Classroom management strategies helps kids work better. But can they make your room look and feel better? You bet your soy latte they will.
I’m not naturally organized. It’s a skill I learned. So I know from experience that anyone else can learn it too.
Your classroom doesn’t need to have a museum, sterile quality to feel great. And it doesn’t need to look like that coiffed Pinterest picture. In fact, it might get a little chaotic throughout the day. These are kids we’re teaching, not machines.
You can, however, make it feel wonderful and manageable so that you feel smugly satisfied when you exit your room each day.
Classroom Management Strategies #1: PURGE
Purging can be torture for some and thrilling for others. But it’s crucial.
If you want your room to run AND feel great, you must get rid of things you don’t need.
This includes outdated curriculum or those workbooks you thought you’d use. The bins of yarn that seemed great for an art project. Posters that no longer serve you. Look at every area of your room and ask, “Does this help my students? Does it help me?”
Often we hold onto stuff because we think we might use it someday. That day never comes, though.
I snagged an unopened bag of cotton balls for ten cents, thinking, “Oh, we can do something with this!” That was ten years ago.
I called it quits and put the bag outside my classroom with other free stuff. An aide put it to immediate use with one of her students.
That stuff you’re holding onto might indeed have a use — it just might be for someone else.
The best way to begin? Start with a small area, such as one shelf. Do you need those textbooks from grad school or could you sell them or, even faster, give them away? How about that binder from your training two years ago? Do you really need four packages of envelopes?
After purging one area, you’ll get a satisfiying rush from seeing order, even in such a small space.
Honestly? It’s addictive!
Light that fire
For some people, there can be charged emotions with purging.
If that sounds like you or if purging sounds like a terrible chore, here are two books that will spring you into action. Both train your brain to view possessions differently.
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
- It’s All Too Much by Peter Walsh
So what happens after you purge?
You can find things, number one, because you finally see what you have.
But more important, it lends a clarity that spills into your teaching. Suddenly, with all that stuff gone, your brain feels clearer and you can zero in on what your students need and on your lesson objectives. It’s a fog lifting.
When you pare down to the essentials, you’ll notice and use what you have.
Same goes for your students. If your bookcase is overflowing with tattered, yellowing books with outdated covers, they’re going to avoid your classroom library. (I talk more about how to prune your classroom library in my downloadable booklet, 8 Ways to Create Lifelong Readers. Look at page 9, under “Weeding.” You can find more information about introducing your classroom library to your kids here.)
Classroom Management Strategies #2: COMBAT PAPER
Have a place for everything, including extra homework/classwork handouts and all those school forms that need to go home each week.
Have a specific place to put work that needed to be corrected, work that needed to be passed back, etc.
When there were teacher forms to fill out, do them right away and get them off your desk. Or designate one place for forms, and assign one time per week to do them.
On Friday, toss any loose papers around your room so you can start fresh on Monday.
Use folders for assessing work. For example, when the students pass in their Unit 3 math tests, they go straight into a labeled folder (just write right on the folder or attach a post-it.)
The waiting papers now look and feel less intimidating in separate folders. It’s easier to see them as bite-sized pieces rather than an angry monster pile.
You can take it one step further and color code your folders by subject. That way, you’ll find what you’re looking for faster.
Get correcting off your desk
Teacher feedback becomes less effective the longer you wait to give it. If you can give feedback on an assignment right away, the student is much more likely to learn from it. If you wait, the lessons won’t stick as well.
The key is knowing what the purpose of each assignment is.
Do does this mean you have to stay late each night correcting every assignment? Heck no. There are some groovy little tricks that not only save you time, but work better for your kids’ learning.
In the beginning of the year, you’ll be looking carefully at all assignments, since you’re just getting to know the kids.
Once you know them, though, you can spot-check assignments.
Let’s say you’re giving subtraction homework as a review. Instead of correcting the whole page, spot check 3 problems on each child’s homework.
Make a pile for kids who don’t have it yet and a pile who do. You can touch base with those who need review later. Then have them retry the problems they missed and send it home.
Correct as they work
Pick a favorite pen, and move from student to student, correcting as they work. Put a satisfying check next to what they’ve done well. Put a dot next to anything they need to recheck. The immediate feedback is priceless for them and saves you time. You might find you can nix passing the work in, since you’ve already corrected most of it.
Want them to develop a new habit or skill? Walk around with stickers (smelly stickers are best) and plop a sticker on something that demonstrates the target skill. So you can say, “As you work, I’m going to be looking for people who are labeling their answers. That work will get a pineapple smelly sticker on it!”
Stickers are magic, man. Nothing reinforces good work like stickers.
Let kids correct
Giving homework? Skim the completed pages to see if they did it. Then have a 10 minute period at the end of the week or day where they correct their own work. Display the answers on the screen and go through it quickly.
They don’t need to correct correct everything. You might say, “Today, I’m going to have you correct numbers 10-20 only on Monday’s math work.” Then move quickly to Tuesday’s work and so on. Keep them on their toes and make it a quick check.
Or just tell them you’re leaving the work on the screen for 30 seconds only and they can see how much they can correct in that short spurt.
