It’s December! You know what that means: holiday parties, hot cocoa, gift giving, and unruly classrooms. Yep, I said it! Unruly classrooms! Friends, it is that time of year when the honeymoon period is over, and you are seeing another side of your students. On top of that, you are tired—teacher-tired! You are so ready for winter break—if it ever decides to come!
While most of the time, I’m sure your students are amazing, there are those times that have you thinking, “Why am I a teacher again?” Before you start googling “careers after teaching,” take a look at the following classroom management tips and tricks for any situation:
If your problem is getting interrupted every five seconds, it might be time to revamp your management system. Kids love challenges, so try to incorporate challenges throughout the day to help keep them quiet and on task. I am a big fan of giving out table points with a reward of a lunch bunch or small treat (a piece of candy, a new eraser, stickers, etc.). I will often give out multiple table points as well as positively narrate when I see students quietly working while completely ignoring tables that may not be as quiet. Usually when those rowdier tables see other tables racking up the points, they get on board the quiet train.
Another method I’ve found that works well in my fifth grade classroom are attention getters. These could be claps, chants, or a combination of both. If it’s too loud in the classroom, I will say “Fifth grade focus up!” and in response the kids slam the table two times, clap two times, and then put up the peace sign. They know that I absolutely will not move on until it is quiet and their attention is on me. I can then quickly remind them of the expectation for independent work, silent reading, group work, etc.
Fortnite, holidays, winter break, Roblox…the list could go on. Our students would much rather be doing and thinking about anything other than writing a personal narrative or learning how to multiply decimals. This can lead to disengagement in the classroom (and behavior problems). To combat the disengagement slump I’m sure many of us teachers are feeling, try to incorporate a few fun activities for the kids look forward to. For example, I surprised my students with Flashlight Friday. I had noticed my students were just not as engaged in their independent reading as they had been in September and October. To promote higher engagement, I blacked out my windows with trash bags, told each student to get their independent book, gave each one a flashlight, turned out the lights, and told them they would be reading by flashlight. I’m not even exaggerating when I say you could hear a pin drop for a solid 45 minutes. Now, they ask if we can do that every day! While we obviously can’t, I have noticed an increase in engagement during independent reading time.
Other ways to increase engagement include playing music during independent work, allowing time for brain breaks, and giving choices to students (for example, choice of writing prompt to answer). The science teacher in my school also gives his students lab coats to wear on experiment days so they feel like real scientists.
Argumentative students are always challenging to deal with, especially when tackling all of the other issues related to classroom management. While in the heat of the moment, it might feel good to argue back or tell a student they are wrong, but that's definitely not the best strategy. When faced with an argumentative student, remain calm. Refer back to your rules and consequences (if you don’t have any in your classroom or school, now is a good time to make and implement them). There is no room for an argument to occur when there are clear rules and consequences. After stating rules and consequences, walk away. Even if the student still wants to argue. I have found that walking away helps the student understand they are in the wrong while also giving me the time I need to calm down and regain composure. Students will begin to understand that arguing will get them nowhere in your classroom.
What classroom management strategies do you have? What other problems are you facing?