day. Once they have finished any unfinished work, then they can choose things like playdough, puzzles, drawing or reading. I recently wrote a blog post all about early finisher tasks, so be sure to check it out! Note from Kelsea: My 4th graders loved doing these types of logic puzzles as an early finisher activity (and now my 8 and 10 year old love doing them at home). I ran off copies of all my logic puzzles at the beginning of the year and kept them in a file folder system in the back of the classroom where students could grab the one they were up to when they had free time.
5. Use a Timer
I often set a timer during quiet work time. This way, students can visually see how long they are expected to work. Otherwise, the quiet work time seems endless to them. Here’s a great visual timer that I love. Note from Kelsea: I also used this timer with my students in the resource room and it really helped keep students on task as they could visually see the time running out. If you don't want to buy a timer you can also find some online count down timers.
6. Establish a Morning Routine...and Routine for Transitions
I like to have morning work on my students’ desks for when they come in the door. This way, they know what is expected of them. They put their things away and get started on their morning work. This gives me about 15-30 minutes (depending on the morning work task) to chat with parents, greet students, or collect homework/notices. I like this routine for getting settled. I also have routines for transitions, such as “By the time I finish singing this song, I expect that you will have a pencil out and be sitting at your desk”. Then I sing a little song that the kids know. Note from Kelsea: I also love morning work activities like these to get the brain moving early! I also had my students take time in the morning to sharpen their pencils to cut down on pencil sharpener interruptions during the day.
7. Purpose, Purpose, Purpose
I find that students are more willing to engage in an activity if they know why they are doing it. For instance, doing math drills can be boring for some kids. But if you explain to students the purpose behind the math drills, they are more likely to engage. I explain, “I know that not everyone is a fan of math drills, but the more we practice them the quicker we will get with our math facts. Then when we get to trickier math, we will know our facts really well which will help us solve harder problems.” I also like to follow a “boring” activity with a more exciting one.
8. Monitor Noise Level
There are some really fun ways to monitor noise level. Check out these websites:
Or you might want to check out this traffic light noise monitor from Amazon. It’s a bit pricey, but the reviews seem good. I haven’t tried this one, but if you have one, let me know what you think of it.
9. Teach About the Brain
At the beginning of the year, I like to teach my students about the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. I teach them that the prefrontal cortex is the decision maker of the brain and the amygdala is like a light switch for emotions. When we are feeling frustrated or upset, the amygdala turns off the prefrontal cortex and we might make bad choices. When we are feeling calm and good, the amygdala turns on the prefrontal cortex and we are able to make good decisions. I know this is a really simplistic explanation of the brain, but it works for young kids. From here, I teach them strategies to “calm their brains down”. I teach them that if they aren’t able to make a good decision for themselves, I’ll help them so we can work together to calm their brain down. I find that once students understand what is happening in their brain, they can explain themselves better. This language empowers them to take control of their actions as well.
10. Let Them Talk
The four foundational skills of language learning are reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Before young children are able to read and write they need ample opportunities to express themselves verbally. So we need to let our young students talk. Try to carve out times in the day when students can just talk and share their thoughts. You might be surprised at what they share!
Do you have any other classroom management tips that work well for you? I’d love to hear about them!
Here are a Few of our Favorite Classroom Management Activities...
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This blog post was written with the help of my V.A., Kristina, a first grade teacher in Canada.
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