Back to the Basics: Classroom Management

Hey there friends!  Over the weekend I asked on Facebook some topics you would like me to cover for the New Year!  Classroom management was one of those!  I am excited to get this post together for you.  Now, I do not consider myself some awesome classroom management professional.  We all have good days. We have not-so-good days too.  I think what makes a great teacher is when you acknowledge those good/not-so-good days, take what worked, and tweak anything that didn’t work!
What I’ve realized over the past few years is that routines…even the smallest and easiest routines make a HUGE difference for the classroom!  I spent a few days in a classroom…helping to reaffirm their classroom routines and implement a few new ones.  What did I learn? You will repeat yourself more than once, practice and then practice more, but most of all I took away that the kids LOVED having routines and really were excited to try something new.  Did they know what I was showing them would improve classroom environment?  Of course not, but they loved the praise they received!

 One other thing I took away from this experience was how independent my students are.  Independent in the way they problem solve on their own for the most part.  If they need a pencil…they get it.  When I send them to their seats I can trust that they are starting their work.  This is something that I would have not known before!  Okay, let’s get started.  Now, remember every classroom is NOT the same…the kids are NOT the same…so somethings I share you can totally roll your eyes at and I won’t be offended at all.  Now if you completely disagree with me you can just email me privately those thoughts ๐Ÿ˜‰  You’ll notice that I never state that my way is the best…I’m simply a resource.  Take it or leave it and make things work for your classroom/students!
 Okay, time to line up!  You’ll notice as I share these routines I use a lot of ideas from Whole Brain Teaching! I went to their training a few summers ago, but would love to go back again! For this tip students will walk to to the door in an orderly and manageable fashion.  This routine does take a some practice and listening skills.  Still now that we have been doing it for 75 days in my classroom I still give a simple reminder each time we do it.

For this routine the teacher will state LINES, LINES, LINES.  The students then repeat the same phrase back.  The person in the first row will know that after stating lines, lines, lines it is their turn to stand up and their entire row will stand up and walk over to their door in the same order as the were at the carpet.  The first person in row two will know to follow the last person in row one…and so on for all rows on your carpet.  After stating the lines, lines, lines I will usually state something like, “Remember friends that we can do this without talking.” “I will be looking for someone that is able to line up without their voice.”  “I noticed that we were able to tap our friends to remind them if they forgot, instead of yelling at them to go.”  Yes, kids will need to practice this over and over.  This routine seemed SO simple, but I was so happy to be able to state the phrase…then the kids could line up independently without me having to continually call tables, colors, etc.

There is a little graphic below, but this routine is fairly self-explanatory.  Now if my students are at their tables when lining up I will call them by their table.  I use the same teacher convincing, “I will be looking for the table who has heads resting to line up.”  “Wow, boys and girls did you see how quietly table 2 lined up?”  “Oh, table four you made it very hard to beat…can table 2 line up quieter?” 

 The hallway is where I run a tight ship.  I’m sure everyone has views on this, but my idea for the hallway is that it is that one time of the day that I DO require the students to be silent.  The remainder of the day we work quietly at times, but the hallway has to be quiet so we do not disturb others.  Now…obviously as a five year old it is very hard to stay silent in the hallway.  So, I do two things to try and help this out. 1}  I make the restroom break QUICK.  The faster we can get in and out the less time I will be requiring my kids to stand quietly.  I am not a bathroom timer person…not saying I have anything against it.  That is just not for me.  2}  I offer several positive rienforcers for when we are in the hallway.
Before leaving the classroom we review our hallway expectations, hand on our hip and a finger on our lip.  We also sing a hallway song to get ready as well!  There are so many cute hallway songs!  You can click HERE and view some on Pinterest.  Here is our class favorite:

I put a hand on my hip,
and a finger on my lip.
So, I won’t get in trouble,
when we take our little trip.

I also have one other super corny hallway quiet trick…I tell the kids that there is a mother cat in hallway looking for some mice to eat.  So, they have to be VERY quiet mice.  We even walk out into the hallway on our tip-toes.  The obviously know they are not mice and there are no cats…yet it works every time!

