I have been teaching fifth grade now for 23 years and yet I still have those dreams every August. You know what I'm talking about, right? The one where you are standing up in front of your class, everyone is out of control, and no one will listen to you? Yup, that's the one. Kind of like this, only with bigger kids...
It's funny because managing behavior is the one thing that almost scared me out of being a teacher and yet I think it is one of the things that I have a real knack for.
I will never forget the first job I interviewed for 24 years ago, when I was a fresh, out of college rookie at the age of 22, with only a few months of subbing experience under my belt. It was for a 5th or 6th grade self-contained classroom in a district that I was very interested in working for. I made it to the second round of interviews but was not hired. The principal who didn't hire me told someone I knew that I would have been "eaten alive" by the students. Obviously, I have never forgotten that comment, and I have often thought about that principal who missed out on hiring a teacher who has never had a student she couldn't handle!
There have been lots of tricks and tips that I have used over the years, but the number one rule for me is this...never let your students see you lose your cool!
I may be yelling and saying a few choice words in my head, but on the outside...it's cool, calm, and collected.
The second most important thing that I think is key to good classroom control is setting up your consequences for breaking rules and then enforcing them consistently. You can see the rules and consequences I use in my room in this letter I send to parents.
As soon as I have discussed this policy with my students, I begin following through on those consequences. I do not have a chart or anything like that for my warnings, I simply tell them. So, let's say a student turns to a neighbor and whispers something while I am instructing the whole class. I just calmly and quietly say, "Jake, you have a warning for talking while I am talking." I jot their name on a sticky note and write TWT (my own little shorthand I have developed for talking while the teacher was talking). Is it hard to do that at the beginning of the year? I'm not going to lie...sometimes it is. Maybe it's the cutest, sweetest, little boy or girl who is talking. It doesn't matter. In my classroom, you don't talk while I'm teaching. If I want them to follow that rule, I have to enforce that...EVERY TIME! I don't yell at them EVER! I don't embarrass my students or humiliate them. I just matter of factly let them know they have a warning and why.
I pick the example of a student talking while I'm talking because it's an epidemic at the beginning of fifth grade. Sometimes I will have them say, "I was just asking if I could borrow a pencil!" My response is always, "I'm sorry, but I can't stop and figure out what you were talking about and then decide it's okay for some talking and not okay for other talking." My kids learn to break that habit pretty quickly. I remember once a colleague asked me, "How do you get the kids not to talk while you are teaching?" My response... "You just don't let them." It's all about having consequences and following through consistently.
I keep a record of every warning I give to students using an Excel Spreadsheet. Each student has their own page, and my consequences are already at the top.
On the bottom you can see tabs that say Student 1, Student 2, and so on. I rename those with my students' names. When you click on the tab, their sheet will come up. I show this to my students on the first day of school, and I type in examples of warnings students might get. I type in EXACTLY what they do or say to get a warning. So I'll tell them...if you call your neighbor an idiot and kick them in the shin, that is exactly what I will type in the box. Then I let them know that at progress report and report card time I print out the warnings for students that I feel have too many. I love watching their eyes get really big at this point!
You can get the Excel spreadsheet I use for free at my TPT Store! It's already set up for 33 students, and it's fully editable so you can make it your own. If you need any help using it, let me know!
One of the best management tools I have found is instituting something called Fun Friday. Fun Friday is an extra recess at the end of the week that students have to earn. I generally do not take my students out for any extra recesses other than Fun Friday. So, my kids know if they want those precious extra minutes of free time they have to earn it!
In my Fun Friday letter to parents you can see that in order to participate, you must have only two or fewer warnings for the week, your planner signed at least 4 out of 5 days, and no late work when Fun Friday begins. My students become very aware of their warnings after missing their first Fun Friday. I will often get asked on Friday mornings, "How many warnings do I have this week?" It really motivates them to work on their behavior. You can find my Fun Friday and Rules/Consequences letters along with many others in my Start the Year Out Right Letters to Parents set in my TPT Store!
Make sure you check out all the other management ideas at the Back 2 School Weekly Linky!