MAT Blog

Catching Z’s: Why are our students sleeping in class?

Posted by Marygrove MAT on May 1, 2013 3:51:00 PM

sleeping in classThough there were a number of cardinal offenses when we were students, none—perhaps with the exception of cheating—was greater than to be caught sleeping in class. Now that we’re educators, we get it: It’s frustrating to find students napping through important lectures or in-class discussions. What’s making students so “tired?” Does it have to do with boredom, laziness, stress, health issues, all of the above?

Catching Z’s: Why are our students sleeping in class?

According to Russell Foster
, a neuroscientist and director of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at University of Oxford, sleeping in class actually has more to with natural fluctuations in “the biology of human sleep timing.” Let’s explain.

Forster’s research suggests that the biology of human sleep timing changes as we age. Once we hit puberty, bedtimes and waking times get later, a trend that continues until 19.5 years in women and 21 in men. Then it reverses. At 55 we wake at about the time we woke prior to puberty. On average this is two hours earlier than adolescents. This means that for a teenager, a 7 a.m. alarm call is the equivalent of a 5 a.m. start for people in their 50s.

Why does this happen?
Foster isn’t entirely sure, but the shifts do correspond to hormonal fluctuations that increase when we hit puberty and decline as we age. Of course, biology is only partially to blame. The proliferation of technology, cultural disregard for the importance of sleep and relaxed bedtime schedules only complicates things.

What do we do with this information?
A half decade ago, many who attended Foster’s conferences scoffed at his suggestion that administrators rethink school start times. More recently, however, educators have started to accept and structure the academic day around adolescent sleep patterns—and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

In the U.K., Mokkseaton High School instituted a 10 a.m. start time and found “an uptick in academic performance.” Studies of American students revealed similar results: academic performance and attendance improved; sleeping in class and self-reported depression declined.

Whether or not educators decide to push back start times, Foster does caution our disregard for the importance of sleep. Here are a few reasons our students should start taking sleep more seriously:

  • Research has shown that blood-glucose regulation was greatly impaired in young men who slept only four hours on six consecutive nights, with their insulin levels comparable to the early stages of diabetes
  • Long-term sleep deprivation might be an important factor in predisposing people to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension
  • Tiredness also increases the likelihood of taking up smoking.

If you are interested in learning more about Foster’s research on sleep, he has written a book called Sleep: A Very Short Introduction.


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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules, instructional strategies, sleeping in class

An effective classroom management strategy you've never heard of

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Apr 5, 2013 10:31:00 AM

effective_classroom_managementRegardless of the kind of weather April has delivered to you thus far, springtime is here—and our students can feel it in their bones. If you’re looking for an effective classroom management strategy, one to reenergize your students (and their parents) and carry them into the home stretch of the school year, we may have just the thing for you: “brag” phone calls. This is an idea we gleaned from Donna Kelley, a teacher from Westminster, Colorado.

Brag Phone Calls, an effective classroom management strategy to take you into June

Most teachers have a classroom telephone, but even if you don’t, a cell phone will do just as well. The idea is to use the telephone as an incentive for high scores, excellent behavior or a job well done.

Here’s what Kelley has done with the activity: “At the beginning of the semester, I discuss what high quality, standard, and substandard work looks like in each subject area," she explains. "I establish with my class what level and quality of work earns a brag call. I explain to them that when work is exceptional and exceeds the standard, I'd like them to share with their parents their excitement about a job well done.”

Kelley has made it common practice to return excellent assignments with “brag call!” written on them. Then, at an appointed time during the day, she gives the student time to use the phone and report the good news to his or her parents. The rewards of brag calls are huge, especially when you consider how little it takes to make them happen. They’re also great for connecting you with parents. Instead of having the student make the phone call, you might first speak to the parent to let them know that their son or daughter has a special announcement! 

We all know that parental involvement positively impacts our students’ academic achievement. We also know that making this happen is often easier said than done. Brag phone calls are a simple way to strengthen the parent-teacher-student triad, reinvent your classroom management strategy, and create effective lines of communication between home and school.

We know that coming up with ways to motivate students and keep them focused in class is no easy task; that's precisely why we put together our guide, Effective Classroom Management Tips for Elementary Teachers, a quick refresher for teachers to inject a little energy into their day. Also, be sure to stop by our resource library where you'll find free downloadables, podcasts and webinars on-demand.

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Photo credit: Jmak / <a href="">Foter</a> / <a href="">CC BY-SA</a>

Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, student engagement, classroom rules, effective classroom management

Come on now, help a substitute teacher out!

