Saturday, September 29, 2012

Classroom Management Tips and Two Amazing Giveaways!

Just returned from a great 4-day family vacation to Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, and Universal Studios in Los Angeles.  So much fun!

As promised, I wanted to talk a little about the beginning of my school year.  I just found this draft for a post I started writing in the beginning of the school year.   I am amazed at how much progress we have made in less than two months time.

"I just finished my first week with my new class and it has been one of the more challenging "first weeks" that I can remember in my 18 years of teaching.  Don't get me wrong.  Each and every student in my class is sweet, and I think we will have a great year together.  I'm really not complaining.  Really.  How does it go?  "You get what you get, and you don't pitch a fit!"   

It comes down to that mysterious, intangible quality.  In my school, we call it, "Dynamics".  It's the way kids bounce off other kids, and it can either bring out the best in them, or well.....not so much." - August, 2012

Can anyone relate to this?  Are you living it right now?

So what do you do when the "Dynamics" of your class is a little off?

I thought I would share some strategies that I have used in my 18 years of teaching to smooth out the "wrinkles" :)  Some of these tips may not fit everyone's style.  I offer them only as suggestions.  Take on the ones that feel "right" for you.

1)  Give students a preview:  I knew ahead of time that I would have some challenging personalities in my classroom this year.  In fact, I already knew I would have some of them by the end of the last school year.  So, I made it a point for last year's 1st graders to get to know me, my name, and expectations.  I talked to them on the playground when I had duty.  Complimented them in the hallways.  Just gave them a preview, if you will, of Mrs. Rios. The tone of my interactions with the students was as positive as possible, but always purposeful.  Meaning, I chose my interactions with those students to convey a specific message about me as a teacher...that I would be fair and consistent, but firm.

2)  Seek Advice:  I also talked to my students' previous teachers and asked questions about what management strategies worked with those children in the past.  What motivated that student? What kind of supports allowed that student to be academically successful?  Does he need to sit in the front, next to the teacher?  Do they need to stand, instead of sit, when completing assignments at their desk?  What kind of support did they receive from parents?  

Speaking of parents, if at all possible, I highly recommend calling or meeting with parents before the first day of school, if you know that child has had difficulties in the past.  Most parents can be incredibly helpful and provide lots of information about their child, what is going on at home etc..., that just might provide a valuable insight that you can use as you proceed with that child.

Finally, do your homework.  I read books, online articles, and teacher blogs that addressed some of my students' needs.  I also gained a TON of ideas from Pinterest.

3) Divide and Conquer:  In my school, we receive cards on each student from the previous teacher.  These cards are used by the office to plan for enrollment for the following year.  But, they also contain valuable information about language, reading level, math performance, medical alerts, and behavior.  Many teachers I know let students sit wherever they like on the first day of school.  I do not.  I am strategic (obsessive) about classroom management from day one.  When my students arrive on the first day, their seat has already been assigned.  Here is how I do this:  Using my class cards, I first pull out any students with glasses, hearing impairments, and IEPs and usually, but not always, try to find a seat for them in the front and in a desk that completely faces the front of the classroom (Some desks in my class require students to turn their bodies a bit to look at me.)  Then, I divide the rest of my cards by behavior:  Challenging, Average, Good, and Excellent.  I then place all my "Challenging" kiddos in their seats.  I like to place them at the ends of a table so they only have another student on one side (less distraction!).  I also like to space them out so there are only one or two at each table.  Then, I take my students who are marked as Excellent and use them to surround my Challenging students.  As an additional step, if my Challenging student is a boy, I normally surround them with Excellent girls.  I then place all my "Good" students.  Finally, I place my "Average".  When that is done, I do a quick check to make sure that each table is balanced for language, (I teach ELL's, so it is important that I have strong language models at each table.) academic performance (I don't want to have a whole table of students who are struggling), and gender. I know this sounds like a lot of work, but I have been doing it for so long, it really does not take very long and the best part is, I usually have to make very few changes once school begins.

