This is a guest post by Richard Giso that originally ran in September 2013. Click here to see his other posts. You could also check out his blog, Mr. Giso's Room to Read, in which he writes about fun classroom activities, behavior management, and classroom management.
I am often asked how my classroom runs like a “well-oiled machine.” My response always notes how important the first few weeks of school are in setting a positive, yet well-managed, tone for the remainder of the school year. Without establishing clear expectations starting day one, a teacher is setting his or her classroom up for a year of potentially ineffective instruction. I’m pleased to have a chance to share some of my strategies with you today.
Mr. Giso’s Top 10 Tips for a Well-Managed Classroom
1. Be as FIRM and as STRICT as you can be from day one—especially for new teachers. You can always “ease up on the reins” as you move through the year, but you will never “tighten them up” successfully midyear. You are not your students’ friends; you are their teacher. Don’t worry—in the end, they will still love you.
2. Establish a routine for everything, starting on the first day of school. This includes daily before-school work, walking in the halls, sharpening a pencil, getting supplies, using the bathrooms, assembling on the rug, using your classroom library, placing the date on written work, unpacking snacks, turning in homework, taking attendance, collecting lunch money, dismissal—EVERYTHING!
3. Develop classroom rules and expectations as a community on the first day of school. Phrase words in a positive manner. Instead of “No running!” use “We will walk.” Have them numbered and posted in a central location by the second day. Don’t forget them! When a student breaks a rule, bring him or her to the rule board for a discussion. Send the rules home to parents the first week so that they know your expectations too.
4. Establish fair and logical consequences for breaking rules beforehand and communicate this to children AND to families. They should always know what to expect for which behaviors. This avoids making a threat that is not possible to follow thorough. Avoid surprises.
5. Be careful with rewards. Way too often, children expect to get something for behaving. Make good behavior the norm, the expectation. Avoid bribing at all costs. Children need to behave because that is what is expected of them. This is not to say that offering raffle tickets for a raffle at the end of the week or having children have their own mini-banks to save up for a class store is a bad idea, just don’t overdo it. Keep candy at home. It has no place being handed out for rewards in the classroom.
6. Give your class’s line behavior extra attention. Your students’ behavior in line is a mirror image of their behavior in your classroom. The only difference is that, in line, you have NO door to close. Quiet voices, hands by sides, facing forward, etc., must be reinforced daily. Have a “mystery walker.” Pick a random student each day (popsicle sticks work great to draw names). At the end of the day, announce that student’s name, discuss his or her line behavior, and praise accordingly.
7. Half of your class should not be on daily behavior reports. First of all, who has time to complete these during the course of your busy day? Spend your time on your curriculum and lesson planning. Only send home behavior reports on an extreme basis, such as a student having a legal documented need, going through an unusual hard time at both school and at home, being unable to get a student to comply despite all your efforts, etc. Make the behavior report easy (rubrics work best) and always include a behavior to rate that you know the student will be successful at displaying. Parents must be on board, too, otherwise it’s a lost cause.
8. Plan how you wish to monitor the level of talking, or lack thereof, in your classroom. Implement a nonverbal sign for quieting down like holding up the “peace" sign. Have a “Noise Gauge” which lets students know what their voices should sound like throughout the day: whisper voice, speak up voice, no voice, 3 inch voice, etc. Also make a “Noise-O-Meter” to monitor noise level throughout the day. Is you classroom too noisy, could it be better, or is it just right?
9. Move around often, and have your students move around often! If you have a distracted student or a group being chatty, move your body close to them—your body’s proximity, without even needing to speak, can do wonders. Also let students move around as often as possible. Use carpet samples to let them use the floor, have plenty of side tables around the perimeter of your room, and have a large carpet for whole class meetings, etc. Do a stretch between long lessons, something like Simon Says, the Chicken Dance, the Macarena, the Hokey Pokey, etc. I recently purchased those gymnastic twirling ribbons to have my students wave them around to classical music. They love them.
10. Establish a classroom community. Celebrate classroom spirit. Always focus on the positive. Arrange the desks in small groups. Make EVERY child have a classroom job that rotates each week. Explicitly teach character education, explicitly role model what it means to be a good friend, etc. Remind children that when they misbehave, it brings down the whole community. Use peer pressure to your advantage! Always remember to point out positives and devote your attention to them. Statements such as “I like how Joe is being a good friend by picking up the paper that Cara dropped on the floor” and “I’m so proud to see Shane not talking when Winston is trying to get his attention during our math lesson” are more effective at managing a classroom than “Stop talking right now” or “Stop dropping your pencil.”
With these helpful tips you are ready to a successful tone for a great school year. Good luck!
- Richard Giso
I'm a proud teacher with over 15 years of teaching experience. I began my teaching career as a fourth grade teacher at the Bates Elementary School in Salem, Massachusetts. Since then, I have taught fourth grade for eight years. From there, I moved to a job as a reading coach under the Reading First grant. Having missed my true passion—having a classroom of my own—I returned to teaching as a first grade teacher for the next five years.
Now I've moved to the Carlton Innovation School, also in Salem, Massachusetts, where I am ready to begin my first year as a member of a team of four teachers that teach grades one and two. In addition, I teach undergraduate and graduate students at Salem State University. My courses involve literacy, children's literature, and elementary education. My educational interests include early literacy, effective reading interventions, and positive classroom climates. Click the image to check out my blog!