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Mar 8, 2013 9:24:00 AM

substitute teacherWe were looking over our blog index and noticed that, to date, we’ve tagged 48 blogs with “classroom management”; that doesn’t even take into account the 25 or so blogs that have been tagged similarly. We admit it, we felt that we might have been on the verge of exhausting all things classroom management, but then we found Farley’s blog, Oh, Boy 4th Grade.

This blog is just as much for you as it is for the substitute teachers who take over when you attend a conference, nurse your cold, or insert substitute teacher2reason for absence here.  

What do I do?
Using a dry erase marker, Farley suggests writing each student a note directly on the desktop (it should come right off, but if not, an anti-bacterial wipe will work).

Do you have a particularly “active” student who needs a personalized reminder? How about a classroom leader, someone the rest of your students respect and listen to? Do you need to remind one or two students to take something home to their parents?  

You don’t have to labor over the process and you don’t have to write a message to each student, but if you can find the time, it couldn’t hurt. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your students are going to be “great helpers” or “awesome assistants” when substitute teachers take over, but it does remind them of your expectations and encourages them to make decisions that will make your return a jovial one.

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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, classroom rules, substitute teacher

Disciplining with Dignity: 5 Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 31, 2013 9:21:00 AM

Classroom ManagementIn one of her recent articles published in Education Weekly, Tracey Garrett describes a hypothetical interview scenario between a recent graduate pursuing a 4th grade teaching position and the principal. Inevitably, classroom management came up. “How will you manage your classroom?” the principal asked. The teacher’s response: “I’ve developed a point system that rewards good behavior with tickets. At the end of the week, these tickets are placed into a raffle for a chance to win prizes.” This is a common response and a common classroom management system, but it is one that Garrett, not to mention a slew of other well-respected behavior-management experts like Richard L. Curwin and Allen and Brian Mendler, take issue with.

In his book, Discipline with Dignity, Curwin refers to a study conducted by Tyre, Scelfo and Kantrowitz who found that children expect to nag their parents nine times before getting what they want. “If you do such and such, I’ll give you such and such” has become something of a cultural attitude—one that many teachers unintentionally reinforce “through the proliferation of reward and bribe systems in which stickers, stars, and points become substitutes for doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do,” argues Curwin.

This is not to say that extrinsic or reward-based systems should be blacklisted entirely, but we echo Curvin’s belief that “they should not be the foundation of a teacher’s classroom management plan.” If not rewards, then what should be the crux of a teacher’s classroom management system?

Disciplining with Dignity: 5 Classroom Management Tips

Engage Students in a How-Can-I-Help-You? Approach
When your students aren’t focusing on what they are reading or when they submit careless work it is bothersome—but many of us are bothered for the wrong reasons. We’re bothered because we’ve taken it personally; we’re bothered because WE wouldn’t have done it that way.

When you engage your students in a how-can-I-help-you approach, your frustration manifests through care and respect. Next time your student disrupts class or fails to turn in assignments, catch the student on the way to lunch and say, “Hey, I’m worried about X. Am I seeing this correctly? I want to do everything I can to help you. Do you have any ideas?”

Ask Your Students What They Expect of You
Generally speaking, we spend a lot of time telling our students what we expect of them and very little asking them what they expect of us. What if that changed?

describe the imageHere’s an idea we borrowed from Angela Bunyi, a teacher who, as she puts it, “puts herself into the mix.” If you take a look at the picture to the left, you’ll notice a list of expectations she has for her students. But on the right column, she has asked students to make a list of their expectations for her. It bothers her students that she has a habit of checking her email and talking loudly to other teachers, so they’ve asked her to change her behavior—and she gladly obliges.

Try Using Incident Reports
This is another idea we snagged from Mrs. Bunyi. Do your students love telling you about how student X is bothering student Y? Do they do this during transition times or when you are in the middle of something important? Because you care about your students (and their safety), more than likely it’s your instinct to drop everything and investigate what’s really going on.

So that you can give each “incident” the attention it deserves, have your students fill out an incident report where they provide dates, witnesses, the location of the incident, what they did, and how they believe the situation should be handled.

Playtime Isn’t Just for Kids
When it's your turn for recess duty, consider participating in a game rather than standing on the sidelines. If you're teaching at the secondary level, try running to grab a ball that has been thrown out of bounds on the lunchtime basketball courts, or visit a colleague's P.E. class during your prep. Playing with students is a great way to honor them and nurture relationships with them.

