10 Classroom management strategies for elementary school
Classroom management strategies for elementary school teachers need to encompass an understanding of how our teaching practices combine with student behavior management to prevent, correct, and redirect inappropriate behavior. Teachers should aim to foster a learning environment that supports academic achievement and our students’ social and emotional growth.
1. Establishing Routine
Establishing good routines is a vital element of effective classroom management plans. Young learners respond well to structured routines because they minimize confusion about expectations, create a sense of security, and promote their independence throughout the day.
Practical steps for establishing routines include:
- Making a list of recurring daily activities
- Developing procedures for each activity
- Explicitly teaching these procedures
- Reviewing procedures in action
- Modifying procedures as necessary
- Practicing and teaching until it becomes automatic
You can expect to see smoother transitions between activities, increased positive interactions with your students, and greater efficiency in your instruction and facilitation of classwork.
2. Teaching peer support strategies
Constructivist and socio-cultural teaching methods share a philosophical belief that cooperation between students is a key element of a student-centered approach. If you find yourself having to explain things over and over again to your students, teach them to ask a friend about what they should be doing.
Example one: Apply when a student has a question.
- Student: “I don’t know where to put my bag?”
- Teacher: “Try asking Sam where students are supposed to put their bags.”
Example two: Apply to encounters throughout the day.
- Teacher: “Alex, you need to ask a friend about what colors students were asked to use on this activity.”
Example three: Apply to increase class awareness of expectations.
- Teacher: “I see (students) with the correct equipment ready to go. Who can help their neighbor get ready?”
Provide positive feedback when the students resolve the situation on their own.
Establishing a peer-supported learning environment encourages student independence and helps them become more self-directed in their learning. In time, your students won’t need prompting to ask their friends for clarification, and they will be instinctively motivated to help their classmates.
3. Communicating Expected Behavior
Effective communication will encompass several techniques to cater for the diversity of learners in your classroom. For example, providing positive commentary on desired behavior in the classroom increases your students’ awareness of expectations and motivates them to regulate their own behavior.
Breaking the negative feedback loop of calling out poor behavior involves describing what the students behaving correctly are doing.
Here are some examples of positive reinforcement:
- “I love the way that Sam waited for my instructions before he moved to his desk.”
- “Isn’t it amazing how quietly the Red group sat down and waited?”
- “Rachel is being a great helper by showing Ollie what page we’re reading.”
- “Great effort, Max. I know it can be hard for you to focus, but today you were ready to work and finished 10 questions. Let’s build on it tomorrow.”
This is especially effective for students who consistently misbehave to get your attention. If you can, ignore any unwanted behaviors while directing your attention to a student acting appropriately and give them effective praise. They will learn that the students who get your attention are the ones who follow classroom expectations.
4. Time Management
Although it’s important to be flexible at times, your students need to learn to complete activities during given timeframes. When lesson planning, you can create a strong sense of structure by allocating consistent timeframes for daily activities.
Implementing a new time management procedure could involve:
- Ringing a bell or setting an alarm clock
- Explicitly teaching them that the sound means:
- “Stop” (pencils down, sit up straight)
- “Look” (eyes to the front)
- “Listen” (no talking, ears open)
- Practice until it becomes routine (Call and response using gestures is recommended)
By training your students to be better in their time management, they will learn to complete activities within set time limits and transition between activities more smoothly.
5. Reducing Idle Time
It is important to keep idle time to a minimum to prevent your students, especially those with ADHD, from becoming bored and acting inappropriately. Also, consider building short breaks into activities and leading your class in stretching or even mindfulness activities to reduce restlessness before refocusing students to complete their work.
If you have the space: create an area stocked with books, puzzles, and educational toys for students to use quietly once they have completed their work to your satisfaction.
If you don’t have the space: before the class begins, students can pick one book, puzzle, or toy to keep at their desk or designated area and use it only when they have finished their task.
Design a fast workers board with envelopes containing fun activities that the students can choose like:
- Decorating part of the classroom
- Using a computer
- Visiting the library
- Doing a find-a-word
- Doing a sudoku
- Playing Uno
- Coloring in/drawing
- Playing cards
- Playing a boardgame (chess/checkers)
- Listening to music on headphones
When your class is working well, allow students who don’t always finish early the chance to have fun with these bonus activities, too.