If kids have questions on their homework, tell them to write their questions on the front and pass it back to you. (And then meet with them quickly to go over it later.) Otherwise, keep those papers off your desk and send ’em home!
Here’s a tip most people don’t say out loud: you can recycle uncorrected student work.
Most seasoned teachers do this and it does wonder for your focus. You don’t do it every day, of course. But every once in a while? Yes.
Because if you’ve been hanging on to it, chances are that if you return it to later corrected, they won’t get much out of it anyway.
Recycle it. Start fresh. You rebel, you.
Classroom Management Strategies #3: DELETE FURNITURE
Get rid of unnecessary furniture. Too many items can make your room feel cluttered and smaller.
This includes your teacher desk. Getting rid of your desk isn’t a must-do of course. But it’s worth considering.
As you continue strategy #1 of purging items, your desk might start to feel superfluous. Can you have a side area for your items, and use a regular meeting table to plan and confer with students?
This streamlined approach can feel amazing. And? It takes up less space, making your room more spacious.
There are plenty of teachers whose desks work brilliantly for them. Like anything, though, it’s worth asking, “How is this serving me or my students?”
If a desk helps — great! Keep it! If you aren’t sure, though, try going without it.
Classroom Management Strategies #4: CHORE TIME!
Your kids can keep your systems running like clockwork.
Instead of assigning a line leader, for example, have a paper sorter instead. They can go through passed-in work, face them the same way, and place them in folders. Now you can look at their work with ease.
At the end of the day, have students clear tables, clean them, and stack chairs.
Make a game of having the floor be spotless. You can announce, “I see three secret items that are not where they belong. Whoever puts each of those secret items back where it belongs gets an effort dot!” This could be a scrap of paper on the floor, a pencil on the windowsill, or a clipboard left on a bookshelf. At the end, announce the winners!
Classroom Management Strategies #5: SAMESIES
Keep things uniform and simple. Uniformity doesn’t have to be boring or institutional, however.
When things are pleasing to the eye and ordered, the kids’ brains — and yours — can focus on the skills they need to learn.
Classroom library containers, for example — when they’re different sizes, colors and brands, the overall effect is chaotic. And students might unconsciously avoid your library. Stick with the same containers to create order and calm.
Prefer the shabby-chic, homey look? Get some spray paint in 2-3 favorite colors. Limiting colors gives your classroom a more homogenous, artistic feel. Spray-paint your mismatched containers the same colors.
Boom. You’re room will instantly look and feel better.
A classroom makeover like this costs very little. (And this makes a terrific parent job to send home, if you have parent volunteers.)
Classroom Management Strategies #6: COLOR CODE
Assign a color to each subject you teach. So blue for math, for example, red for writing, etc.
Use your scheme with curriculum binders, folders for parent teacher conferences, schedules and Google folders.
Color-coding makes it easier for your brain to see what’s what.
Teach the system to your students. Kids naturally crave order too.
Classroom Management Strategies #7: WIPES
This is one of those 2-second tweaks in your classroom management strategies that makes a huge difference.
After you’ve cleaned something with a wipe, don’t throw the wipe out. Instead, keep using it to clean an area of your room that needs quick attention.
Run it along the whiteboard tray a couple of times to collect all the dust. (Avoid the whiteboard. Wipes are murder on whiteboards.) Scrub the wall next to the trash. Get everything out of that wipe you can.
Then throw it away.
Small action. Big results.
Now It’s Your Turn!
Tell us in the comments below:
- Which of these strategies will you try tomorrow?
- OR … Do you have a quick strategy
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Kimberly Jones says
Where did you get the divided bins for the crayons, markers, and colored pencils? That is genius!
Thanks, Kimberly! They’re from the Container Store. 🙂 Here’s the link the to blog post about how I put this together. It has a direct link to the store. It’s a bit pricey, but it’s the first and only thing that has worked in my room. I never have to touch them anymore, as the students completely take care of it. 🙂 Enjoy!
Thank you for sharing so many great tips! Regarding the effort dots, how do you keep the students encouraged and excited about them all year long. This year I used “class cash” and towards the end they weren’t super motivated or excited or well behaved to earn cash.
They stay excited about the effort dots because they can use them towards our weekly Book Raffle. I always have pretty amazing books in that raffle and we draw the winners on Fridays. So they stay VERY enthused! 🙂 https://fittedto4th.com/weekly-classroom-book-raffle/
Plus, I often change up how they can earn them. One of the choices on my spinner wheel is “everyone gets one effort dot” or “spinner gets 5 effort dots.”
During cleanup, I’ll sometimes say, “I see 3 mystery things that are not where they are supposed to be. The people that put them in their correct spots get an effort dot.” For their self-correcting United States tests, if they get, say, 100% of the multiple choice, they will get 1 effort dot and if they get 100% on the fill-in-the-blank, they get 3. It requires a sense of fun and inventiveness! 🙂
Once you get started with this, more ideas will pop into your head. It’s addictive! 🙂
Have fun, Roanne, and let us know how this works for you!