how to get better at classroom management?
August 23, 2018 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Hi! I'll be teaching an after school extracurricular activity to elementary school kids starting next week. I'd like to learn how I can become more effective at the classroom management aspect of the job. Doee anyone have any good tips or resources they can point me towards? Thanks!
posted by Gosha_Dog to Work & Money (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
That’s a big question! I’m an elementary teacher and right now the single resource I learn the most from is following Janet Lansbury on Facebook. She writes about toddler parenting but so much of it applies to working with older kids!
posted by mai at 12:11 PM on August 23, 2018

You may want to take a look at the book The First Days of School by Harry Wong. There's a lot of good stuff in there and, as the name implies, they hit hard on the idea of starting as you mean to go on.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

My other tips:
1. Establish routines for everything: what does the beginning of their time with you look like? How do they get out and put away materials? Etc.
2. Be highly attentive. Position yourself in the space so that you can see and hear everyone. Minimize moments when you need to turn your back, for example to get something from a cupboard. Have it put ahead of time. Your whole presence should say to kids, I am ready, I am relaxed, I am paying attention to all of you.
posted by mai at 12:15 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might want to google "relationship-based classroom management" -- there are books & other resources that might help.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2018

Responsive Classroom is an organization that has a lot of great resources, and books too. Like Harry Wong's book (which I highly recommend too) Responsive Classroom has a book called "The First Six Weeks of School", which is all about establishing rules, routines and procedures, and ways to engage students in helping to set the classroom culture during the first six weeks of school.

Planning ahead your routines and procedures, teaching your students them, and holding everyone one accountable for them is a huge piece of classroom management. Think about how you will quiet children when you need their attention (if you can hear my voice clap once, repeated adding a number of claps until you have everyone's attention is what I usually use) Also, designing your space (if possible) is huge too- make sure there aren't large open spaces where kids will want to run, make sure there aren't blind spots where kids can go to act up.

Knowing some of what is developmentally appropriate is also something that helps with behavior management- like keeping kids sitting for too long can make young children more apt to act out. I imagine with an afterschool group that some kids are going to be hungry and tired What will be the transition time from entering the space to starting on the first activity- build in time for kids to transition from the school day, to the afterschool time- maybe have relaxing music and a snack available as they arrive? I think establishing predictable routines and sticking with them go along way in helping students behave.
posted by momochan at 12:48 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tools of teaching by Fred jones is also a very very good book!
posted by catspajammies at 12:52 PM on August 23, 2018

Use a seating plan so you can learn names. Using names when you need to ask a student to stop doing something or for their input on something really helps. Also using a students name when you want to praise makes it feel much more personal and therefore adds value.
posted by chr at 1:12 PM on August 23, 2018

I really like Teach Like a Champion for specific, learnable “teacher moves.” I worked at a charter high school that used it, but also gave it to my husband for his first time teaching law students.
posted by teditrix at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Teach Like a Champion. I think there is a 2.0 version now. Some of it is cheesy or feels manipulative, some of it works like MAGIC.
posted by raspberrE at 2:36 PM on August 23, 2018

You got so many great resources. I'll add this:

You can always, always, ALWAYS pull back on rules and procedures, but it is nearly impossible to implement new rules once the year is underway. Start strong.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 11:16 AM on August 24, 2018

Working with 4th and 5th graders, my favorite classroom management trick was when setting them up for group or independent work, I'd say something like, "I'm going to let you work on your own, and when we're ready to move on, I'll stand here like this and wait for you to show me that I have your full attention." Then I'd stand up straight in the front of the room to demonstrate.

It would work, too. Kids like to show you that they can do what it takes to make things go smoothly without being prodded. After they would quiet down on their own, I would thank them, acknowledge that they did a really good job of paying attention, and sometimes tell them that it's obvious that they care about their learning or that it makes things easy when people are so cooperative.

It's a good approach because kids don't see you trying and failing to establish order, they take ownership of establishing it themselves. And they do it coming from a place of wanting to help each other and the group rather than something based on dominance.

I would teach them how to do this, too: "If it's time to bring our focus back and you notice that your neighbor is still lost in thought, you can gently get their attention by doing this."

I would demonstrate laying my hand on the desk, palm down, and then lifting my fingers up about an inch and giving two quick taps on the desk surface with the pads of my fingers. It isn't loud, but it is noticeable, and the idea is to do it to the corner of your neighbor's desk. I would talk about how you want it to be enough to get someone's attention, but not so loud that it startles them or embarrasses them. I'd seek consensus from them that this is a respectful way to bring someone's attention back so they would feel comfortable using the technique on one another. (I would also let them know that they're free to ask their neighbors not to do this to them, and that those wishes should be respected.)

Sometimes I would have one kid, or a pair of kids still "lost in thought" after everyone else had been quiet for a little while, completely oblivious, and everyone in the class would be looking at them waiting for them to get it together. I would look at them and wait, and they would figure it out and stop. I would usually say "Thank you" and move on, and let the embarrassment of the moment be enough. The other kids are watching you when you handle moments like this, and they know they could be the ones messing up in the future.

Working with this age group, you want to make it really easy for evidence to appear in your classroom (in a way that is super-obvious to the kids) that the group is mature, capable, kind to one another, deserving of the benefit of the doubt, and working together towards a common goal. When that evidence appears, you want to amplify it, point out that it is happening, and show your students that you trust them.
posted by alphanerd at 7:19 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I would have one kid, or a pair of kids still "lost in thought" after everyone else had been quiet for a little while, completely oblivious, and everyone in the class would be looking at them waiting for them to get it together.

God, no, don't do this. Singling out people who have difficulties with managing their attention is just cruel and encourages bullying behavior. Forcing group responsibility ends up with kids getting nasty and into hardcore bullying about that one kid who's screwing it up for the rest of them. Then you have one kid who feels like shit about themselves and now hates school and probably their teacher.

It is FAR more kind and simple to give a quick, all-class warning of a special clap or turning off the lights, then quickly walk about the room and tap on desks or hand out new paper or pencils or something where you're the one redirecting kids.

Having kids police each other is a really terrible thing. I know that superficially it seems like a small detail, but it isn't. It causes long-lasting damage to kids with attention issues.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:47 AM on August 25, 2018

You can always, always, ALWAYS pull back on rules and procedures, but it is nearly impossible to implement new rules once the year is underway. Start strong.

I was taught to do this too, and for the most part I do teach with more attention on enforcing the rules in the beginning. But there will always be some idiosyncrasies with your group that you can't anticipate. For unexpected "bad" behaviours I bring them up with the class and ask how the children would like to address the issue. Often they will collectively come up with a solution and/or consequence and stick to it because they thought of it. It's not magic, and you may have to come back to the discussion and brainstorm again but it has definitely been my "one weird trick to solve 99% of classroom problems." This goes without saying, but obviously don't do this to "fix" the behaviour of one child. Stick to general patterns in behaviours. Personal issues need to be addressed privately.
posted by eisforcool at 8:04 AM on August 26, 2018

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