These 5 ideas for classroom management will make teaching easier! It’s time to set clear rules, establish routines, partner up, use hand signals, and work the room.
Set Simple Rules
Choose rules that are clear and universal. Whether you select the rules yourself or collaborate with your students, they should guarantee that everyone is safe and can learn. Less is more. Combine like rules to create a simple, universal set.
State rules in positive terms instead of negative. (Don’t say don’t ________.) Set immediate, appropriate consequences for breaking rules. Consider setting positive consequences as well. For example, whenever all in my class are doing what’s expected, they get a point toward an extra recess.
Need more ideas for rule-setting? Check out the NEA’s comprehensive list of resources in Establishing Classroom Rules.
Consider your expectations for each and every classroom situation. Here are a few from my classroom:
- Starting the Day – The bell rings at 8:10 AM. I immediately say, “Bonjour, classe.” Each student knows it’s time to come quickly and quietly to their seats. They respond, “Bonjour, madame.” After a bit more French conversation, I read the lunch choices, ask what each student wants, and explain the morning work. They get busy while I enter attendance and lunch count in the computer. Generally within a few minutes the principal comes on with the pledge and announcements.
- Asking to Go to the Bathroom – Students hold up four fingers (sign language for “B”) to ask to use the bathroom. They know not to use it when I’m teaching unless it’s an emergency. If I’m working with an individual or group, they may approach and use the hand signal. I simply nod, and off they go (without interrupting).Turning In Assignments – We have one wire basket, and all assignments go in it.
- Turning In Tests – Tests go on my desk.
- Working Independently – A single piece of paper hangs from a magnet on the board. When it’s time to work independently, I flip it to reveal Q.S.T. Everyone knows it’s now Quiet Study Time.
For a head-start on preparing classroom routines, read Scholastic’s 30 Classroom Procedures to Head Off Behavior Problems.
It’s important to reflect and rethink classroom procedures often. For example, last week a student in my class rode the bus home when he was supposed to stay for after-school care. I realized that my students needed a visual cue as to their after-school pick-up and created a PowerPoint presentation to display the information for each child.
Learning is social! Partner your students to set positive instructional flow. Jordyn Pollard of Grade 5 Greatness says:
My students sit in pairs and each student has a student number. One student is odd, the other is even. While teaching, I will say, “Odd numbers, tell your neighbor what I just said about equivalent fractions.” At that point, the odd numbered neighbor will instruct their even numbered partner. Then, I do the same thing with the evens. I love to hear them teaching their partner.
On test days, I have an “odd numbered test” and an “even numbered test.” This way the two students sitting side by side have different tests. My tests are copied on a bright color so that I can distinguish when I am grading between the two tests and the students love taking a test on something besides plain white paper!
When I need to move the students to have a different partner, I just make sure to only move the evens or the odds. This way they still end up as evens and odds sitting next to each other.
Are you wondering how to pair students? Check out Scholastic’s 15 Quick and Creative Ways to Group and Partner Students. To learn how to use Think-Pair-Share, listen to Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast on Cult of Pedagogy.
Use Hand Signals
Students often put their hands in the air to signal their desire to speak. But hand signals can be so much more! Consider using hands as learning signals, responding signals, and classroom management signals.
Learning Signals – Ask students to use their hands to show what they’re thinking. This gets everyone involved and provides meaningful feedback for the teacher. Learn more by watching this short video from the Teaching Channel.
Responding Signals – Don’t just call on one student. Find out what every child thinks. You can ask them to signal with thumbs-up or thumbs-down, use number of fingers raised for multiple choice, and so on. It’s great formative assessment!
Management Signals – Setting specific signals can keep your classroom running smoothly. You can use letters from the sign alphabet (such as “B” for bathroom, as mentioned above) or make up your own. Students can signal when they’d like to comment, have a question, need a tissue, etc. Silent signals mean less noise and less interruptions.
Work the Room
Proximity – When the teacher is nearby, students attend better. Find ways to move around as you teach. My favorite way to “work the room” is using my Mobi View. It’s great! I can write, draw, and even control my desktop from anywhere in the room.
Share the Wealth – Find ways to engage with all learners, not just the hand-raisers. Try these easy tips:
- Pay attention to who’s been answering and who hasn’t. Say, “I’d like to hear from someone new, please.”
- Scan the room, working from right to left. (Did you know that most teachers tend to call on students from one side of the room more?)
- Use the “cold call” technique. Call on students randomly, whether their hand is up or down.
- Write each student’s name on a slip of paper. Fold and place in a container. When asking questions, simply draw a name.Have everyone participate by using hand signals or mini white boards.
Every teacher needs a big bag of classroom management tricks. No set of set of strategies works the same for all groups or all situations. So pick a few, try them, add some of your own, and switch it up.