For positive reinforces I find students doing their job in the hallway to move up their clip or put a stone in our classroom stone jar.  For the most part we rock it!  In my school we are blessed to have true “squares” on our floor.  So, it’s super easy for me to say, “Find your square.”  If a student is out of their square I will tell them they have sneaky feet!  They know to find their square.  I have found that it takes a lot LESS energy for me to make a positive comment rather than a negative one.  For example, “Wow!  Johnny is standing so quietly in the hallway.  You can move up your clip Johnny.. {Johnny beams ear to ear and Susie who was turning circles behind him in line quickly finds her square so she has a chance to move up her clip}.  Would I be realistic to say I never have to give a redirection to an individual student?  No, of course not.  However, for the most part…positive always wins over the opposite!

 Restroom and hallway are pretty similar. Before leaving the classroom for the restroom I like to review my expectations and the kids “play along.”  I will tell them they are going to restroom to…{use the bathroom!}.  They will first use the restroom, then wash their hands with ….{one squirt of soap}.  Then, they will dry their hands with…{one paper towel.}  Afterwards they may get a drink for …{1, 2, 3..that’s enough for me!} We will then… {walk back to get in line}.  We obviously don’t have to go through this every time we go to the restroom, but I like to revisit the expectations when needed.

I have found that I need to be constantly “checking in” during the restroom break.  I like to move from the line, to giving a friendly reminder in both bathrooms before returning to the line.  Something about when they think you can’t see them…the things they do ๐Ÿ˜‰

Remember this oh so coordinating rug from back to school?  Well it is NO lie that I dragged this sucker {all by myself I will add} out to my car at about 10 P.M. one night….

I gladly then dragged THIS rug back into the classroom….oh yes!  See what I see?  SQUARES!  I believe 100000% in having squares, sit spots, etc at the carpet.  I had purchased sit spots for my cute rug, but they didn’t quite “stick” so I had to go to plan B.
At the carpet my students return to their assigned squares every time we are at the carpet. While at the carpet I do have a few things I do in order to keep the peace.  We all know the, “keep your hands to yourselves.”  However, in kindergarten it seems like a lot of us have a hard time with that.  This year I started with “hands in your cookie jar.”  That just means students place their hands in their laps…something about a cookie jar entices them to do the right thing ๐Ÿ˜‰  When I notice students are not sitting down criss-cross or have their hands in their laps I will simply say… 3, 2, 1 {hands in cookie jars/sit criss-cross}.  Most students are familiar with my countdown and will automatically fix themselves before I get to “1.”

I think that a big part of classroom management is when the students “buy in” to classroom expectations.  I notice this a lot at the carpet.  Students will tap friends sitting near them and give them the silent signals I have tough them.  Nothing extraordinary…quiet finger for quiet please and the index finger pointing down for sit down please.  When I see that I get so tickled…. hey thanks for the help!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

For the actual reading groups I think they don’t require as much management attention, because you are one on six or fewer.  I will address the rest of the class during small group in the next section.  For groups I do find having something for them to work on while you are placing the other students into their daily five is important.  I love using my Writing Strips  for this! The kiddos know how to use them and they do not require me to be there.  Another activity I leave back on my table for the kiddos to start on is a simple mix and fix with magnetic letters.  Inside their tub will be the letters for the two words for the week!

For me Daily 5 or centers requires the most solid classroom management routines!  I think these routines start DAY ONE of your daily 5 time.  When we are first starting out at the beginning of the year and making our anchor charts, stating our goals, etc…this is where those expectations will be set for the year.  In my classroom we still review our four daily 5 expectations just about everyday.  The kids will raise their hands and share with the class things we WILL see during daily and things we will NOT see during daily five.  We also still role play what daily five looks like from time to time.  Here are our four expectations; work the whole time, work quietly, stay in one spot, and get started right away.

Another major aspect in my opinion for daily five time is QUICK transitions…that means assigning kiddos to their daily five quickly and efficiently.  I know, I know….I break the rules with my daily five dismissal board, but it works and it is FAST!  The students can ALL look to see where they are going and move there. This takes seconds compared to students choosing their own daily five…which takes several minutes.  This also allows me to quickly scan the classroom, assist any students needing it, then get to my guided reading table.  I am able to offer a lot more instructional time at my table this way.

