There are two times during the school year that I usually go searching for new classroom management ideas to pull out of my “bag.” These times are August as I implement new (or reimplement old ones) and April when the usual classroom management systems don’t quite have the same “oomph” and students start to get a little antsy as the year comes to a close. Welcome to April, teacher friends! I thought today we would discuss some simple classroom management tips to create a classroom management system that will last all year round OR just help you spice up your routines as we all crawl towards summer break.
GIVE EVERYTHING A HOME
As you begin the school year, it is very important to give everything a home. Make sure that important items that you use often have a place where they stay so that students are able to easily locate or put away. After the beginning of the school year, I try not to rearrange my classroom. Occasionally, I will notice small things that need to change in order for our school day to run more smoothly. For example, maybe the pencil sharpener should go on the other side of the table for students to reach better or morning work by the door is easier for them to grab on the way in. Small changes like this are inevitable, but I try to avoid complete room rearranges throughout the school year. This way, students know what to expect every time they enter the classroom. This is key to smooth transitions when switching from activity to another or grabbing supplies quickly!
Pro Tips: Keep an “extras station” in your classroom. This is where you can keep extra supplies that students may need to replenish throughout the day. If students know where to find these extra supplies, this will save interruptions in the middle of your lesson because someone needs a pencil sharpened or a marker “ran out.”
STAY ON TRACK
I know it may be tempting to take a few extra moments to sip your coffee in peace even though students are finishing up an assignment. Believe me, sometimes we NEED that extra 60 seconds to savor a sip. However, it is a risk you must be willing to take. As teachers if we are not “on” at all times, things can get out of control. I have noticed that letting an activity go a little too long with a more free time than usual can make for a squirrely bunch of kiddos. Of course, sometimes there are things teachers need to accomplish that simply take a little more time and these moments are necessary. For example, we are reassessing our reading levels this week and sometimes you just cannot predict how long it will take a Kindergarten student to read a short book. For the most part, I try to stay on track with our schedule and time our activities so that there is not too much free time in between. This ensures students are on task and engaged!
Pro Tip: Have “Early Finisher” work prepared. There are always a few that will finish an activity quickly and will need something to do. Have some early finisher activities that you have introduced to students, so that whenever they finish an activity early they know what to do!
HAVE A PLAN
Prepare, prepare, prepare! Aright, I realize that not everyone finds a ridiculous amount of joy when seeing a perfectly put together lesson plan for the day. I may be a little weird. BUT I promise there is a method to my madness! When you are a teacher, the only constant is that things will never go EXACTLY as planned. However, I have learned that having a plan in place makes the day run more smoothly and I am able to feel more organized. Too much free time can quickly turn into meltdowns and chaos in the classroom. Keep students engaged, have a plan and a back up plan in place! The more years you have under your belt, the more tricks you have up your sleeve to pull out in a moment’s notice!
Pro Tip: Prepare for your lessons ahead of time as well! If there is a craft coming up that requires many parts, put them out ahead of time, or make your example before you begin the lesson, etc. This may be a little extra work in the beginning, but it makes for a MUCH smoother lesson. You won’t know what to do with yourself when everyone is working calmly and you aren’t scrambling to prepare! Take that moment to savor that sip of coffee, friend!
Try some fun incentives to spice up your classroom management system! Here are a few I’ve put into place this year:
Desk pets are trending in the teacher world right now! STudents go crazy for mini erasers shaped like animals. Every class is different, but in my class when students earn this reward, they are able to choose one animal eraser as a “desk pet”. They store these cute pets in their desk pet bin. The desk pets can stay in their home and watch them work throughout the day. During free time students are allowed to bring their desk pets out to play with them for a few moments – they LOVE it!
Kerplunk is one of our favorites for a reward system! I love Kerplunk because we make this a team effort. We do not earn pulling a Kerplunk stick at the end of the day unless we have all worked together as a team to make it happen. Once we have pulled all of the sticks, the marbles fall and students have earned a reward! Buy your own Kerplunk game HERE!
Fluency and Fitness
If you need a fun reward that is also educational and easy to grab – try Fluency and Fitness! In our class, when students have earned a reward, they get to choose which Fluency and Fitness we do for the day! This is a great way to review concepts while having fun, plus their dance moves are priceless!
CREATE A SAFE PLACE
In order for students to ____ they have to know they can trust you and feel secure in their environment. It is important to create a classroom environment full of love, positivity and grace. We all make mistakes and students need to know that while there are logical consequences to poor choices, we love them just the same. Slow down, speak with them at eye level, take a moment to be sure they understand what you are asking of them, let them know that everyone makes mistakes and it is ok.
TAKE A BREAK SPOT
There are moments when emotions take over and we all just need time to breath. Create a space in your classroom specifically for these moments. I tell my students they do not even need to ask to go to our “Take a Break” spot. If they are feeling emotional, overly sad, angry, or overwhelmed. They can walk to our break spot and use a few moments to take a breath and reset before coming back to their seat and continuing our lesson. Students feel safe in this spot and learn to self-regulate while dealing with everything the school day brings.
Check out our previous posts with some classroom tips for your Morning Meeting routine.