Struggling to keep your students engaged and focused? This post shares some classroom management strategies that will help you boost engagement, build community, and handle consequences fairly.
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When I started out as a teacher, I thought I was in control of my classroom. I thought that because I was the adult the kids would listen to me.
LOL I was SO wrong.
I learned during my second year of teaching that I’m not really in control of my classroom at all. In fact, I had four students who pretty much controlled our classroom.
It was frustrating, difficult, and challenging to work through.
But eventually, through working with mentors and behavior interventionists, I was able to come up with some classroom management strategies that managed my kids AND kept me sane!
One of the ideas I implemented was rewarding my students as frequently as every ten minutes.
If we could go for ten minutes, with less than ten interruptions, we got to celebrate with a class dance party! (This was back in the day before GoNoodle was a popular thing and I actually had to pull up “I’m a Gummy Bear” on YouTube.
What I learned through this experience, though, is that not all students or classes are the same. What worked for me in Year 1 did not work for me in Year 2.
What is Classroom Management
I admit, when I got into teaching, I thought classroom management was simply the handing out of consequences and rewarding kids for good behavior.
I didn’t realize there are many factors that go into effective classroom management.
The definition of classroom management provided by the book Setting Limits in the Classroom really does a great job of explaining what all it entails.
“Classroom management is a very broad and inclusive term that refers to the full range of things teachers do to organize people, materials, space and time for the purpose of teaching.”Setting limits in the classroom
Inside my course, The Organized Teacher Framework™, I teach the classroom set up process with the analogy of a cake.
Each layer must we well planned out and implemented before the next layer can go on.
No matter what time of year it is, if classroom management is something you are struggling with then you need to take the time to map out your specific plans.
Classroom Management Strategies for Elementary
Of course, you can’t do classroom management without having plans to manage behavior, reward, and hand out consequences (which we’ll talk about in just a second!).
You also want to ensure you have plans for creating a positive community in your classroom.
Build Community in Your Classroom
One of my favorite classroom management strategies is simply to just build community. It’s a simple idea but it’s not easy to do.
Creating and fostering a community where your students feel safe and welcome involves taking time to figure out what your students need individually, and as a group.
A few ways I like to build classroom community is by:
- Having class meetings frequently (2 to 4 times a week, depending on the week)
- Working together for a common goal (fundraising for a project, fixing up the school garden, etc.)
- Doing Team Builders and Class Builders (Silly Sports and Goofy Games is my favorite resource to use)
- Using cooperative learning in the majority of my lessons
Cooperative Learning is different from Group Work.
I did a whole episode on it that you can listen to here. But essentially cooperative learning is giving each student in a group a responsibility. This responsibility requires the students to work together to complete an assignment.
You can learn more about Cooperative Learning with my interview with Dr. Kagan himself!
What Kinds of Rules Will You Use?
I never actually used rules in my classroom because it felt like there would need to be a bajillion rules in order to make sure kids knew everything they could and couldn’t do.
Instead, we used a social contract where we decided as a class how we wanted to handle situations. Then, we all signed it.
When students were running in the hallway, I didn’t need to tell them they “broke a rule.” Instead, I could remind them of our contract and agreeing to keep ourselves and each other safe.
How to Handle Consequences
It is equally important that you have a plan for handling consequences.
I am of the mindset that taking away recess is never really an acceptable consequence. Instead, I want to assign a consequence that matches the behavior.
Above I mentioned the importance of building community as a way to keep students engaged and well managed.
Another important classroom management strategy is to follow through with any consequences you assign.
When I see teachers who struggle to have a good handle on their classroom (not control, cause remember, we never totally have complete control!), I notice that these teachers don’t follow through.
Consistency is KEY to keeping your students engaged and well managed.
If you tell a student that they have one more chance to complete their work, but don’t hold them accountable when they don’t turn it in, then that student (and others) start to understand that they can get away with more than you let on.
4 Types of Behavior Management Plans
Don’t just think through how you will manage your kids, actually take time to write it out for each of the 4 types of behavior management plans.
- Whole Group
- Small Group
- Individual Plan
- Student Plan
It’s important to have a plan for each of the types of plans even if you are not implementing them all at the same time.
You may not have any kiddos this year with behavior needs that require you to set up a “student plan” for that specific student. Your “individual plan” might be working enough for all of your kids to hold them accountable to themselves.
Wheel of Choice
The last classroom management strategy I want to share is the Wheel of Choice.
The Wheel of Choice is something you and your students work on together to come up with solutions to conflict. This way, instead of students bothering you with an issue going on between them and another student, they have a place to go and see their options.
This is just another way in which kids start to buy in to the classroom, engage with the community, and stay motivated.
Free Classroom Management Trainings
Linda Kardamis, from Teach 4 the Heart, has two great classroom management trainings you can sign up for.
First up is Classroom Management Solutions which is a 101 type training on classroom management. If you are new to teaching or are struggling with keeping your students engaged, this is the training to check out.
The second training, Respectful, Responsible, and Engaged, is for the teacher who has a good classroom management plan in place but is looking to build a stronger classroom community where students regulate themselves and each other.
Classroom management isn’t just about being “in control” of your classroom and ensuring your students do what you ask them to do.
Above I mentioned five of my favorite classroom management strategies:
- Build community with brain breaks, team builders, class meetings, and cooperative learning
- Create rules (or a social contract) to hold kids accountable
- Actually hold students accountable with appropriate consequences
- Create 4 types of behavior management plans
- Implement the Wheel of Choice
Here is a quick recap of all the links shared in this post:
- Group Work vs. Cooperative Learning Explained
- Simply Teach Podcast Interview with Dr. Kagan
- 4 Must-Have Behavior Management Plans
- How to Handle Consequences in the Classroom
- Ideas for Building Community in Your Classroom
Until next time,