The playground is also a perfect location to have a conversation with that student you read about in Jane’s incident report. Don’t take recess away from students who have misbehaved; use the change of scenery to your advantage. It’s much easier to talk to a student about what was going on inside the classroom when you are outside of it.  

Create Partnerships with Parents
Often the first time we speak to a parent is when we are at our wits end with their son or daughter. Not the best way to initiate a relationship, is it? If you’ve developed a relationship with parents and shown them that you truly care about their child, chances are that you’re going to have more buy-in when you need their help.

Why not give them a call when their child does something well, just to let them know? Or why not move your classroom parties to the evening hour, but keep the time brief to honor parents’ schedules? Or here’s another idea: Send home regular invitations for parents to come in as “guest readers” or classroom assistants.


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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, classroom rules

5 More Indispensable Classroom Management Apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 29, 2013 9:44:00 AM

Last week, we shared 5 of our favorite classroom management apps, but like you, we’re always looking to find the best possible tools we can—and why wouldn’t we, especially when there are so many free resources at our fingertips? If you’re looking to reduce your paper trail, keep parents in the loop and find more efficient ways to manage your students’ behavior, we’ve got 5 more apps you might want to add to your classroom management arsenal.

5 More Indispensable Classroom Management Apps

classroom management apps1Three Ring
Want to ditch the notebooks and archaic filing system once and for all? Want to capture Jimmy’s first presentation or Greg’s behavioral, ahem, challenges so you can better articulate yourself during parent-teacher conferences? Now you can.

Simply snap a photo or record a video or audio clip and file away.  And if you are so inclined, email your “classroom artifact” to students and parents so that they can stay up to date and even comment on their file. 

Smart Seatclassroom management apps2
This app’s simple drag-and-drop feature allows you to create random or customizable seating charts. But there’s more: Smart Seat gives you the ability to record and export attendance, choose random students for class participation, jot down student notes, and store student photos all in one place.

Taking a day off? Generate a PDF version or email your seating charts (with photos) to the substitute teacher. If that wasn’t enough, Smart Seat even has a built-in "flashcard" feature that allows you to upload pictures of your students so that you can quickly learn their names.

classroom management apps3Remind 101
We know how important it is to nurture relationships with parents and keep them involved, but how do we do it? Remind 101 is a website that provides teachers with a secure way to text or email students and parents with updates and reminders. Here’s how it works:

Teachers set up classes on the Remind 101 site which generates a unique code they can share with students and parents. Once students or parents send a text message with the code, they become “subscribers.” If you have concerns about sharing your personal phone number, rest easy. Teachers will never be able to see their students’ phone numbers and students will never be able to see theirs’ either.  

Stick Picclassroom management apps4.jpgk
If you’ve ever had a student protest that you’ve called on him or her too many times or favor so and so, take yourself out of the equation and blame it on Stick Pick. Shake your phone or tap the screen to pick a student.

That’s not all. Stick Pick even offers a variety of question starters (based on Bloom’s taxonomy)and records how well students respond during classroom discussions. Let’s say that Jenny consistently scores high on the questions; simply change the difficulty of the questions to ensure that she stays challenged and engaged. 

Teacher KitTeacher Kit
It’s no stretch to say that teachers are a lot like Macgyver: They’ve got to work with what they’ve got and often improvise on the fly. But what would Macgyver be without his trusty Swiss Army knife? Teacher Kit is the self-proclaimed “Swiss Army knife” of apps that will help you organize, monitor your students’ behavior, and keep track of grades. Here’s a video tutorial that will walk you through every nook and cranny of the app. (Mullet not included).


If you're like us, you're constantly on the lookout for new ways to enhance your curriculum and better manage your classroom. That's why we're suggesting that you check out one of our recent blogs, 5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teachers Needs to Know About or download our FREE guide, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No-Fluff Websites and Apps for Educators.


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Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, classroom procedures, apps for teachers, behavior, classroom rules

5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jan 15, 2013 9:19:00 AM

classroom management appsThe more students there are in a classroom, the more time teachers are going to spend on classroom management. So it makes sense that teachers need to have as many classroom management tips - and tricks - at their disposal as possible in order to get the focus away from problem students and back to the lesson at hand. Thankfully, increased numbers of students in the classroom can be tempered with increased classroom technology; classroom management apps provide a way for teachers to work on keeping their students engaged and their classrooms under control.

