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Conquering Classroom Management

by Elizabeth Supan, Monthly Columnist

I’ve always thought of teaching as a multi-career. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean. I’m a teacher, a mother, a nurse, a therapist, a counselor, a referee, a coach, and more. How do we possibly get to the “teaching” part of our jobs with all of the other jobs that we do as teachers? The answer to that is not simple, but one that boils down to one thing: classroom management. It’s the hardest part of the job in a lot of cases. However, it is the part of the job that needs to be tackled first and maintained all year long.

At the beginning of each year, I send a letter home to parents listing my expectations for classroom behavior. In my “Back to School” letter I also include information about policies and procedures for the year. I used to send this letter home on the first day of school, but I’ve realized as a parent myself that too much information is not necessarily a good thing. On the first day, so many papers come home that this very important letter sometimes gets lost in the pile. Therefore, I now send the letter home a week later.

In the letter I explain the system I use to track student behavior. I use a system of numbers. Each day my students can receive a score of 20 if all rules were followed. I used to print out a sheet with a chart that specified specific behaviors. For each of the five categories, students would earn a total of four points. This, in turn, would add up to 20 points for the day. Now, I simply write the 20 in the student’s daily agenda. This is simple and easy and takes very little time at the end of the day. By the end of the week, all of the twenties should total a 100. Each time a rule is broken, a notation is made on a behavior chart that I keep in my possession. With each notation on the chart, five points are deducted from the day’s total.

I still chart specific behaviors, or offenses, and will write notes in the agenda as I see it is necessary. Since time is of the essence every afternoon, I’ve also begun writing just a code for the offense. For example, when a child is missing a homework assignment, I simply write “HW”. I put a sticky label of all of the codes I use in the front of each student’s agenda. Parents can refer to this code list to see which rule was broken. This method is simple, easy and to the point.

This system has worked for me for years. I really think that the reason it works is that it is simple and informative. Parents know to look for the 20 at the end of each day. Students like seeing what their total is at the end of the week. Even though we don’t grade behavior and conduct grades aren’t given, parents and students still relate to an average. If the weekly average is equivalent to an “A”, then I allow my students to get a treat from our treat box or a homework pass.

Classroom management is by far the hardest part of the job. Finding a system that works for you isn’t always easy. Even though I’ve essentially used the same system for years, I’ve had to tweak it each year to meet the needs of my students. The most important thing to remember is that keeping an organized system in place will allow you to focus on teaching, rather than behavior, as the year progresses.

 

About the Author
Elizabeth Supan is an elementary school teacher in South Carolina with 18 years experience. Currently she is a 4th grade math teacher. She uses small group math instruction to meet the needs of her diverse learners. You can read more about her teaching on her blog Fun in Room 4B. Aside from teaching, Elizabeth enjoys crafting, completing DIY projects and spending time with her husband and children.


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12 comments
Elizabeth Supan
Elizabeth Supan

Thanks for all of the comments everyone! This system has worked for me for years. It's not the only method that works and all teachers need to find the one that works for them. I do love that this system allows for me to be non-confrontational. It shares with parents the information they need and the students are held accountable. For me it's a win-win. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to contact me: funinroom4b@gmail.com Thanks!

Antoinette Y.
Antoinette Y.

Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful behavior management ideas. I agree that classroom management is one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher. Each year we receive a brand new group of students and have to start over to test which strategies will work the best. Each year I also find myself revising the classroom behavior management plan to meet the needs of my students. Like you, I also send home letters at the beginning of the year highlighting my expectations for both students and parents. Collaborating with parents and making them aware of our expectations helps to build positive parent-teacher relationships.

Brian Hopkins
Brian Hopkins

Love the point system and the abbreviated words to put on the cover of the planner! Awesome!

Gloria Wilson
Gloria Wilson

What is important is that students know exactly what is expected of them. Sometimes we can set too complicated a system in place and it backfires

Joanne M.
Joanne M.

Thank you for writing about such an effective management tool. It's always nice to hear about something that really works.

Twila claycomb
Twila claycomb

This method allows for a non-confrontational approach to discipline by allowing it to be noted by the teacher and then communicated to the parents. Teachers do not waste time telling students what is wrong (the students already know about it anyway). This information is then communicated in an efficient way to parents. This is a win win response to discipline, and definitely one worth implementing.

Jill
Jill

I like the Clip Chart!

nichole
nichole

My school has a system in place very similar to yours. Every day, our students start with a 20 A+. Every infraction earns a stick put into the pocket with their name on it (on a pocket chart) and 1 point off. 19=A, 18 and 17=B, 16=C, etc. If, at the end of the day, my students have received no sticks, I allow them to write the 20 on their conduct sheet. All others, I write (or my student of the week writes). I give a small treat and a sticker on an incentive chart every day a student receives an A. This works most of the time. My school is very proactive about behavior and I know this system is the easiest for me to use. I do like the idea of sending the note home a week later, though. That is probably a very good idea.

Crystal
Crystal

Definitely one to keep in mind!

Melissa Davis
Melissa Davis

I too use points for classroom management with my 5th graders. I have found a free website and app that allows me to give points for desirable behaviors and remove points for undesirable behaviors. This website is classdojo.com. Students can customize their avatar and check on their points at home. Daily emails of behaviors can be sent home to parents. When students accumulate 20 points they can cash them in on a classroom coupon. I have 10 coupons to choose from and the rewards don't cost a penny. There are apps for iPad and smart phones. If our class is going to an assembly, I grab my iPad and the points go with me. My students love the customization and work hard to earn Do Jo points.

Phil
Phil

Great idea!

Karen Worley
Karen Worley

The number one management 'tool' that i use in my classroom is something that I call a "Morning Letter". I've used this in every grade 2nd-8th (we are even using it now with our K & 1st grader, but with pictures and page numbers...and they do need some assistance to learn how to 'read' it). Each morning I type up a "morning letter" for my classroom. I start off with just a short paragraph saying good morning, talking about the recent sports scores, wishing a happy b-day, just some personal statement to the kids. Sometimes I put a sentence in there that says "Get a sticky note, put your name and date on it, and write the words "I read and follow directions" and stick it on....wherever. If they do that, they get a sticker. On the rest of the letter, I list their MATH, LANGUAGE ARTS, HISTORY, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY assignments for that day. It's a checklist (much like what teachers write on the board in the morning) of what is expected to be completed in class that day. Not only does it give the kids their assignments for the day, but it has the added benefit of practicing reading and following directions. This also allows me to have the class get started, on their own, if I have to talk to parents, administrators, and/or check in homework. There is no waiting for 'me' to start the class and ALL the students know what they are supposed to do. As they complete an assignment, they mark it off on the checkbox and move on. At the end of the day, students know what they have NOT completed and that is 'homework'. Those students who have completed everything does not have any homework, usually. I've used this 'tool' now for 20+ years and it was one of the best 'management tools' I have ever used.