Friday, January 4, 2013

Friday Favorites: Tips for Classroom Management AND FREEBIES

Some of us are just getting back into the routines of our school days this week.  Some of us will be headed back from our holiday breaks this coming Monday.  In either scenario, coming back for the new year lends itself to making some fresh starts.  In terms of classroom management, this is the perfect time to reflect on what has been working well for you and your students...and what may need to be tweaked a bit to make more efficient.  It may even mean trying something that is all together different.  The beauty is that during this period of reflection and goal setting that naturally coincides with the first days of January, the timing is perfect to make changes that will help all of us - teachers, students and parents alike - make it successfully through the remainder of the school year.

The following is a list of my favorite classroom management tips.  There are 5 of them, and I hope at least a couple of them will provide you with a little inspiration as we start the new year off and running!

1) After 14 years teaching middle school aged kiddos, I can honestly tell you that having a set routine for when students come into your classroom is very helpful.  One of the things that I like to do is to have a spot in the front of my room that shares important information that my students need to start the day.  My students know to look at that specific spot (a white board in the front of my room) as soon as they come in.  They immediately find a list of materials they need on the desk, the agenda for that day's class, the objective(s) being focused on that day AND the "Do Now" task for the day.

2) Tip #1 (above) is especially nice for me as the teacher because it buys me time for my next tip.  It gives students a task to focus on while I ALWAYS try to be in the hall between classes and greet my students as they come in.  We've all seen the research showing that many of the bullying behaviors we try to watch for happen during the least structured times of the school day.  What is less structured than passing time in the hallways?  In our school district, as I would imagine in many buildings, it is actually considered part of our professional responsibility to have a presence in the hallways during these times of the day.  Of course there are some times when it is not possible to be stationed by my door as students come in (maybe I'm talking with a student or fielding a call from the office), but generally speaking, it's a pretty easy thing to do.  The best part is that I can make a connection with my students as they come in by welcoming them and, if something has changed in our daily routine, I can give them a heads up before they even step over the threshold into ELA.  I can even use this time to give students materials they may need for class - an example being a Formative Assessment Sheet for a day when I want to get a snapshot of how my teaching and my students' learning is progressing.

3) Make sure that if you are finding some challenges with discipline in the classroom that your expectations and consequences (both positive and negative) are very clear.  Whether you've created the rules and guidelines for your classroom OR it is the result of a cooperative effort between you and your students in the beginning of the year, now is a good time for a reminder and/or to rework any areas that have been problematic.  Here is a link to a post I wrote in September that pertains to this subtopic in classroom management.  You will find some details about the system I have used.  You'll also see why I feel that providing middle school students a chance to reflect on their poor choices and have a chance to self-correct when appropriate is something that has helped me create an environment that is mutually respectful.

4) Reach out to your students' parents!  I'm finding that one of the most shocking things to me, as the mother of a Kindergartner this year, is the level of involvement of many parents in elementary school.  People are always volunteering to help.  Parents are at PTO meetings.  School functions are well-attended.  I know it seems funny, but my experience at the middle school level has been quite the opposite.  I never really thought about it before this year, to be honest, but now I have a different perspective.  I really think that many parents would like to be more involved in the educational lives of their children, but may not know how.
    Of course, just the ages of our tweens and teens in middle school adds to the challenge.  Developmentally, our students are looking to gain some independence and may not be as open with family about the day-to-day goings on in school.  This makes is even more important for us to reach out and create some positive lines of communication with home right away.
    To make things easier, have a record keeping system that will assist you in keeping track of these interactions with parents.  It doesn't have to be elaborate or time consuming, but just a common place where you can note when conversations occur and anything that you glean from your interaction that can help you to know your students better.  This is also a great tool for you if problems arise with a particular child during the school year.  Little clues, when put together with observations and information form others on your team, may be helpful if a student needs assistance - academically or emotionally - as time goes on.  My Classroom Management Kit includes three templates that can help with this.  Feel free to take a look for more details.

5) Build in an opportunity for quick cooperative learning breaks - anytime.  I've written several posts about the importance of allowing time for our students to share what they are thinking, creating and learning with others.  It's important to provide a way for students to process and internalize new information, and sharing the learning process with others is very helpful.  The challenge I have run into over the years is finding a balance between the time it takes to form learning partners and/or groups and still leave time during the class period for instruction and practice.  And, of course, in middle school it's all about who you are working with!  That social piece is, in and of itself, a challenge.  In an October post, Terrifying Twosomes, I followed a Halloween theme to create a useful tool to help with making student  pairs, and had lots of positive feedback.  The post explains in detail how it is used and includes a link to the free form.  I followed this with November's Grateful Gabbers and December's Festive Friends (I love alliteration.  Can you tell? ;-) )
      And year, new month, new theme:
Presenting (insert drum roll here)...Winter Wonders!

Be sure to check one of the posts of the previous months to learn how to set this up with your kiddos.

Hopefully, these tips will serve as a reminder of things that you already do, and do well, and also as a reminder of a thing or two that you can revisit or consider trying new.  In addition, with all of this focus on reflecting and refreshing, I want to leave you with something fun that you can do with your students in the first few days back to class.  I've had a lot of positive feedback on the Holiday themed Mad Libs that I experimented with last month.  One that I created is called My New Year's Resolutions and I would like to offer that to you for free as a token of my appreciation for making it all the way through this incredibly long post! :)

It is part of a set of three that is available at my store and will only be offered for free here.  I hope, if you choose to give it a try, that your students will get a giggle from it when they are done.

Please consider leaving a post if you're trying any of the tips above OR if you have some more tips to share.  We would love to see them!

With best wishes for the new year,

I've also linked this post to:
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


Freebie Fridays

Stop by and look around - great ideas are there to be found! :)


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Sarah, and thank you for stopping by! :)

  2. I just shared your site with my daughter's middle school teacher :)
    You have a special place in the heart of the Teaching Blog Circle! I invite you to stop by and learn more... Your blog has inspired and helped me :)
    The Teacher's Chair

  3. I also love routine and having things ready! Good idea. I have created a Blog Log for Middle School Teachers. Click here if you might want to join or find out more info.
    Happy Blogging

    1. It's the easiest way to survive the day! Lol Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for the invite above. I really appreciate it. I'm going to go and check it out, for sure!

  4. I believe this is actually the most useful blog I've been through this entire day.


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