Time and time again, people have commented positively about my classroom management skills; however, I never realized this was a strength of mine, as they are things I do without really thinking about them - I guess they are automatic and just come naturally. To me, when someone mentions something I do, I just tell them that it just "makes sense." Since classroom management can make or break a teacher, I wanted to share some of the little things I do that make a BIG difference. Below, I will speak MOSTLY from an upper grades teacher perspective, but know that these same principals I have established were also used during my time as a Kindergarten teacher ;)
Building Regular Routines:
- Homeroom Arrival - model and show students what is expected as soon as they walk into your classroom; have visuals listed or a chart listed with step-by-step what should be done; once you teach and show students the routine, do not allow them to disrupt it - meaning, if they come and ask you what to do or if they forgot, simply point to the chart. If you stop to show them and not let them think and figure it out (remember you modeled it for them) then they will depend on your to do this any time. My arrival procedures are as follows:
- Place all notes to teacher or $ to teacher in the designated basket.
- Sharpen pencils and prepare all items for the day.
- Use the restroom.
- Begin morning work.
- Final Dismissal - model and show students what is expected as soon as they walk into your classroom; have visuals listed or a chart listed with step-by-step what should be done; once you teach and show students the routine, do not allow them to disrupt it - meaning, if they come and ask you what to do or if they forgot, simply point to the chart. If you stop to show them and not let them think and figure it out (remember you modeled it for them) then they will depend on your to do this any time. My arrival procedures are as follows:
- Upon teacher's direction, pack your items in book bag.
- Clean up any trash in and around your desk.
- Stack your chair and any chairs in your pod.
- Car riders line up (tell designated spot); Bus riders line up (tell designated spot).
- Class Changes Arrival - If you are departmentalized, you will have students coming and going from your class. In order to keep you sane, and to maximize time, you will want to list the TOOLS needed for class. That way, you can train them to look as they enter the room and have those items ready as they are getting seated. This saved TONS of time!! For example, under TOOLS, I might list one day: Reading Notebook, Pencil, Sticky Notes. OR another day I might list: Check out Chromebook, Reading Notebook (all depends on that day's lesson).
- Class Changes Dismissal - Same is true for dismissal... if you want to save time, have a PLAN! I always have my phone set for 5 minutes before switching classes. Once this song begins playing, students will wait for my "go" and they know to do the following: pick up trash in their area, collected their materials and return my materials, stand behind chair for table dismissal.
- Supplies - I have supplies for the class, rather than making students carry their own or having any in pods. MOST students will carry crayons or colored pencils with them, so this is the only thing I do not have. This has worked for me, and has worked well. Why change it if it works!! Due to having a class set of materials, students have the freedom to come and go to get what they need. I provide: scissors, stick glue, tape, sticky notes, highlighters, hole punch, pens, etc. The only thing they MUST sign out and back in is if they borrow a pen ;) This holds them accountable. Once I teach them this, they do it quickly and quietly, if needed. I may have 1-2 students needing to do this each class.
- Writing Utensils: I DO NOT allow students to sharpen pencils during precious class time; therefore, I do have pens in my supply area for students IF their pencil breaks and they do not have another pencil or if they misplaced theirs, they KNOW (as I model this) not to ask me for one... but they simply sign one of my pens out and back in upon dismissal.
Gaining Attention/Sustaining Engagement:
- Eyes on Teacher - This is a biggie in any classroom. You MUST have a way to get the students' attention, especially if you have a bunch of talkers! I have used many different chants, but my favorite has to be one that I allowed the students to help me come up with... "Hold up wait a minute, let us put some Fulbright in it!" I say: Hold up wait a minute; They say: Let us put some Fulbright in it. It is fun, and they LOVE it. The alternative (very quick one) I sometimes still use is 1, 2, 3, eyes on me! Find a chant you like, and stick with it. Again, train the kids or it will NOT work ;)
- Group Work - TEACH the kids how to work in a group by setting criteria for group work - meaning, ask them what it should look like and sound like if they are working in a group. Based on their responses, create a chart. Using the words GROUP can also be a great way to set criteria. Each letter can represent something for group work. Practice and refer back to chart often.