5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About

  1. It's Too Noisy in here. Sometimes, the collective classroom volume rises so incrementally that you don't even realize it until you're screaming to be heard. If your active listening strategies don’t work out, give Too Noisy a shot. This app pairs a colorful and fun graphic with a digital noise meter to let teachers - and students - know when the noise level has exceeded acceptable levels. Teachers set the "appropriate" noise level and then the Too Noisy graphics will provide a reading which will ring out when your students are in the red zone. Consider varying levels for Reading Time versus Collaborative Learning Time. Students will enjoy helping you determine which levels are too loud.

  2. Is it Class DoJo Time? When things get crazy, set students up against one another in Karate matches. Just kidding. Class DoJo is actually a student behavior tracking app which allows you to instantly track good and bad behavior and store the data. You create an icon for each student and then tap on the icon to note what is going on. You can send alerts directly to the student, "Thanks for not talking during presentations" + 2 points. The analytics can be sent directly to administrators and/or parents with one click.

  3. Keep your Teacher Kit at the ready. If you want a classroom management app which takes it one step further, you might prefer Teacher Kit. This is a great app for secondary teachers because it allows you to organize multiple classrooms and students. Teacher Kit offers multiple features such as seating charts, attendance records, behavior tracking, a gradebook, and more. You can hold your Teacher Kit in the palm of your hand as you walk around the class (one of the best classroom management tricks) and import the data to your classroom computer to sync with your school system when convenient.

  4.  Are you a Class Behavior Pro? When you use Teacher’s Class BEHAVIOR PRO, you can organize your students by individual classes and you can create categories for recurring behaviors, e.g. talking, tardy, physical disruptions, bullying, passing notes, etc. This makes it super simple to tap on a student and attach the behavior in just a second or two. You can also track positive behavior which keeps your behavior incentives/consequences fair and balanced.

  5. What about those Random Students? This is a fun app to use and your students will think so too. Once you input the student names in each class, you can do typical things, like track behavior, but you can also track things like the number of correct/incorrect answers a student gives when called upon. You can use the Random Student feature and have the app speak the students' names so that it's truly random. It can also assign random groups from 2-6 students to take the load off you!

These five Classroom Management Apps have just made your world a whole lot easier. Try to use them all and see which works best for you. Your students will enjoy your technologically hip take on classroom control and you will enjoy a computer taking care of it for you.

Download our free guide, 25 Classroom Management Tips for Teachers, to learn about new and creative ways to engage your students.

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Tags: classroom management, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, classroom procedures, apps for teachers, behavior, classroom rules

3 Indispensable Classroom Management Tips

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 29, 2012 3:44:00 PM

When I first started teaching in my own classroom, I kept waiting for the “real” teacher to show up. I mean, who was going to set up the schedule, create files on the students, begin early year assessment and who on earth was going to set up the rules and routines of the classroom?  It was a shock to realize it was all up to me.

I believe a lot of teachers approach classroom management through a trial and error process. And I do too. But I used some advice my grandma gave me about relationships to start my classroom off right: You need to establish trust, cooperation and clearly defined roles between you and the person (or people) in the relationship with you.

You have a responsibility to your students and they have a responsibility to you. Both are happiest with this arrangement.

Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately.  Repeat training as needed.

After ten years of teaching, I would add a few pointers.
I’ve learned to motivate my students by sharing my interests. I love murder mysteries and I share that with them through read alouds (Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobel and You be the Jury by Marvin Miller are two of the books I use). I love to sew. Sewing involves measuring, creativity, problem solving, and constructing. It is a lot like engineering in that way. So I tell my students about that. Many begin to find interests of their own in areas that are academically-based but are not directly related to the curriculum. I also love all animals. Caring for, and about, animals builds empathy and community. In my class, we tell animal stories, read news articles about animals and I assign a weekly advice column for the students to advise others on animals.

Second, I would emphasize that creating a community is paramount to teaching. Students must belong to the group in order to explore their own academic interests. Creating and maintaining that community is the responsibility of the teacher. A great way to build good will is through “good news” notes, where you award one or two notes each day for random kind acts. Students bring these notes home to be congratulated again.

Third, be fair. A survey published within my school board a few years ago showed that the most appreciated teacher trait was fairness. That was defined overwhelmingly as not playing favourites. Later, at in-service, we were asked to recall the traits of our favourite teacher. And the teacher I admired most was very fair – no favourites. As a teacher, I know that this can be difficult to do, some students are better helpers than others, some things need to be done readily and I like to have a dependable student to call on. But I keep a list and tick off that name when I call on a student to volunteer. It may not be perfect but it definitely gives every student a chance. Be vigilant about being fair, everyone will thank you for it.