Download this freebie daily five dismissal board….

After each round of daily five I sing a little song…. I’m looking for some friends…I’m looking for some friends…that are, at the carpet. The kids know that this means it is time to clean up and head to the carpet.  I always remind the kids that I will be looking for three lucky ducks to move up their clips.  These friends were doing their jobs during the daily five round and made their way to the carpet quietly.  You can download the lucky ducks for free HERE.

After each round of daily five the kids check in. I pull three sticks out of my lucky duck cup.  Each stick I pull out has to tell the group what their daily five was and how they did.  For the most part the kids are always on task and that lucky duck gets to move up their clip.  For some reason if they were not we can quickly discuss it and their duck goes back into the cup for another shot at being pulled!

Another big area for my during daily five is having students work independently for their daily five.  Again, this is my personal preference, but if I am requiring students to work quietly and stay on task I feel they can manage this much better working by themselves.

I also have one more little “quirk” during daily five which is only two students sit at one table at a time.  They also sit diagonal from one another.  I’ve discovered that this cuts down on table-chatter A LOT!

 I use a lot of Whole Brain Teaching classroom attention getters.  Mostly, I use Class?  Yes?  I love this one because if the kiddos hands are busy they can still respond to me!  I also the freebie poster from Simply Kinder below…Hands on your head.  Eyes on me.  If you are ready say 1, 2, 3.  I also have one clap in particular that I use the most…. clap, clap…clap, clap, clap…the students then repeat the clap.  Honestly, anything other than yelling over the kids is what I do!  I don’t think it’s okay we exert our voices for their attention! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are a few more I use…

Classity, Class…yessity, yes!
Class, Class….yes, yes!

For writing I wanted to talk more about once students go back to their tables.  In my classroom EVERYONE wants me to write with them, read their story, help them hear a sound ..etc, etc.  I have spent A LOT of time this year teaching the kids that they have a whole room full of teacher experts ie. their classmates.  However, they still come to me…hmph!  So, I do try to set the tone for writing time with the lights off and soft music playing!  That does seem to really help the kids get into their writing “grooves.”  I have my students start with their words and then their pictures.  We also talk a lot about perseverance during writing time and making sure that we don’t give up…we are writers after all! ๐Ÿ™‚

For math my students make their way down to the carpet in a circle.  This can be chaos ready to happen because students are…..not in their own squares!  I have students stand by their partners until their partner is done with their snack, and then they both walk down to our circle at the same time.  This eliminates the whole…”No!  That is Johnny’s spot!!!”
Once at the carpet we do a lot of number sense routines. A few we do require for me to “flash” the ten frames.  For these routines students do not shout out their answers…I require for everyone to have their think time first.  So, I show the card around the circle, then tell students to build the answer with their fingers in the laps.  I then will say, “show and tell.”  This allows for wait time…and when students are building their answer in their laps others cannot see what they are doing.  When students show and tell their answers it is obvious to me who is understanding the concept and who needs more practice!

I LOVE adding in any kind of engagement throughout my lessons and just my day in general!  Mirrors is a great Whole Brain Teaching routine.  For mirrors the teachers say, Mirrors On…and the students state mirrors on as well.  Then the students will repeat what the teacher says.  This is great if you are reviewing a chart, directions, etc.  When you are done with the mirrors the teachers will just say, mirrors off.

Along with mirrors…I do LOTS of classroom cheers!  Nothing out of the ordinary and you can view lots of great ones HERE.  Throughout the day we do all kinds of fun cheers…I will say, “Give me an oh yeah….OH YEAH!”  “Give me a whoop, whoop!  WHOOP,  WHOOP!”  Basically, make learning FUN and spontaneous and the kids will eat it up! ๐Ÿ™‚

One more I use a lot when I know all students want to share with “blow it in your hand.”  This simply means the students blow their answers in the hands…they then watch for my to release the bubble and once I do everyone can state the answer at the same time!