6. Facilitating Peer Feedback
Providing the right format for peer feedback can further encourage students to self-regulate during class. When you teach students the proper way to give peer feedback, you can increase learning opportunities for your students.
One study found teacher feedback promotes:
- Student collaboration
- Bridging gaps in learning
- Raising more ideas
- Practice in critical evaluation
- Reflection on own work
Creating a sense of inclusion could involve having students draw a classmate’s name out of a hat and say something positive that they saw the student doing. Display a list of examples like being a good friend, talking nicely to others, doing their work quietly, and trying their best in P.E. Keep selected names aside until every student has been chosen.
7. Settling Activities
You will have a good sense of when your students are unsettled or have too much energy (after lunch/rainy days/Fridays). Making short, quiet activities a part of your daily routine can help calm your students before beginning the next lesson.
- Reading to the students
- Quiet classroom games (telephone, heads down-thumbs up, statues)
- Completing puzzles in small groups
- Building Lego models
- Teaching self-regulation techniques
- Leading meditation
- Personal reading time
- Drawing/Coloring to music
- Watching an interactive video
- Resting on their desks
- Listening to a podcast
- Handwriting practice
It is important to be consistent with your classroom expectations, so be careful that students don’t learn to be noisy just to get games as a reward.
8. Movement-Based Activities
My elementary school class was very energetic. We could annoy teachers with our noise levels and our inability to sit still. Kids need to move! Studies show movement in the classroom yields big benefits with respect to student engagement, concentration, and enjoyment.
When transitioning between activities, throw in an energetic interlude to break things up:
- On Monday, play a breakdance video and practice the steps.
- On Tuesday, run a quick class lap around the playground.
- On Wednesday, see which students can come up with the most intricate “cool” handshake.
- On Thursday, select and play a “minute to win it” style game (these usually require teamwork and problem solving).
- On Friday, have a student lead a class workout to their favorite song.
Scheduling energy breaks can be particularly beneficial for kids with ADHD. It can help your students to maintain their behavior and focus when completing activities because they know they have something to look forward to each day.
Remember to switch things up as necessary and be ready with some fun, spontaneous activities for when they have too much energy.
9. Developing Behavioral Plans
Research consistently shows that when intervention is required, developing positive behavior support (PBS) plans have an impact. Your state’s education department (and even your school) will have PBS resources if you’re unsure where to begin.
If a student continues to struggle in your class, you might consider holding meetings with the student’s parents, executive staff, the school counselor, and the student.
The aim should be to:
- Determine any underlying problems
- Make sure their needs are being met
- Encourage inclusion and engagement
- Develop a plan for addressing challenging behavior
- Communicate the plan schoolwide
- Make modifications as necessary
Building better relationships with staff and classmates is also important. Remember that you’re dealing with children who do not have the adult skills necessary to deal with difficult situations or experience in resolving them. By making sure that a challenging student feels safe, cared for, and included in your classroom, you can build trust and a good rapport with them.
10. Dealing with Aggression
When there is a fight or when a student is being aggressive in your classroom, it is important to follow your school’s guidelines in response. Always remember your duty of care to all students and yourself.
Here are some practical steps that you can take to deal with aggression:
- Look out for changes in a student throughout the day (such as angry stares or raised voices) to pre-empt and deal with a tense situation appropriately.
- Teaching verbal conflict resolution techniques to your students.
- Remaining calm when you deal with this kind of situation.
- Move closer to students and demand them to stop their behavior in a strong, clear voice to provide a chance for them to escape the situation without losing face.
- Remind them of the consequences of fighting.
- Direct them outside of the classroom to calm down.
- Avoid getting physically involved.
- Report the incident.
When it comes to students who are having problems outside of school, reassure them that school is a safe place for them.
Finally, if it is clear that your student isn’t getting enough sleep, you can arrange for them to have a quiet, low-stress day and make sure they know who is available to talk to and help them.