Classroom Management and Holidays December 08 2009

Winter Madness

We all know that during the winter holidays our students are thrown off schedule. Maintaining good classroom management is important, especially when they may have surges of excitement from the sugar cookies a parent brought in, anticipation for a special guest or Christmas play.

Right now is a good time to re-think and re-visit our classroom management. While I taught K-2nd grade, I developed strong classroom management skills. All my previous years of substitute teaching and working as a middle school counselor surely helped with this learning process. I also love learning from experienced teachers, and I used many techniques I saw in other classrooms when I got my own classroom.

The Eyes Have It

The most effective means of communication is face-to-face. It's easy to be busy multi-tasking and forget to look our students in the eyes. If we have a positive attitude, look them in the eyes (scanning the room to several children at a time) and let them know we see them, (and we are not looking through them towards the next task at hand) we are much more likely to get them to hear us. Really, who wants to listen to someone who doesn't even look at you? Many teachers are very good at this already. However, in the midst of winter madness we may forget this effective strategy. Please note that I am not talking about the "teacher stare" I remember so well while I was in grade school from my mean 2nd grade teacher. I am talking about smiling, caring and really paying attention to each of the students as we explain the next task.

Your Voice

Imagine the voice of the witch, Ursula, in The Little Mermaid telling you to get out a pencil and paper. Yuck. Who wants to listen to that raspy, bossy and scary voice. Many kids just tune this out over time.

Now, imagine Ariel telling you in a sing-song voice to get out a pencil and paper. Just the way she would sing it makes you want to listen and respond.

Don't get me wrong, sometimes it takes a stern voice to get someone to listen, but most of the time we need to be surrounded by positive energy. Allowing our voices to change pitch and be almost like a song keeps the kids listening for longer periods of time. Yes, I'm sure if we talked like Ursula once or twice they would listen, too. Yet, over time they would learn to tune the Ursula voice out because it's just too negative.

The Importance of Knowing and Saying Each Child's Name

Have you ever had anyone spell or say your name incorrectly repeatedly? After a while you start to get annoyed at the person. Maybe you feel like they don't really care about you, and they just care about what they want from you. Kind of like an old principal I worked with who kept spelling my name with an "e" after two years of me politely correcting her.

Even as a substitute teacher, I made a special effort to get to know each child by name. This always gives the speaker power. Children want to be known and cared for. Forgetting or never saying a child's name with care and compassion is a recipe for disaster. This child will probably learn not to respect the teacher because she can't even remember her name. If you walk into a class as a substitute teacher and in a short amount of time correctly say many of the children's names they will begin to respect you and listen to you more attentively. Of course, this can work in any classroom.

Also, saying a student's full name with dis-content is not only disrespectful, but may even make the student dis-like you and his name. It's important for us to say our students' names with care and respect.

Daily Schedule

A daily schedule is crucial. It was very important for my students to see the schedule on the white board each day. It was actually nice to have them keep schedule with me. It was nice to have it on the white board, because I could easily erase and re-arrange the schedule in a matter of seconds, if necessary. I tried to keep it consistent, but sometimes we had to make adjustments in the middle of the day. If it was written only in my plan book I could have easily forgotten something because I was busy walking around the room. I enjoyed having my students involved in keeping us all on schedule.

Keep It Interesting

Yes, it's true that if we allow the kids to do what they love they will pay more attention. I learned this while doing writers' workshop. My students only wrote books about what they loved.

Finding a way to turn something I find boring around, like division, is a challenge. However, the best teachers know how to find the excitement in the most mundane and boring tasks. For example, if you are working on division and you know the student loves dolphins, try dolphin division.

Doing seasonal activities can be fun and keep it interesting. For seasonal lesson plan ideas and classroom crafts feel free to bookmark the classroom crafting page.

Job Board

How could a teacher survive without a job board? My students kept the room clean. Without a team effort the room would have been a disaster area. I used a bee hive job board. I drew and laminated a Bumble Bear as the Student of the Week. (If you don't want to draw one, you can copy and laminate one inside the front cover of the book.)

Every day the students did their jobs and every week the jobs rotated. I usually had 1-3 students doing each job, depending upon the complexity of it.

Possible Jobs:

  • Sharpen pencils in the basket (No pencil sharpening during instruction. Students placed broken pencils in one basket and picked up a sharp one in the other basket.)
  • Pass out papers.
  • Collect papers.
  • Sweep
  • Feed fish
  • Clean white board
  • Organize books in leveled book library. Skim through boxes and make sure all the books are in the right leveled basket.
  • Turn off computers.
  • Wipe off desks with paper towels. (I sprayed them. I never let the kids near the spray bottle. I had also used shaving cream on the desks for the kids to clean. This works best for each child to do on his own desk.)
  • Binders (Make sure all the Writers' Workshop binders are lined up nicely.)

Share Your Ideas

Feel free to share your classroom management strategies in the comments section below. Learning from each other and sharing our ideas saves time and energy.