Summer is Here!

Summer is here! The school year is over, grades are posted and things are packed up awaiting the fall. This is the perfect time to reflect on the past year. There are two specific areas that I like to consider and assess how to improve or be more efficient. It’s generally easier for me to do this at the end of the year when things are still fresh.

Classroom management

  • Review your classroom rules. Were there rules that were repeatedly broken? Were there rules that were not needed?  Each year your group of students will pose different challenges (fidget spinners, water bottle toss, slime) that you will need to set boundaries for.
  • Recognition and consequences – Decide before the year starts how you will handle consequences. If something didn’t work in the past, ditch it and move on to something new. Make sure to use recognition of hard work and appropriate behavior as part of your classroom management and I don’t mean the typical, “I like the way so and so is doing whatever.” It must be genuine and specific. For me, I like to recognize students when they show growth in a certain area, academic or behavioral. We all like to be recognized when we’ve worked hard and achieved a goal.

Classroom Efficiency and Routines

  • Collecting work from students and getting it back to them after grading was tricky for me my first year back in the classroom. It took several attempts to get to something I could live with, but as I look back, there has to be a better way.  Is instruction time wasted when students turn in work? With little counter space, there wasn’t much room for separate bins for each subject, so it all got jumbled together. I spent time sorting and searching for papers from students. My goal for returning work was to get it back to them with notes for improvement. This was nearly impossible without a set filing system. Try different filing systems (milk crate with folders, magazine holders taped together, mailbox boxes) and find one that works for you. Change it if it isn’t working!
  • Getting students ready for the day is one of the key priorities. I start day one of the school year with an agenda on the board. When students enter the room they look at the board and read directions. I list all of the supplies and books they will need for the day. I also have a short assignment for them to complete. This is their time to get ready for the day and there is no talking allowed, I stress the importance of focusing and getting prepared and organized for the day. This time also allows me time to take attendance and take care of any notes or last minute issues with students. Most importantly it gives me the opportunity to greet each student and make sure they know I’m glad they are at school!

Make notes of things you’ll want to try and tweak for the beginning of the school year. Remember it’s easier to reflect and jot down any changes you want to make as you wrap up the year.


The Morning Meeting

The Morning Meeting.  Establishing routines is a key to accomplishing goals in the elementary setting.  For many children, school may be the first environment where they’ve encountered a structured schedule.   The more you can create rhythms, habits and routines, the more quickly your students will learn to self-regulate their own time and energy, follow procedures, and achieve learning objectives.f2755a29d5f2d21057d9fb6be5252123

I like to start every day with a morning ritual that includes a greeting, daily agenda, goals for the day, and a sharing time.

Set the Tone.  I take about two minutes to welcome the group and give them an overview of what’s happening that day.  Use a positive tone to start the day upbeat, but make sure you’re businesslike and professional so they know that it’s time to get focused. Your manner will help kids focus their energy from “arrival” mode into “learning” mode.  

Daily Agenda.  Depending on what you’re teaching, try to identify two or three specific goals to highlight.  If something unique is going on during the day (a fire drill, a guest, or special activity) be sure to mention that too and quickly remind children about rules or procedures that might relate.  Be brief and stick to the big picture items. Kids will lose interest if you detail every individual piece of the day.

Care to Share.  The morning is a good time to encourage your students to report on things going on in their lives (if something big has happened, a child will want to share it anyway, and it might interrupt a lesson later in the day.)  Have a “baton” (it could be a stuffed animal, toy or special object) that you can pass around from child to child; if they don’t have anything to say, they can pass it on to the next person.  If you have a class of introverts, you might create a schedule or provide topics or prompts for certain students to prepare for in advance.


Practice, Practice, Practice

Classroom management takes up a significant part of most teachers’ day. To me there is a significant difference between classroom management and behavior management. Behavior management is when you are responding to, encouraging and correcting the student’s response to classroom rules and not being a distraction to themselves or others.

Classroom management are the things that contribute to the smooth operation of the learning environment.  (Though they are related — how you manage the classroom often affects student behavior.)  Classroom management can include aspects of the lesson you’ve prepared, procedures for material distribution, leaving and entering the classroom, expectations for behavior both inside and outside of the room.21833569

Just as each student in your class is different, so are teachers.  A teacher who has young learners for the entire day has a different set of demands than one in upper grades who may “share” the child with other teachers over the course of the day. Each teacher’s rules, attitude, demeanor and approach will vary.  As a result, you need to be very explicit in what you expect from your students, and set your own procedures that work best for you and your students.  If you aren’t proactive in mastering classroom management, the class will manage you!

Taking time to devise simple routines can pay big dividends.  Talk specifically with students about tasks that they will do every day.  Set clear and consistent expectations for the following:

  • What to do at the beginning of class
  • How you handle passing out papers
  • Turning in assignments
  • Lining up
  • Leaving class for the restroom
  • Transitioning from task to task
  • Packing up at the end of class
  • What to do if an assignment is completed early

Non-instructional time can open the door for misbehavior; setting expectations at the start of the year can eliminate unwanted behavior later on.

Try to think of all the activities that constitute a typical day.  Write down what you would expect for each to go smoothly and efficiently, and list everything you’d like the students to know and what their role should be. Arrange the room to accommodate this plan. 

Here’s the most important part:  on the first day of school announce that you will be explaining the procedures for the class.  (If you call them rules there will be at least one kid whose mind will instantly start plotting ways to break them!)  Start by discussing what a procedure is — using examples like video games, sports or playing an instrument.  (In video games, you have to learn how to use the controller, create your character, and have enough memory on the card to store your progress.)  Equate these rote activities with positive outcomes, explain the procedure in detail, and then practice. Keep practicing until they get it right. Give lots of verbal praise for successes, and instruct with specifics when things go south. 

On the second day of school, practice the procedures again; let’s see who can remember them.  Then practice!  For the first week or two of school, practicing procedures is one of the most important things you can do.  Once the procedures are habitual, learning can follow.  Sure, you are giving up some instruction time, but the investment will pay off in spades.  As winter break approaches and other teachers are having to ‘remind’ students how to behave, your class will be sailing through their objectives.  You will gain back that “lost” instruction time as the year progresses.

You may have to practice once or twice again after winter break, but having solid procedures in place will alleviate stress.  An added benefit will be on the day you have a substitute, your class will run smoothly because your students are in the habit of following the procedures.