From the manual: Make training sessions short. Provide positive feedback immediately.  Repeat training as needed

Learned through experience: Share your interests. Create a community. Maintain a fair and unbiased protocol.

A question for the teacherNothy Lane is a currently a teacher in Toronto and has taught across North America. She is a reading specialist, a special education specialist and a math specialist in Ontario. She has a Masters in Science in Education from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York and is a doctoral candidate in Disability Studies at Brock University in St Catharine's Ontario. She has taught across North America for the last twelve years, including New York, Georgia, Florida, California and Mexico City. She believes there is no job better than teaching: each day is different, and working with children is both a challenge and the highest privilege.

Stop by her site, A Question for the Teacher, to read more of her insightful posts and useful lesson plan ideas.

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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules

5 Radically Simple Classroom Management Strategies

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 6, 2012 2:42:00 PM

Classroom ManagementCentral to quality classroom management is the teacher's ability to establish a clear set of boundaries. It’s easy to forget, though, that teachers must also have the willingness to be flexible, fair and open to negotiation. If you’re finding that some of your techniques could use a bit of a face lift, you might consider trying out 5 of these radically simple classroom management strategies:

5 Radically Simple Classroom Management Strategies

1. Ask students how you can be more of a help to them
Most of us spend a great deal of time telling our students what we expect of them. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when was the last time we asked students what they expected of us? Here’s something we recommend you try:

Have your students write or type an informal letter to you. Emphasize that the content will not be evaluated for spelling or punctuation. In it they should answer the following questions as honestly and constructively as possible:

  • How is this class going so far for you?  Why?
  • What activities or classroom procedures are working best to help you learn?
  • What activities or classroom procedures aren’t working so well for you? What could we do to make them better?
  • How can I be more helpful to you during the rest of the quarter/semester/year/whichever applies?

This may be more effective if you provide students with a model, perhaps a letter that one of your previous students wrote. Explain to them that you want them to be as honest and thorough in their responses as possible.

2. Take note of each student’s strengths
When students misbehave or act out, see if there is any correlation between the behavior and the material you are teaching. Is it too difficult for the student? Is it too easy? Have you asked the student about her experience with the material? Oftentimes, acting-out behavior is the defense mechanism for students who cannot (or believe they cannot) successfully work through the material or meet our expectations. That’s why, as Curwin and Mendler, authors of Discipline With Dignity, argue, we must “adapt [our] teaching style to lower or higher academic levels based on the student’s needs…”

3. Listen to your students; don’t just hear them
One of my teachers used to say, “Hey, are you listening to me?” and the offending student would say, “Yes! I hear you.” My teacher would always respond with, “Yes, I know you heard me, but are you listening?” The same principal applies to teachers. We’ve all toiled over a lesson plan only to have a student (or students) groan, “This is boring.” This always stings a bit, especially since you were up until midnight planning for it.

Nonetheless, skip the knee-jerk reaction where you say, “Well, maybe if you’d have read the chapter it wouldn’t be so boring to you.” Instead, listen and acknowledge that you are listening to the student: “I’m listening to you, Jane, you don’t love this activity. I’m open to your ideas; maybe you have a few suggestions for how we might improve the activity next time. Hang out after class for a minute and we’ll talk about it.”

4. Don’t accept or give excuses
During an in-class discussion one day, one of my students claimed that her previous composition teacher didn’t return a single paper until they were exactly twelve weeks into the semester. I was skeptical until four or five other students (who were in the same class together) nearly bounded out of their seats to confirm the student’s claim. Things come up, we get overwhelmed; we get behind…but twelve weeks without returning a single paper? If we hold our students accountable to turn in their work by a specific date, it only seems fair that we give (and stick) to a return date. When we do this, students have more of a reason to buy in and hold themselves accountable, too.

5. Legitimize behavior that you can’t curb
Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? The thing is, though, when you legitimize “misbehavior,” the fun (and deviance) gets sucked out of it. Curwin and Mendler give the example of a group of students who continue to throw paper airplanes across the room when they think the teacher isn’t looking. Instead of wasting your time and energy getting repeatedly upset about it, make them a deal: They can take the last five minutes of class and throw paper airplanes all over the place without any penalty. Say students aren’t studying in study hall. Well, commit one study hall a week to a non-academic study hall and see what happens.


