Teacher friend, have you ever felt like you have an out of control class? Believe me when I tell you, all teachers have had this moment, and it can be difficult to rein in the feelings of helplessness. Luckily, you have the Lucky Little Learners teacher community by your side! Let’s dig into to tried and true classroom management tips and tricks to keep your classroom peaceful and the days running smoothly.
This post will tackle troublesome parts of the school day. Read them all, or skip around to the areas of greatest need in your classroom.
One of the biggest complaints of primary teachers is tattling! Tackling the tattling is doable with these top tips and tricks from our Lucky Little Learners teacher universe.
Read Alouds & Activities
Using a read aloud to teach expected behaviors can go a long way. Here are teacher recommended read aloud and activities to lower the tattling and create a calmer classroom environment.
1. A Bad Case of Tattle Tongue by Julia Cook
This book tells the story of Josh the tattler, who loves to tell on everyone, even his dog! But one day he wakes up with a bad case of the tattle tongue.
After reading, create rule posters as shown in the book, including the MYOB rule. (MYOB= the Mind Your Own Business rule as featured in the book.) Point these out, or revisit these rules when needed.
2. Don’t Squeal Unless It’s A Big Deal by Jeanie Franz Ransom
A classroom full of tattletales learns when they should report something to their teacher, and whey they should not!
Make an anchor chart on tattling vs. reporting.
Go over this anchor chart daily, then weekly, until the tattling dies down.
3. Tattling Mail
This tip not only tamps down the tattling, but also has students working on their writing skills. Set out papers and either a bin, basket or small mailbox by our desk. Teach students when they want to tell on someone, if no one is hurt, they should write you a quick note instead. You will check your “mail” after school each day and touch back with them if needed.
If you want a quick and easy to use note writing template, check out these postcards that save on paper.
4. Tattle Turtle
This is an idea taken from a veteran teacher in my district. Have a tattle turtle in the classroom. You can go as far as you would like with this, including having a real turtle as a class pet. However, a pretend turtle does wonders in taming the out of control class tattling!
Surprisingly, having something to whisper their tattle to actually easies the students’s minds and tames their tattle urge. They often feel better after tattling to the turtle, and do not bring the story to their teacher.
For more tattling tips, check out this post: Ideas for Handling Tattling in the Classroom.
As the school year goes on, students seem to act more and more like siblings. This includes the bickering common amongst siblings at a young age. How to curb the arguments, and get back to a calmer class? Try one or all of these teacher approved strategies. Note: Sometimes student anger or fighting is not easily diffused by the teacher and an additional intervention or strategy may be needed. This article has some solutions.
1. “I Messages”
When students are upset with each other, there are always two sides to the story. Oftentimes, in 1st or 2nd grade, students struggle to empathize with the student they are upset with. I implemented “I Messages” in my classroom years ago and found they helped students calm down and understand each other better.
So, what are “I Messages”? It is simply telling the other student how they felt in the moment.
Student A: “When you used my crayon, I felt like you were trying to steal it.”
Student B: “When you got mad about me using your crayon, I thought that was mean. I just wanted to use it quick.”
Just sitting down and talking it out can help students work through an argument and emerge as friends. Positive peer communication takes lots of modeling and practice.
Learn more about how to practice social learning routines in this post: The Benefits of Social Learning Routines.
2. Set a Timer
As humans, when something upsets us, we feel the most anger right afterwards. But, given time, our anger subsides and we can see the incident in a different light. The same is true for students. When an argument ensues in your classroom, and things seem out of control, have the students separate and go to their desks. (If they sit near each other, have one sit somewhere else temporarily.) Tell them you will be setting a timer and will chat with them in 10 minutes, then continue going about your classroom business. After the allotted time, pull those students to your desk and have an “I Message” type discussion, with you facilitating. If they are still heated, set another timer until things have deescalated.
3. Draw or Write About It
Leave a feelings journal or two out in the classroom where students can readily access it. When they are done expressing themselves through their pencils, take a peek to see if they need to chat with you. Most of the time, a quick check in is all they will need.