- Partner Work - Practice how to work in partners. Assign partners OR have random partners... either way, set criteria to ensure that BOTH people participate equally.
- Model/Enthusiasm - To keep students engaged, model, model, model HOW and HOW NOT to do things. Show some enthusiasm and they will want to stay with you and participate. Find out about your students so you can also incorporate their interests to sustain their attention:)
- Use Visuals - Another thing that keeps them engaged is the use of visuals, plus it will assist your ELL and Special Needs students.
- Change it up - Change up lessons... have individual tasks, group task, tasks that involve movement from time to time, tasks that involve music, use technology, etc. SPICE IT UP ;) That way, they will always want to see what's going to happen in your class each day!
- Relationships - I consider this a management skill. Building positive relationships with students is KEY to success in the classroom. If you go out of your way to know them beyond teaching them - like knowing what their interests are, then you have MORE chances of ensuring success with each child.
- The Good - Point out when students are showing positive characteristics in the classroom: "Bobby is ready to start class, as he used the TOOLS chart as soon as he entered today!" "Sarah really shows she is following the GROUP work criteria by giving others a chance to talk." etc. These little reminders will encourage all students. REALLY try to point out a struggling child... this can go a long way.
- The Bad - You will have times where a student does not want to get started on their work, are stalling, are bothering others, perhaps. What do you do? First, DO NOT SWEAT THE LITTLE THINGS... meaning, if it is something that is not hindering their learning or the learning of others, ignoring it is always a great idea. Sometimes they just want attention - and it is good not to make it a habit of giving them that negative attention. If it is interfering with learning, send them on a short errand to refocus their thinking. These usually help me! Then, there are some times that are unavoidable... The Ugly!
- The Ugly - You may come across a stinker who may just be defiant or have some emotional issues, etc. If this is the case and you have exhausted all efforts OR if students are in danger, you need to contact the office and have the student removed. I have had to do little of this, as I believe ALL my other routines, structure, and building of relationships helps to prevent this from happening.
- Proximity - ANY time you have a transition, it is MOST important to BE in the hallway during the transition. Staying in your room and thinking they will get to the next location without difficulties (or because you have something last minute you need to do) IS a HUGE mistake. They need your body in view - this is a BIG deal. Any time I have visible during a transition, there are no issues. The only time I have seen a transition issue is when an adult was still in their room when sending the kids on to their next location... so BE there!! BE visible!
- Time Matters - Another important part of transitions is for ALL team members to synchronize their clocks (phones are great for this) to ensure all classes are ready and switching at the same time. If one is early and another is late, students waiting will get into trouble (leads back to the proximity tip;) and that will lead to one teacher having to watch over two classes (the one leaving and the one coming - NOT GOOD)! Avoid this as much as possible.
Practice Makes Perfect (Close to Perfect):
One of my GOLDEN RULES is that nothing will work unless you are willing to invest time at the BEGINNING of the school year to practice ALL procedures and routines until they are done correctly!!!! DO NOT SKIP THIS! For lower grades (when I taught Kindergarten) it took me at least a week to establish smooth routines. For upper grades, a couple of days. DO NOT assume the teacher previous to you taught this. DO NOT assume students already know these things. THESE are BIG mistakes. If for some reason they 'get it' and do it right and later begin to slack off - be willing to STOP immediately and practice that routine. This does not happen often IF you ensure it is automatic the first few days of school ;) TRUST ME... the time you spend doing this WILL pay off in the long run and save valuable instructional time throughout the year!
There are SO many classroom management skills that I am sure I have not mentioned, so IF there is a specific routine that I did not cover (these were the first to come to mind), then please post a comment below and I will be happy to add any other routines!! I hope the information above will assist someone in some way! Thanks :)