4)  Be Relentlessly Consistent:  The teacher down the hall is a model teacher.  She is the very essence of what a great teacher is!  I aspire to be even 1/2 as effective as she is.  She has been incredibly inspirational, and I have learned many things from her.  But the most important lesson that I have learned from her is "Be Consistent".  If I have appropriately explained my expectations about any part of our day, and my students do not fulfill those expectations, then we review the expectations orally and then spend time practicing them again.  I do this without fail each and every time.  All.  Year.  Long.   Sometimes, I have to admit it is a real drag to be "Relentlessly Consistent".  Like when it's lunch time, and I'm starving, and the kids decide to go berserk during line-up. I just want to leave and drop them off at the cafeteria so bad!  But, I don't.  I send them back to their seats.  We review our class expectations for lining up.  Then, we spend time practicing.  I usually call attention to the other second grade classes who are walking past our classroom on their way to lunch.  You get the gist.  If any of you have done the Daily Five, you probably can relate to this method.  It really does work.  Yes, yes, I know it's controlling and very Type A, but I always tell my students that I will only "control" them until they are able to control themselves.

5)  Ok, last tip for today. Devise systems to keep students focused, motivated, and safe.  A couple of my favorite classroom management tricks are:

Musical transitions:  If you have not visited Rick Morris' website, New Management, go now.  He has tons of classroom management tips, including music that he uses to transition students from one activity to another.  My students' favorite is the tune for "Mario Bros.".  It is 50 seconds long.  Each student knows they must be in their place, with the proper materials, ready to learn by the end of that tune.  If not, my students change their behavior cards (clips) and pay me back any wasted time during their recess.

Behavior Charts:  I also love Rick Morris' idea about behavior clip charts.  You have probably seen them all over Pinterest. What I love most about them is that they acknowledge those students who ARE following the classroom rules. The behavior chart I used two years ago only had children move their clip for poor choices.  With Rick Morris' chart, students can move up or down the chart.  Love it!  It really does keep the tone of our classroom positive.

Raffles:  This year, I have to say...more students than any other year, did not do homework!  It was driving me crazy.  I always have children change their card (clip) from Green (Ready to Learn) when they are not prepared with their homework.  But honestly,  some of my students could not have cared less.  So, this year I pulled out some tickets that I had purchased at Staples.  Every morning, I give students one ticket if they have all their homework.  They write their names on the back and put them in our Raffle Jar.  We hold the raffle at the end of the day.  The winner gets to pick something out of my Treasure Chest.  This has improved homework completion dramatically.  When we return from Fall Break, I will do this sporadically throughout the week, instead of every day.  This idea can be used for any behavior that is driving you crazy.  

Behavior Cards:  I love this idea that was originated by Rachelle over at What the Teacher Wants blog.  She has been so gracious to allow me to adapt her idea to meet the needs of my classroom.  These cards are a critical part of of my day-to-day management.

I have created many themed sets including Beach, Zoo Animals, Owls, and Pirates.  These sets are available in my Tpt store now.

You can read about and use this system for FREE using the file below.  Just click on the image to learn more, and download your free copy.

Most recently, I just created these cute Halloween themed behavior cards.  My own kids actually helped me come up with some of the motivational sayings!  They really got into it!  Click on the image below to get your copy!

I will share more about how I use these cards with students with special needs in an upcoming post.

I also have many more fantastic ideas on my Pinterest Boards under "My Class Management".  If you will permit me to brag a little, I was just named one of "10 Fantastic Teachers to Follow on Pinterest" by  I hope you will consider stopping by my boards.

I hope you have found something helpful today!

Until next time.


  1. I just found your blog and I love it! I love how you manage your class. I try to do the same thing as you in that I expect the same from them all the time but it's so hard when I feel so rushed all the time! I'm your newest follower!! :)
    Teaching in the Valley

    1. Thanks Liz and welcome. I hope you will find some helpful things here.

      Nicole :)

  2. Happy to find teacher that share their experience about classroom management

    1. Thanks, I am glad that you stopped by.


  3. Great tips! I like your idea of making your presence known to the upcoming class so they are aware of the expectation. Thanks for sharing :)

    Always A Lesson



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