Lining Up Arguments
One of the most time wasting classroom issues is worrying about line spots. Students constantly tell teachers someone budged or stole their place in line. As adults, we know it completely doesn’t matter where we stand in line, but for your little learners, it seems to be a BIG deal. Try these tips to calm down the transition worries, and calm down the out of control class lineups.
1. Assigned Spots
The way to instantly stop this behavior is to have assigned line spots. These spots could change weekly or monthly, but many teachers have students line up in their class order all year.
Keep in mind being the line leader is a huge honor in the primary grades, so be sure to rotate this spot ensuring every student gets a week in this prized position.
2. Move on Back!
When students start an argument over where they are in line, or budging, set a precedent that they both immediately will move to the back of the line. No discussion will be held, instruct them to quickly and quietly move to the back. If needed, have a quick side discussion later. I have had success with the strategy in my own classroom! Students learned quickly that there was to be no arguing about line spots. Remind them that there is no special privilege to being in the front half of the line, they are all going to the same place!
Because it is less structured, recess lends itself to more behavior and emotional issues. Being proactive by modeling recess procedures from day one of the school year will have benefit that last all year long. However, there are bound to be hiccups along the way, When this happens, try these two tips!
Indoor recess giving you the blues? Check out these 10 indoor recess ideas!
1. Review the Rules
When you notice an uptick in recess issues, have a discussion with your entire class on why this is happening, and how they are expected to behave on the playground. Create an anchor chart to go over each and every day before recess (and after if needed). This fresh reminder can help students be model recess citizens when they get outside.
2. Social Stories
Social stories are great educational lessons that walk students through real life scenarios.
Here is a great video social story for students about recess.
And this one…
You can also write your own recess scenarios with students. Or have a unit on cooperation!
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Group work and games are fun and valuable classroom experiences. However, these situations can easily lead to student arguments. Modeled turn taking works best in these scenarios. Sit your students down and demonstrate exactly how group work and games should look. When you feel students have mastered your modeled group time procedures, give the strategies below a try.
1. Taking Turns During Group Work
When students need to work together to complete a group task, assign them jobs! This keeps students on task doing what they need to do instead of arguing about who does what. When using group jobs, it can be beneficial to keep the same group of students together for a few projects in a row, ensuring everyone gets to try every job!
Here are some example group roles:
- Captain: This student will keep the group on task.
- Recorder: This student takes the group thinking and puts it on paper. This could mean filling in the assigned worksheet, writing on the poster, etc.
- Reporter: This student will either turn in the group work to the teacher OR present the project to the class if necessary.
- Materials Manager: This job entails gathering the needed materials for the group work.
A fun way to assign these group roles is by having students draw cards out of a bin! (These cards work great for assigning partners too!)
2. Taking Turns During Games
Taking turns during games often leads to arguments. Students need to be taught how to properly play partner games, including a whole class discussion and modeling. Each year, create a partner games anchor chart. On this chart, list the expected behaviors when playing a partner game. Then, practice as a class: partner your students up, walking them through each step listed on the anchor chart.
Example partner behaviors to list on the anchor chart:
- Take your turn quickly and calmly.
- Help your partner if needed.
- Keep materials near you.
Need a partner game to practice these behaviors with? Check out this collection.
Letting students choose their own partners can go great, or can be a disaster of hurt feelings. This is why I almost always chose partners. Here are some quick and easy ways to calm the partner choosing chaos.
1. Draw Sticks
Write each student’s name on a popsicle stick at the beginning of the year. (Tip: write it on both sides for quicker use.) When it is time to partner up, draw out two sticks at a time. Done in a flash!
2. Number Wheel
Although more time consuming, this can be a fun partner choosing method once in a while. Head to Wheel of Names, and input your students’ names. They LOVE watching the wheel spin!
3. Partner Pair Cards
A newer idea over the last few years is using partner pairing cards when choosing partners. Similar to drawing names (or popsicle sticks as mentioned above), there can be an added academic aspect. Try using word and picture cards featuring a skill recently worked on in your class. For example, if you have just finished learning long o vowel teams, the cards below would be perfect! Students have to match the word and picture, requiring them to recognize the phonics pattern in words.
Get a Closer Look at These Tips
Walk through these tips one by one with visuals!
Hopefully these strategies prove a useful addition to your teacher toolbox and help you calm down your out of control class!