It Started With The Class List…
It was late August, just days before I’d meet my new students for the school year. We teachers had just received our class lists with the names of the students who’d be joining us for the year. I had 21 third graders to excitedly welcome into room 201. I didn’t know much about these students, as it was only my second year teaching at that school. A couple of my fellow coworkers stopped me in the hall to glance over my class list.
Within seconds, my excitement for the upcoming school year changed to a pit in my stomach. The teachers pointed out difficult characteristics about many of the students on my list, ending with, “Wow. You’re going to have a tough year ahead of you. That is a really hard class”. I wish I could say I ignored all the comments and kept a fresh mind about these students. But instead, that gnawing feeling in my stomach only grew worse as I crossed each day off the calendar leading up to the first day of school.
The Approach is the Key Ingredient To A Positive, Thriving Classroom
Now, I’m going to take you on a little time travel journey, if you will, and fast forward to the end of the school year. In my 5 years of teaching, that “dreaded” class was my favorite class I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching. And I still talk with some of those students 3 years later, despite no longer teaching at that school (I’m currently a stay at home mom). I tell you this little snippet of my story to encourage you. (And don’t worry, my tips and advice are coming shortly). Just because students have been a challenge in the past DOES NOT mean they will be like that indefinitely. It’s ALL about two thing. One, your individualized approach to each student. And two, how you treat your class as a whole.
My class KNEW they were the best class in the whole school. Why? Because I told them that daily from the very first day they walked into room 201. They had a high standard to uphold, knowing they were the best class in the whole school and all, and they happily arose to the challenge. And as far as those “extra challenging” students, I befriended them immediately. I showed them I had faith in them. That I truly believed they were wonderful, hardworking students. They knew I saw something in them that previous teachers maybe hadn’t seen. I gave them a fresh start. Instead of walking in my classroom immediately being known as the “challenging student”, they walked into my classroom as a wonderful, hardworking student just like every single other student in the room. I complimented them on what I saw. I looked for opportunity to praise them.
Many challenging students receive attention for disruptive behavior, and that’s what they thrive off of. I wanted my students to thrive off the attention they received for their hard work, attentiveness, kind words, respectful attitude, willingness to learn, and perseverance even when something was difficult. I immediately made the atmosphere of our classroom a positive one. Each of us were there to encourage one another and help one another on the learning journey.
My Classroom Management Tips Every New (and seasoned) Teacher Must Know
Now, for the specifics. Here’s the bulk of my classroom management strategies that worked well in the Kindergarten classroom I student taught in, the dozens of classrooms I substitute taught, as well as room 201 where I taught third grade.
1. Focus on the students doing what is right, not on the student(s) doing what is wrong.
If Jack is scribbling doodles all over his paper and showing his friend his masterpiece while Jill is getting started on the assignment, simply say, “Jill, I love the way you are getting started on your work. Some of my other friends need to do the same.” Or something along those lines. That way, the student following directions gets the attention instead of the student goofing off.
2. Use a rewards system but utilize it 95% of the time for positive reinforcement, not negative punishment.
In the above scenario, I would most likely also tell Jill to go clip up on the clip chart for following instructions. I’ll link the clip chart I used here. When students reach the top of the clip chart, they get to pick a prize out of the prize box. When they repeatedly make decisions that aren’t following my expectations, they may have a loss of recess or a parent contact. Each school year, I only had to take away recess maybe a handle of times, and only made 1 parent contact. Instead, I used the clip chart to applaud positive choices and following my expectations.
The students were *excited* about the clip chart because they knew it was for positive reinforcement, not to shame or embarrasses students. When students saw each other get noticed for their good decisions, they were more likely to want to make good decisions as well. I rarely gave attention for negative behavior, but I made a big deal out of students making responsible choices or showing kindness to each other.
3. Give Students a goal to work towards each week.. Teacher Vs. Students Point System
Up on the whiteboard, I kept track of points that either I as the teacher would receive or the students as a whole group would receive. When the students as a whole group were not following directions, I would receive 5 points. When the students as a whole group were following directions well, treating each other with kindness and respect, behaving well in specialists’ classrooms, etc, they would receive 5 points. At the end of the week on Friday, if the students had more points than me, they would earn “Fun Friday” which meant an extra recess the last 30 minutes of the school day. I’d say probably 85% of the time, students earned Fun Friday. It was a fun incentive for them to work towards each week that kept them positively working toward their goal all week long.
We all love a good classroom management success story!
Alright my friends, that is the positive approach and management systems I used each year to ensure a happy, thriving, well-managed classroom. We were able to learn so much and have fun while doing it because of these classroom management systems. I hope you find them helpful for your own classrooms. Let me know in the comments below which classroom management system you plan to try. And let us all know how it works for you! I love a good success story 🙂 If you liked this post, would you please take 10 seconds or less to comment below and let me know, or share the post? I would be so grateful!
CLICK HERE! for more teaching related content you might find helpful