A few months ago, a fellow school counselor emailed me some questions – one of which was related to classroom management. After I responded to her, I realized this was probably worth a blog post. After all, most of us elementary school counselors spend significant time in the classroom…and very few of us received training in grad school on how to actually manage the class!
I’m included in this. My first year I knew nothing other than what I saw in the two minutes I observed teachers teaching before they handed their class over to me.
And I still have days sometimes where I know my classroom management isn’t great. I like to think I’ve come a long way though. Here are some small things I’ve found to be helpful:
1.A well-planned lesson is your best offense here. If you account for everything ahead of time, you won’t have to spend nearly as much time during the lesson managing behaviors. How will you distribute materials? How do you expect them to share? Are students already grouped how you will need? Do you know how to operate any needed technology in the room? Have you planned for your lowest and highest students?
2. On that note: When I plan my lessons, I plan for no more than 15 minutes sitting still at a time and no more than 15 minutes of them being quiet at a time. I’m a social being and so are my (very wiggly) students. This means I incorporate movement and group work whenever possible! I wrote a whole post about best practices in classroom counseling lesson planning.
3. Bringing my voice down quieter is a new trick I’ve been loving! It helps to regulate them when they’re getting a little rowdy, they know I’m ‘serious’ when I’m quiet, and the change in volume catches their attention.
4. Kiddos that I anticipate might be turkeys in my lesson, I try to connect with as soon as I walk in (before I ‘officially’) begin. I greet them individually, or give a compliment, or ask a question about what they’re working on. They’re more likely to make good behavior choices when I’m in there and if they don’t, they still respond better to my redirection if I connect with them first.
5. Ask the students to tell you what the rules are, before you need them to follow them. “When Ms. ____ reads you a story, what are the expectations?” “What are the rules for when you’re working with a partner?”
6. I use different clapping/stomping/snapping rhythms to get their attention. Clap-Clap-ClapClapStomp (repeat), etc. When I was in a PD once, the presenter said she wanted to honor peoples’ discussions so instead of asking for people to stop them mid-sentence to give her attention, she always uses some sort of rhythm so people that need it have a moment to finish their thoughts before joining in.
7. If engagement starts to dip, I find something that I need a volunteer for. Nothing gets kids attention faster than “I need a volunteer…” It also allows students to switch their focus for a moment (to the volunteer) but still be focused on the lesson.
8. I move around A LOT during my lessons while I’m talking to them if they’re at their desks/tables. I walk from front to back, side to side. If I need to sit, I sit on top of a table or empty desk – that gives me height which gives me their attention.
9. Anytime my lesson involves them working collaboratively (which is 95% of the time), I take a minute to explain or model specifics before I let them loose. For example, if they’re going to be sorting cards as a group, I get a couple volunteers to sit next to me and I model how to put them all in a stack and to take turns drawing, reading, and deciding together where to put it. I model how to tell someone I’d like a turn. If I’m giving them a choice of where to work, we take a minute to think about where in the room we can focus best (at desks, by the door, on the rug, etc.).
10. This quote is the bees knees: “I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather.” (-Haim Ginott) Especially when working with children, our mood and tone and emotions really set the weather for the room. The more regulated and calm I am, the better the lesson goes. Do the students push my buttons sometimes? Heck yes. Do I occasionally get bad news via text or email right before I walk into a classroom? Yup. But I have to channel all of my zen (and sometimes CBT myself) to get myself regulated and ready.
Do you have any tricks up your sleeve? How do you proactively manage behavior during your classroom lessons?