Elementary school classrooms are busy. And noisy. And difficult to control. You need classroom management strategies that work if you want to maintain order and manage behavior in the class.
If you’re a parent whose child is struggling, getting their teacher to try some of these classroom management strategies with them may help.
If you’re a teacher – these are strategies to implement with the entire class, but they work.
And the best part? No token economies, no reward charts.
Unique Classroom Management Strategies
These strategies are frequently implemented in a classroom for children with complex behavioral needs.
These kids struggle significantly in school for a variety of reasons. They attended this program and this classroom so they can learn the skills they need to be successful in public school with their peers.
But, these classroom management strategies aren’t only for kids with behavioral challenges. They work because they’re good strategies for all kids.
It may be different than you’re used to – most of the strategies used by schools now are based on reward systems like token economies and apps likes class dojo.
When used successfully, these classroom management strategies inspire children’s success through intrinsic motivation rather than external motivators.
Classroom Management Strategies
Create Common Language in the Classroom
This is really the first step in classroom behavior management.
Creating a common language helps the children understand each other. Kids all come from different places, everyone’s homes are different.
Using a social-emotional learning program at school helps all the kids understand each other and express themselves in a similar way.
The Right to Pass
Sometimes, even the most outspoken of students will not want to share something or participate in something, because at that given moment they just don’t feel ready.
A lot of children feel nervous to speak or read in front of the class. They worry they’ll make a mistake, or wonder what their classmates will think of them.
The right to pass gives all children the chance to pass on something if they aren’t feeling ready.
It can be empowering for kids to know they can say “pass” if they aren’t ready and they can choose when they are ready to share.
Using The Right to Pass does not mean kids get to skip out on doing something forever. It’s not a means to avoiding work and it’s important to tell the children that the expectations and the work aren’t going away.
It may just mean presenting on another day or reading aloud to just the teacher at recess instead of the whole class.
When kids know they can pass and that you’ll respect their choice, you’ll start to see students willing to share more than ever before.
Two Reminders & a Chat
“Two reminders and a chat” just means that if a student isn’t following the classroom expectations, they’ll be given two reminders within the classroom, and then you’ll have a chat outside of the classroom.
This isn’t implemented as a disciplinary action, however.
You need to execute this classroom management strategy in a positive way as if you’re coming from a place of curiosity and concern.
For example, when you head out to the hallway for the chat, you may say something like ” It looks like you’re having a hard time starting your math assignment today. Is there something getting in your way?”
Or something like “It seems like it’s really hard to stay seated this afternoon, what’s up?”
As adults, we can forget how the seemingly benign problems of childhood can interfere with a child’s ability to focus and do their classwork.
Anything from the excitement for plans over the weekend, to something another child said on the playground, could challenge even the best of students’ focus.
And some children have even more serious issues to worry about at home. Maybe they didn’t sleep last night because their parents were fighting, or worse.
The reset should be done right after the “chat” part of “Two Reminders and a Chat”.
After you’ve chatted with the student, you should quickly debrief and then agree to reset. Resetting means they’ll go back into the classroom with a fresh start.
It means they can return to class without any negative lingering feelings due to what happened just before.
You’d say something like “Okay you’ve been having a hard time starting your math assignment because you aren’t sure you understand the first question. We’re going to go back into class and reset. I’ll come to your desk and help you get started. Have I covered everything?”
Do-overs can be difficult, but worth it in the long run.
A do-over is simply getting a child to re-do something in the way it’s expected.
For example, a child blurts out an answer in class. You say let’s do a do-over. The child raises their hand, you call their name, and then they say the answer.
Another example is when a child runs down the hall – you have them go back and walk back to the location.
You can say “no running!” or “walking feet!” all day long but if the child can still run down the hall and get to where they are going without delay then it’s not helping.
Implementing these four classroom management strategies will help all students be more successful at school.
Showing Children They Aren’t Alone
You can take this even farther by not just getting to know the students better, but by showing them that they aren’t alone with their feelings, worries, and fears.
This activity is perfect for that.
What Do Kids Worry About at School?
This teacher had her students do this during the morning meeting. All these worries can be brainstormed as a group or adult-led if the children are hesitant to participate at first.
The checkmarks are for all the kids who also worry about that thing at school.
And suddenly, all the children see that they’re not alone. This classroom management strategy works because it creates a sense of community in the class. The kids are immediately able to relate to one another and work together.
The Problem with Reward Charts
Reward charts and classroom rewards are used in almost every elementary school classroom. And while they can be awesome, they don’t help the children who are struggling in the class.
That’s because motivation isn’t the problem.
Class rewards and individual rewards may push some students to work harder. But for kids with behavior challenges at school, they aren’t lazy or unwilling, they lack the underlying skills needed in the classroom.
So, unfortunately, these kids are often trying even harder than their peers and still coming up short. And, the adults around them may not even see that.
These ideas are just the first tier of classroom management. These work best when implemented for all the students.
Some children will need additional supports and accommodations in addition to these strategies in order to be successful at school.
These strategies are individualized and specific to the child’s unique and often complex needs.