Teacher Strategies for Elementary Classroom Management
Close your eyes and envision a classroom where every student is engaged in a guided environment that fosters continuous learning. Can you hear the laughter, meaningful conversations, and music? Can you see an attractive, inviting, and well-organized themed classroom with flexible seating? Can you smell the pine trees, sugar cookies, and firewood? Can you taste buñuelos, Chinese noodles, and stone soup? Interactive, immersive strategies like these can enhance an orderly environment that promotes prosocial student behavior and academic engagement. Let’s take a look into how you can establish control and coherence in your elementary classroom management strategy.
Organizing Physical Space
Classroom environments vary in size, color, number of students, and furniture, but classroom management strategies can look very similar. One key attribute to maintaining an environment conducive to learning is the arrangement of furniture and storage of supplies. Some teachers elect to have flexible seating that reflects students’ home surroundings. Students feel more relaxed while stationed on yoga balls, sofas, and rugs. If students feel comfortable in their surroundings, they will be more apt to participate in activities with less negative behavior.
When supplies are clearly marked in open or clear containers, students are motivated to work independently with less disruptions. Students are encouraged to gather materials as needed and to return the items to the marked location for the next use. Having a well-organized environment and keeping supplies within easy reach for students promotes independence and responsibility. This type of environment also frees up a teacher to engage in small groups and one-on-one activities without numerous interruptions from students needing items to complete activities.
Establishing a Culture for Learning
Selecting a classroom theme that appeals to students will spur excitement and encourage engaging participation. Students will enter the classroom each week eager to journey through the woods, surf in the ocean, or even explore in a cave as they learn immersed skills. A little John Denver or Mozart playing in the background will maintain a targeted voice level while instruction is being delivered to whole or small groups. Savory sugar cookie smells mimic a bakery, while firewood burning emulates a campground and allures student engagement into classroom themes. Setting the stage is important when commendable behavior is necessary for optimal learning.
Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport
Student high fives, heel-toe taps, or gentle hugs are simple ways to greet your students every morning as they enter the classroom. Having a positive interaction upon entry can promote a favorable start to each day. What about a morning meeting around a campfire to review daily events and expectations? Strategies like these help minimize unwanted behaviors and redundant questions. Students can establish daily goals, celebrate hard work, and reflect on progress and receive the support of their classmates and teacher during an intimate setting.
Managing Classroom Behavior
Creating an environment where students understand every action has a positive and negative consequence will ultimately prepare them for the real world. Acknowledging desired behavior with a “smarty pants” ticket or a “scholar dollar” will effectively support positive actions in the classroom. Affirming unwanted behavior with a “behavior contract,” time in the cool-down zone, or one-on-one debrief will assist students with applicable classroom habits.
Managing Classroom Transition
One, two, three, bring it down! Captivating students with rhymes and catchy songs will quickly focus their attention on the current activity. A doorbell can signal time to clean up or stop, look, and listen for further directions. Digital time clocks are visible and appealing to some students as they work to complete tasks within a designated time. The key to classroom transition is consistency. Once students become accustomed to doorbells, chants, and chiming clocks, they will quickly maneuver the classroom routine.
Developing your classroom management strategies is imperative for a well-managed and engaging environment where maximum learning can occur. There are numerous strategies, but the best ones are consistent and designed for your unique students. Students change from year to year, and learning situations change too. Implementing strategies that best fit you and your students will foster a seamless routine and a successful school year!
Best Practices for Elementary Classroom Management
Educators know that an elementary classroom can turn chaotic in an instant, so it’s important to have good classroom management procedures in place.
At Edmentum, we’re fortunate enough to say that many members of our organization have spent years serving as educators.
To help tame classroom chaos, we asked these team members to share their top tips for managing the elementary classroom:
“My top three from when I was in the classroom:
- Give students autonomy over their learning. Provide them with options and utilize the gradual release of responsibility model to build independence.
- Notice and praise behaviors and actions you want/expect; kids love to be praised and recognized. And others will begin to want to mimic students who get noticed and complimented.
- Above all, build relationships! If your students don't respect you and trust you and know that you are their biggest cheerleader, classroom management will always be a challenge.”
– Kristina F., 4th-grade teacher in Texas
A great way to help your students learn how to behave in a classroom is to break out a book and read it aloud. Not only are you sneaking in more literacy to your day, but a fun story can help your students learn what is to be expected of them.
Check out this blog post for some tips on building a classroom community to get you started.
Allow for Movement
“Younger students (K–3) need to move— When I was a principal, I would tell my teachers if I visited their classrooms for 10 minutes or more and didn't see students moving, there was a problem.”
– Laura P., pre-K, 1st, and 3rd-grade teacher in Arizona and principal in charter, private, and international schools
Getting students up and moving in your classroom is an important part of their learning. Keeping students from fidgeting can be easy and fun when you implement brain breaks in your daily routine. Check out these five strategies to make brain breaks work in the classroom.
Encourage Student Ownership of Classroom Management
“Allow students to have ownership and responsibility over their behavior choices. They will mess up and act out, but if they trust you, they will let you guide them through the different developmental behaviors they show during the school year.
Our goal would be to teach them how to take work through negative and positive behavior. This way, they learn how to grow through the process of developing positive responses, vocabulary, and outcomes.
In turn, (hopefully) as young adults, they will be able to self-correct as they continue to develop into adults and make positive and healthy choices when faced with diverse situations throughout their life.”
– Kim R., 3rd–8th-grade teacher and administrator in Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina
There are many strategies you can implement in your classroom to help your students understand their behavior choices. One strategy, behavioral narration, can help keep them on track for the entire year. Check out its benefits in this blog post.
Build a Good Routine
“Time management and organization are key. Have materials ready to go to reduce downtime, use timers to keep things moving, and have a procedure (which is practiced until it becomes routine) for everything.”
– Jen C., 7th–8th grade teacher in New Jersey
When running an elementary classroom, preparation is everything. Staying at the top of your game is a priority when in a class full of wiggly kids. Check out these top five timesaving, lesson-planning tips.
Looking for more tips, tricks, and ideas to keep you on track and prepared for a successful year? Consider learning more about other classroom management strategies such as prioritizing student relationships and motivating students.