Classroom Management: Tips to Make Your Class Minutes Count
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
I love teaching, and I love teaching even more when I can maximize my academic minutes and minimize interruptions and distractions. When I was a new teacher, I can't tell you how many minutes were wasted every day because of children arguing over "cutting" in line or seats for read-aloud. Kids missed precious class time during trips to the restroom, where they played in the stalls and flooded the bathroom. Incomplete homework was another recurring problem. Many of the kids who didn't turn in their homework suffered from an overloaded social calendar, travelling between spilt parents, or had parents who were not able to speak English. I was at my wit's end. What could I do to solve these problems? Read on to find out!
OK, many teachers already use this idea, but for those of you who aren't, it's absolutely wonderful and easy to do. Each student in my class is assigned a student number from one to 25, going alphabetically by last name. This is their number for the entire year. All materials in the classroom are numbered accordingly: textbooks, mailboxes, backpack hooks, pencils, markers and marker lids, glue bottles, etc. I used to label everything with students' names and then relabel everything the next year, so this saves me loads of time from year to year. And when a student moves, all of their materials get packed up, but are ready for the next student without changing the labels.
We also line up every day according to student number, with number one as the line leader on the first day of school, number two on the second day, etc. This allows everyone to have their place in line without the worry of "cutting." Students also sit on the carpet for read-aloud in numbered order.
Collecting papers and grading is a breeze when all of your student numbers correspond to numbers in your grade book. I also have an easy check off list with the student numbers for collecting items such as field trip forms. You can also easily divide the students up into groups using their student numbers. I often will call "evens" and "odds," for example, to divide the class into teams for games.
Many academic minutes are wasted when kids use the restroom during class time. Some students genuinely have to go, but many others use a restroom trip as an opportunity to play around. The bathroom is a big draw for young kids. They are out of immediate supervision, the room is acoustic, and there are all kinds of things to play with. At our school, students are required to have a partner to accompany them to the bathroom, which presents another reason to play. In order to regain some of that lost time, I use bathroom tickets, which are just little cards that I made using clip art and card stock.
Each child gets two cards a week with their student number on the back. If they need to use the restroom during class time, they give me a ticket. Then I assign a person of the opposite sex to go with them and wait outside the bathroom door. If a child has any of the tickets left at the end of the week, they are rewarded with raffle tickets. If they need to use the restroom during class, and they don't have any more tickets, I write their name down and they owe me five minutes of their recess time. Losing a ticket or five minutes of recess is usually all a child needs to decide whether they can hold it or they really need to go. I tell them all the time that I don't want them to have an accident. I also remind them to use the restroom before we go to recess and lunch.
Most teachers have some sort of bell work that students do when they come in from recess or before they begin another subject. It helps to settle them down by giving them a task to do immediately and independently. It also allows the teacher to take the attendance or lunch count, or pass out items for the next lesson. Oftentimes these worksheets are quick reviews of concepts previously taught. One of the things I use for bell work is homework, which in my class consists of one spelling assignment, one math page, and one reading comprehension assignment or grammar page. In addition to the worksheets, students are required to read for 20 minutes each night.
I use ten minutes of my day as a study hall. During this time, I help struggling students or students whose parents work or don't know how to help their child, and I support kids who need some help, but can mostly complete work on their own. I also put out any materials that they might need for their work such as rulers, glue, linking cubes, dictionaries, etc. Kids are only allowed to work on homework during study hall, and they may read if their homework is completed. Most of the time, if a student is really focused and working, they can finish about half their homework during study hall. This increases the likelihood of their completing it on their own at home. I love study hall because it allows me to help kids with their homework and saves me from having to create another piece of paper to copy and grade.
Tips From Rick Morris
Many of the ideas that I have loved using came from attending a seminar at my school led by Rick Morris. Rick Morris is an inspirational speaker who has really been in the trenches teaching. He provides staff development and training on classroom management and has written several books that are well worth the cover price. I own about four of them. Check out his brilliance at New Management. There are also several ebooks available for free on the site. I utilize many of his ideas in my classroom, and I know you will enjoy his sense of humor and easy-to-use ideas.