This one is kind of a no brainer, but does take a lot of thought prior.  I feel that a big part of classroom management is preparation!  That means having what you need for your lessons ready.  The more the kids wait…the more behaviors you will see.  I like to have my computer files, videos, programs, etc pulled up on the computer.  I also have all materials I need for that day at the front of the room for me to easily access.  I know nothing new, but it DOES make a difference!  I like to quickly make my “stack” each night before I leave. That way if I notice anything I will need I can do it quickly before leaving.  We all have our after school/during school teacher routines…so stick with what works for you! ๐Ÿ™‚
PACING, PACING, PACING….one of those areas that is obvious, or is it?  Now, I will admit that sometimes I talk WAY too fast …but I am referencing overall pacing of your day.  I think it’s a fine line…between too much time or too little time we spend on a task.  Either way it directly effects your classroom. For example…students are at their tables working on an independent activity…over half of the class is done, but half aren’t.  What do you do?  In my room I like to offer the….”Work out of your busy bee journal.  Read from your tub.  Choose something out of your cubby to work on.”  These options usually get my by another 5-10 minutes.  However, after about 10 minutes I see that those who are done are getting restless and understandably so.  I like to call for their attention and have all students meet me at the carpet.  Depending on the task I could have those not done… finish up, leave it at their table for later, or go ahead and place it in their cubby.

I have seen when teachers wait for every last student to be done 100% before moving on to the next task.   Now, I am not saying that is wrong…just saying I prefer to move along with the “majority” of the classroom.  My classroom moves at a fairly quick pace…we are not slopping down work to get done quickly, but we move at a reasonably quick pace!

I think the more we are changing up tasks and expectations the better behaved the students are.  If I am expecting them to sit at the carpet for 20 minutes …#imaskingforit  If we sit at carpet for 10 minutes, then work on independent work for 10 minutes, and back to the carpet for another 10  minutes I will get much better results! Pacing really is your whole day…how long for morning work, the restroom, each daily five group, etc. etc.  

Brain breaks are of course a GREAT way to break up the longer tasks I discussed above.  I also like to use brain breaks as rewards for working for a length of time!  We love using GoNoodle!  I use the option on the YouTube section and add in my own Just Dance videos!

Here are some additional brain breaks…a freebie from First Grade Blue Skies!

Like most of you I have challenging kiddos in my classroom.  They challenge me in my thinking and classroom practices everyday.  On those rough days I go home and try to come up with a way for them to be successful. On goods days I take time to reflect on what went well and how we can continue that.  I have found that students do respond to positive reinforcers!  I put together these positive behavior logs for a couple of my students and they really have worked well!
I also do offer daily rewards for a couple of my students that are working towards behavior goals.  I’ve noticed in my own classroom that those that need daily rewards will eventually get “used to” doing the right thing where they will no longer require daily rewards.  It’s one of those things that some feel uncomfortable with…rewarding those that don’t always do what they should, but that are trying.  So, in my room when that student has a good day and gets rewarded we also choose 2-3 additional friends from the classroom to get a reward as well.  This way the class can cheer on this individual throughout the day as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, that is all I got! I sure hope you learned something new to try in your classroom!  If you have specific classroom management questions feel free to post them below or email me directly of course at ta******@ho*****.com!
Until next time….


  1. Thanks for such an informative post, Tara!! I appreciate your helpful tips and the time I'm sure you put into writing this blog post!! I agree with everything you said. One of my college profs said, keep them busy and engaged, and you'll have few behavior issues. I believe this 110%!!

  2. Thank you for sharing your management ideas. We have a schoolwide behavior plan where there are different voice levels for different places in the school and they are posted in the halls. My students just do not understand that there are times when there should be no talking. They talk when I send them to their seats to begin work; getting a pencil and writing their name is a very loud time. One little boy just has to talk which leads the others to talk. We go over rules often everyday and they can recite them, but not follow them. Do you have any suggestions for the student who likes to shut himself in his locker?? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Thank you for all of this information! We head back to school Monday so reading this is helping me get refocused from the time off ๐Ÿ™‚ And I love Go Noodle! And I'm definitely going to use your Lucky Ducks idea when we go back!

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