Students know how to keep us on our toes, don’t they? Sure, your new (insert brilliant idea here) may have brought a glimmer to their eyes on October 31st, but it’s November now and you’ve already had to start trimming the mold off the edges of it. To help you keep up with your students, we’d like to share a classroom management system that grows with them, sort of like a video game: When students “beat” level one, they advance to level two and so on. The trick is to capitalize on their curiosity by building suspense.
Most of these ideas come courtesy of Whole Brain Teaching; we highly recommend you check out their website.
A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students
Create a scoreboard
Before you implement the classroom management system, you’ll want to create a simple scoreboard: In one corner of the board draw two faces—one smiley, the other a frown—and then draw a long line between each to create two columns. There’s nothing special about the scoreboard in itself; it’s how you use it that counts. So when students perform well, you’ll of course draw a smiley face. But to make it fun, get them involved:
Walk up to the board, raise your arm up in the air and say enthusiastically, “My hand has an itch that can only be scratched by drawing a smiley face. Should I do it?” Allow your students to yell back, “Oh, yeah!” When students don’t perform so well, do the same thing. This time, however, you’ll say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” Then allow your students to dramatically hang their hands or put their head down on the desk and groan loudly. The key to maintaining their enthusiasm is never to let the difference between smiles and frowns exceed 3.
You’ve got your scoreboard, now you need some classroom management strategies to help you tally up those smiley faces.
Level #1: The Marker Mover
The only thing you need for this one is a dry-erase marker and a white board tray. Set your marker in the middle of the tray. When students perform well, say something like, “You’re doing great, which makes this marker want to move…” and have your students yell, “…to the left!” Then dramatically inch it over to the left (the good side). When students perform poorly, do the opposite.
Always make sure that you have a different call and response for each strategy so that your students’ enthusiasm for shouting out responses doesn’t wane. Once the marker makes it to the end of one side of the board, draw the appropriate face on the scoreboard. When your students master an activity or behavior, move them to “level two.”
Level #2: The Boom box
Bring in a portable boom box and set it up away from a power outlet. When students perform well, shout, “Do I hear music?” Have them shout, “Oh, yeah!” and then move the boom box towards the power outlet. When they don’t do so well, say, “I feel a mighty groan coming on!” and move the boom box back a few inches.
Level #3: The Fakeout
To keep your classroom management strategy suspenseful, try the fakeout: Walk up to the boom box and say, “You kids are doing pretty well. Do I hear music?” When they respond (“Oh, yeah!”) surprise them by saying, “I thought so…for a second…but it was just a passing car!” After they make their mighty groan, remind them of the behavior they should be working on if they want the boom box to keep inching its way towards that outlet.
Level #4: Higher or Lower
Once your students are familiar with these systems, introduce them to “higher or lower.” They’ll go crazy over this one. All you need is a deck of cards and the white/black board tray. When students perform well, put a smiley face on the board; then pull out your deck of cards and hold it up in the air.
Next, draw the top card and prop it up on the tray so that everyone can see it clearly—let’s say that the card you pulled was a Jack. Now students have to guess whether or not the next card will be higher or lower in value than the Jack. Let’s say your students guess that the next card will be higher in value. They were right, you drew an Ace. Go ahead and add a smiley face to the scoreboard.
Now give them a choice: they can stop and keep their extra smiley face or choose to keep going and risk losing them if they guess incorrectly. Most of them will want to keep going. If they continue to choose correctly, keep adding smiley faces. The caveat, though, is that if they choose to keep going and guess wrong, they’ll lose all of the smiley faces they earned during the game.
If you found this classroom management strategy useful, you might also be interested in our FREE downloadable guide, Classroom Management Tips for Elementary Teachers. In it you’ll find 25 ways to keep your attitude fresh and your students engaged!