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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Classroom Climate, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules

A Classroom Management System that Grows with Your Students

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Nov 3, 2012 6:00:00 AM

Students know how to keepClassroom Management 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!

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Tags: classroom management, Classroom Community, classroom procedures, Collaboration, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules, community

4 Classroom Management Tips to Hang Your Hat On

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Oct 6, 2012 6:00:00 AM

Classroom ManagementAlmost every social interaction we have in life involves a consensus on what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior. It’s easy to forget, but social etiquette is complicated business; we’re not just born knowing that it’s weird to face the opposite direction of everyone else in an elevator, or that you shouldn’t chew with your mouth open, or that you can’t stare at someone without making them uncomfortable or angry.  

A good many social behaviors have been learned through years of trial and error, instruction and modeling. We need to remember that many of our students—especially younger students—are still sorting out how to contextualize behavior. We also need to set the example for them with clear expectations and routine classroom management procedures. Here are a few classroom management tips you might try:

4 Classroom Management Tips to Hang Your Hat On

General, run-of-the-mill expectations for behavior
As a foundation, teachers may want to set ground rules for

  • Politeness/helpfulness  (rule: help at least one student with something every day)
  • Respecting others’ property (rule: treat others’ property as if it belonged to you)
  • Interrupting the teacher or other students (rule: listen to others while they are speaking and think before you speak)
  • Hitting, pushing (rule: keep your hands to yourself)

Although it’s best to implement this the first week of school it’s never too late to implement best practices. First, write each rule on the board, divide students into groups of three or four and assign each group a rule. Then give them a poster board, magazines, sharpies and glue. Ask them to decorate their poster board with pictures and drawings that relate to each rule. Once your students have finished, come together as a class and have each group present their classroom management poster. 

Beginning and ending each class/school day the right way
Bookending your day with a well-oiled set of procedures is critical for classroom management. The way you start sets the tone for the rest of the day; the way you end often carries over into the next day. Here are some procedures you might consider using at the beginning and end of your day:

  • Start with a set of social activities: Perhaps you take attendance and then spend the next five minutes discussing a funny story you read or a current event. Or maybe you could talk about an historical event that happened on that day in the year ______.

  • Start by having your students reflect on a specific activity or discussion you had the day before. Ask them if it was successful? Why or why not? What did they learn? What would they do differently next time?

  • End the day ten minutes before dismissal and have your students come together in a designated area. Choose an activity that encourages celebration and reflection. This could come in the form of a collaborative game, a song, a dance or you could simply ask your students questions about the day or what they plan on doing this weekend. Something to keep in mind is that each student should participate and say at least one thing.

Use consequences—not punishment
Although there are occasions where discipline is necessary and appropriate, creating a classroom where discipline problems do not become an issue is (obviously) the goal. The difference between consequence and punishment may seem implicit, but nothing could be further from the truth.



Don’t come as a surprise because they are known ahead of time

Are often determined as the situation occurs and may come as a surprise to students

Are fair and reasonable

Are excessive

Coincide with a specific behavior

Do not relate to the specific behavior

Are developed and understood by students and teachers

Are decided solely by the teacher

Are imposed without emotion

Are imposed with anger


How to facilitate group work
Having students work together in groups not only teaches them how to collaborate and develop interpersonal relationships, it also gives them the opportunity to take ownership of their learning experience. There are tremendous benefits from having students work with one another, but if they are not given rules and procedures, these activities can quickly go off the rails. Here are some suggestions for facilitating a positive group activity:

  • Although you may allow students to choose their groups on special occasions, you know from interacting and assessing their work who should be paired with whom. If you are doing a peer-review activity, for example, you wouldn’t want to pair one strong writer with three struggling writers. Although the struggling writers would benefit from having a talented writer critique their work, the strong writer may be discouraged (not to mention bored) by the fact that s/he is giving out helpful feedback without having it reciprocated.

  • Depending on the activity, you’ll want to appoint a “secretary.” S/he will be responsible for documenting the group’s answers and conclusions during an activity. In addition to this, you’ll want to appoint a “presenter” for each group; this student will have to work closely with the secretary so that there’s no confusion over handwriting or wording once the class comes back together and each group presents its conclusions.

  • To ensure that your students stay on track, make sure that you travel from group to group. If they seem to be oversimplifying the activity, play devil’s advocate and ask Socratic questions to help them look at the problem or activity in a different way. 
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Tags: classroom management, classroom procedures, behavior, Classroom Strategies, classroom rules

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