Teachers, Start Your Engines:
Management Tips from the Pit Crew
Who said classroom management has to be boring? The editors at Education World offer successful classroom management strategies to get your year off to a great start and keep your classroom running smoothly throughout the entire year. Included: tips for taking attendance, motivating students, rewarding good behavior, and more!
Every teacher knows that the right strategies can make the difference between a calm classroom and a classroom in constant chaos. Teachers in well-organized classrooms in which students know and follow clearly defined rules and routines spend less time disciplining and more time teaching. To help keep your classroom running like a well-oiled machine in the coming year, we’ve collected some successful — and often fun — classroom management techniques from teachers across the country and around the world.
START THE DAY THE RIGHT WAY
Words of welcome. Many teachers have found that the best way to start each day is by greeting students at the door. A warm personal welcome sets the tone for the day and gives the teacher a chance to assess each student’s mood and head off problems before they start. One teacher reports that she offers her younger students a choice of three greetings — a handshake, a high five, or a hug. Their responses, she says, tell her a lot about how each student is feeling that day.A sea of calm. Kids who arrive at school wound up or upset often calm down, experienced teachers say, if classical music is playing as they enter the classroom. Some teachers also turn the lights down low and project the morning’s brainteaser or bell ringer activity onto the chalkboard with an overhead projector. That spotlight in the dimly lit room helps focus students’ attention on the day ahead.
TIME’S A WASTIN’!
For most teachers, there are never enough hours in a day. Saving even a few minutes of your time can make a big difference in what you accomplish this year.Make it up. When distributing work sheets, place copies in folders for absent students. At the end of the day, simply label each folder with the absent students’ names, and missed work is ready for the students’ return.
Would you sign in, please? Avoid time-consuming attendance routines by following the technique used by a Washington teacher. Write each child’s name on a strip of tag board, laminate it, and glue a magnet to the back. Each day, post a question and possible answers on a whiteboard. Students can “sign in” by placing their magnets in the appropriate answer column. Questions might be personal, such as “Do you own a pet?”; trivial, such as “What was the name of the Richie’s mother on Happy Days?”; or curriculum related.
Make attendance count. If you prefer to take attendance individually, make it meaningful. Instead of calling out students’ names and waiting for them to say “Here,” ask each student a quick question related to the previous day’s work.
WHERE’S MY PENCIL?
The average teacher spends $400 a year of his or her own money on classroom supplies. At that price, holding on to the supplies you have can be a priority. But who has time to search every child’s backpack for borrowed pencils? These teacher-tested techniques can save your money and your sanity.Forget-me-nots. A South Dakota teacher uses floral tape to attach large silk flowers to the tops of the pens and pencils she keeps for student use — turning the writing tools into hard-to-forget flowers. The “flowers,” kept in a vase on the teacher’s desk, also serve to brighten up the room.
Do you have a shoe to spare? If you find the flower pens cumbersome, try the technique used by an Iowa teacher. She allows students who forget their pens or pencils to borrow one — if they give her one of their shoes. Students only get the shoe back when they return the pencil. No half-shod student ever forgets to return that borrowed pencil!
Neither a borrower nor a lender be. This tip comes from one of Education World’s regular contributors. It developed, says Brenda Dyck, a teacher at Masters Academy and College, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, because she grew tired of dealing with students who came to class without pencils, texts, or homework. In Dyck’s classroom, each student starts the term with 100 points toward a “Preparedness Grade.” If they come to class with a pen or pencil, textbook, and completed homework, they get to keep the 100 points. Every time they show up without any one of those things, however, one point is subtracted from their grade. The students’ report cards include a category called “preparedness,” which counts toward their final grade. “For some reason, keeping their 100 points is quite motivational for my middle school students,” Dyck says. “Unprepared students have become almost nonexistent in my classes. I’ve been amazed!”
Discipline problems, experienced teachers say, can be greatly reduced if students are properly motivated — to come to school, to arrive on time, and to work diligently while they’re there. Some simple techniques can make doing the right thing even more fun than misbehaving.Round ‘em up. First you have to get them there. Discourage absenteeism by randomly choosing one student’s desk or chair each day and placing a sticker beneath it. The student who arrives to find the sticker under his or her seat gets to choose a small prize. If the student is absent, of course, the prize is forfeited. (And the other students are always happy to pass along that news!)
Can you spell homework? A simple group motivation technique can be helpful in encouraging students to complete their homework. Every day all students in the class complete their homework assignments, write one letter of the word homework on the chalkboard. When the word is completed, treat the entire class to a special reward.
Not a minute to waste. Do you find yourself losing precious minutes as you attempt to change activities, line up for specials, or return from recess? Tell students that they are going to be rewarded for the time they don’t waste during the day. Explain that you will give them 3 minutes a day of wasted time. They can use up that time each day or save it up and use it for something special. Agree on something students could do with the “wasted” time and decide how much time they will need to save for that special event. Tell students that as soon as they’ve saved the required amount of time, they will be able to hold their special event. Each day, give students three minutes. When they waste time during the day, start a stopwatch, time the amount of time wasted, and subtract it from the three minutes. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your students learn the value of a minute!
YOU DONE GOOD!
Many new teachers make the mistake of thinking that discipline is all about dealing with poor behavior. In reality, the best discipline is the kind that encourages good behavior. Try one of these strategies for encouraging students to do the right thing.The victory dance. At the beginning of the year, help students create a classroom victory dance. When you want to reward them, either individually or as a group, allow them a minute or two to perform the dance.
Cheers. Reward students for good work and good behavior with a silent cheer.
And the winner is … Throughout the week, “catch” students in the act of doing something good — whether it’s good work or a good deed. Write down each student’s name and good behavior on a slip of paper, and place it in a jar. At the end of the week, draw a few names from the jar and hand out small prizes to the winners of the drawing.
I spy. Create character “tickets” by writing the words I Spy, along with a list of positive character traits, on slips of paper. When you see a student demonstrating one of those traits, circle the trait and write the student’s name on the paper. At the end of each month, count the papers and name the student with the most tickets “student of the month.” Display his or her picture on a classroom bulletin board, and at the end of the year, reward all students of the month with a pizza party or another special treat.
Poppin’ good. Each time the entire class receives a compliment from another teacher, completes their homework, or behaves particularly well, place a small scoop of un-popped popcorn in a jar. When the jar is full, have a popcorn party.
NOW YOU’RE COOKING!
What are you going to do with all those great tips to make sure you don’t forget them? Print this article and cut it up into individual suggestions. Paste each idea to an index card and file them under an appropriate category in a recipe box. It’s a sure-fire “recipe” for a successful year!