SCHOOL IS OUT FOR THE SUMMER… Now is the perfect time to plan for the fall!
Back-to-school planning starts long before you hear the pitter-patter of eager little feet on the students’ first day of school.
As most experienced teachers will tell you, the end of the school year is the best time to reflect upon what went right and what adjustments need to be made for the upcoming year. It is also the best time to start thinking about how to better manage your classroom.
Classroom management can make or break any school experience, for teachers and students alike. So teachers, spend a little time this summer taking a look back at what did and didn’t work last year. Here are some tips to help make the transition into the new school year a successful one.
Provide Structure Through Clear And Transparent Procedures
Structure is an essential part of classroom management, and the best way to provide it is through clear and transparent procedures. Every part of the day needs to be carefully thought out and brought into alignment with what works best for your teaching style, your students’ personalities, their age group, and any special challenges that could cause a distraction.
Envision what the day should look like from the moment the students enter the classroom to the moment they go home. These procedures need to be taught just like you would teach math or science. Don’t assume students know what to do if they need a tissue or have to sharpen a pencil. Some important procedures to consider include:
- What should it look like when students stagger in on arrival day? Are there designated areas for their coat or bookbag? Should they take their seat immediately? Should they sharpen three pencils for the day?
- What happens if a student needs to use the restroom? Or needs a drink of water? Keep in mind the least distracting way to accomplish these tasks.
- What does walking in the hall look like? Should kids walk with a hug and a bubble (hands to self and voice turned off) to prevent talking and promote keeping hands to themselves? Do they walk to their destination without stopping, or are there designated stopping points?
- What happens if a student finishes their work early? Do they give the teacher a silent “thumbs up” or raise their hand? Again, consider the least distracting outcome.
Laying the foundation early will make the year run much smoother.
Also, remember to specifically praise students when they engage in desired behaviors. Remember: the behavior you acknowledge is the behavior you receive!
As a teacher, it is extremely important to start building individual relationships with your students the moment they enter your classroom on the first day of school. While some students may be more difficult than others, teachers still need to embrace their uniqueness and take time to learn who they are. Getting to know students can take time, so here are a few ways to accelerate the process:
- During the first few days of school, have the students fill out inventory sheets that ask them questions about themselves, such as what activities they like to do, their favorite foods, their favorite memory, or even what their pre-school morning routine looks like. Once they have completed and turned in the forms, respond back with at least one question on each student’s paper, and have them give you an answer. It shows that you are invested and sincere about getting to know them!
- Engage in one-on-one conversations with students. This can happen while walking to the bus or walking to lunch, or even in the cafeteria line. Take this opportunity to talk about non-school-related interests. This demonstrates that you care about them as an individual and not just as a part of a whole class.
- Share a little about yourself so the students can know you as a person. This doesn’t have to be too personal—it can be centered on some favorite foods or a family pet. It doesn’t have to be contrived but rather occurs naturally through instructions or casual conversations.
- Don’t be afraid to use appropriate humor. Humor can help break the ice of a new and stressful school year. Remember to keep humor age-appropriate.
Knowing your students personally is essential when dealing with individual behaviors of concern. It demonstrates fairness and a willingness to listen when a student is struggling.
Cultivate A Positive Environment
One of the most important things you can do to proactively manage your class is establish an environment that positively encourages growth.
Praise is a vital component of the classroom management machine, and it should always be centered on desired results. Some ways to cultivate a positive environment are:
- Be aware of your student’s intellectual, physical, social, and emotional needs. Specifically praise individual accomplishments, especially kindness. Take into consideration how verbally praising a shy student could make them embarrassed, or how it may help bring them out of their shell.
- Be careful not to do too much individual correcting in front of other students. Some students will react poorly to the way they are being corrected rather than what they are being corrected for.
- Arrange student seating intentionally to encourage growth and sharing. Maybe put a struggling student next to a student who is able to assist. It can also be effective to put a student who struggles to follow the rules at a table with students who consistently follow the rules. A lot of times they will rise to the occasion in order to be included with their tablemates.
Once the positive environment is planted, be sure to water it and tend to it on a regular basis. Some ways to do this is by pairing praise with a visual component.
Color-coded pocket chart cards often work. Point charts can also be effective. Keep in mind:
It has to be more than a simple green light, yellow light, red light system;
It also needs to start the moment students enter the classroom in the morning.
Work Together As A Community
Students need to feel like an included, valuable member of their classroom community. Letting students take part in the classroom helps them feel invested—and it can help you as well! Just like at home or in society, we all have jobs or tasks that need to be completed as a contributing members of a group. The classroom should be no different. Here are a few ways to help students become productive members of your classroom community:
- Classroom jobs need to be specific and encourage both individuality and collaboration. Perhaps you can assign one student to sharpen pencils at the end of the day. Make sure you provide a job aide so that student knows exactly what is expected while “on the job.”
- For example, suppose that three students are expected to work collaboratively to straighten the bookshelves. Be sure to provide job aids for student 1, student 2, and student 3. This will prevent excessive talking or arguing.
- You might also allow students to help in more casual ways, such as assigning group runners for supplies or allowing students to pass out papers or straighten the room. These tasks can serve as helpful self-esteem builders for a child who often feels left out; however, in order to avoid favoritism, you should note how many times a student helps.
All students want to feel included and all students want fun jobs! Makes sure to regularly rotate jobs as well as provide vacation days. It’s everybody’s classroom, and everybody needs to take ownership.
All students need to be taught the skills necessary for success.
So much time is spent on teaching academic content that we forget that all skills need to be taught. You should teach students the skills needed for success in your classroom. Some often-overlooked skills that could be addressed include:
- Social skills
- Study skills
- Self-regulating skills
- Replacement behavior skills
- Memory skills
- Anger management skills
Many issues disappear after a few lessons, but students can benefit greatly if you find small segments of time to teach and model a skill; however, you may need to be creative, since not all students need instruction in the same skill.
Sure, summer is the time most teachers relax and recover from the previous year but it can also provide much-needed time to plan ahead. This will make the transition back to school less stressful!