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Saturday, August 18, 2012

I Just Got a Teaching Job- Now What?!- Classroom Management

School started this week, and I am worn. out. Everyone is asking me how I like 3rd grade, and so far I'm having a hard time telling what is different because of a new grade level, and what is different because of the personalities I happen to have in this class. Either way... I'm excited to get in the groove of learning, and not just the first week of school. I am even more excited that it's the weekend :)

Classroom Management and Discipline Tips for New Teachers
part of my series, I Just Got a Teaching Job... Now What?!

 One of the toughest things for a new teacher is usually discipline. There are a lot of tightropes to walk.

  • Your kids need to know you care about them, but they also still need to see you as an authority, not a friend.
  • The kids need to feel they can be forgiven, but they need to feel like it matters when they mess up.
  • The overall atmosphere should seem positive, but there needs to be consequences when misbehaviors happen.

Everyone always says that it's easier to start out tough and back off, and I agree- but that doesn't mean you don't smile, at least in elementary. Kids need to feel they can trust you, and a smile is a great way to start building that relationship with the kids.

But they need to know that you will follow through, too. Being nice and smiling doesn't mean cutting them a break when they break a rule. That first week and after, I make it a point to give one verbal reminder, and then crack down.

When I think of discipline, I like to have:
  • Class rewards
  • Individual rewards
  • Individual consequences
  • And as needed:
    • Team rewards
    • Team consequences
    • Class consequences (as a last resort- I don't like to do these very often because you end up punishing some kids who don't deserve it.)

When you choose a discipline system for your classroom, make sure it's something that includes positive reinforcement for good behavior, and is easy to follow consistently for negative behavior.

The "marble jar" works well in my class for a whole class reward, but I also love the idea of team rewards through a "barrel of monkeys" competition or a whole class trying to build Mr. Potato Head together. These pictures are linked to their sources at Pinterest!

Pinned Image Pinned Image

That last one is SO much cuter than my marble jar!! (If you pin these, please pin the original sources, not me! It's only fair :)

I was hoping to give you a collection of individual classroom management systems, but it turns out that The Clutter-Free Classroom just did. Check out her post here.

I really enjoyed the clip chart last year. For me, it was a way to give every kid something to work for the whole day, each day, no matter where they were on the chart. Even once a kid made it to red, they knew I'd be proud of them (and tell their parents) if they were able to move back up the chart. It was never to the point of "Oh, you lost your recess, so now there's no need to try anymore" which I found happening with a "stoplight" system in the past.

I can also reward different kids for different things. If one student always forgets to put their name on their paper and they remember this time, I can reward them because it's extraordinary for them

Whatever you choose, be careful with too many extrinsic rewards. There are many free rewards that will work really well to motivate students, and they're so much better than spending your money on items for the store. Plus, it's teaching kids to be proud of their accomplishment, not just excited for a toy.

I have also found that, even when kids got a choice of the prizes or something like lunch with the teacher or a positive phone call home, they tend to pass on the prizes.

How cute are these free coupons, too? (Again, if you pin, please click over to Mel's to pin it from her site!)

Intrinsic rewards are the best. When my kids reach "Sparkling," the other kids cheer (I didn't teach them to do this, but they started it on their own and I love it). They also take home a bookmark, a sticker on their newsletter, and a little certificate to show their parents (thank youuu, Target Dollar Spot).
At the end of the day, they get to sign the Sparkling Hall of Fame (a laminated piece of black construction paper) with a silver Sharpie, which they love. They add tally marks after their first time signing.

After reaching Sparkling 10 times (which only 2 of my kids did last year!), they get to go over their name in gold Sharpie and get special recognition from the principal.

I keep certificates ready to go, even signed already, so that all I have to do is add the name and date while they pick a sticker, and then I hand them the bookmark and the marker to go sign the HoF. DONE.

Plus- let kids make your job easier when it comes to tracking the discipline. My 2nd graders were carefully chosen for the job of Clip Chart Recorder, where they took a mini clipboard and filled out a 0 for red, 1 for orange, and so on up the chart for each student each morning, and then they moved the clips back to green to start the day. They loved helping, and I didn't have to do it. Win, win. Occasionally, kids will make a mistake- but overall, it worked so well when I chose conscientious kids (or had two kids work together so they'd catch each other's mistakes).

When you think about consequences, be careful taking away recess. Often the ones who would get it taken away are the ones who need it the most. That said, sometimes there isn't another consequence that motivates the student, so sometimes it's very hard to avoid.

In my class, kids who reach red take home a Think Sheet. I copy plenty at the beginning of the year, fill out the name and date, and add a note in my binder so I remember that it went home. The kid does the rest, unless I want to write a note to Mom and Dad on there.

Make sure parents aren't only hearing you contact them with bad news. That first week, I make it a point to send positive notes home with the students who I can already tell will be a challenge, because I want their parents to see that I do see the good things about their child. Usually, those parents haven't heard good news from their child's teacher in awhile.

When I send kids to pack up, every kid is supposed to color in their newsletter- and those on red or sparkling come to my desk to get what they need. It's a quick process that I can get done while the other kids are packing up.

Make the rewards or punishments something that will be easy and quick enough for you to do at that point in the day. The end of the day is hectic enough without 10 kids getting stamps or going to the store. If you want to do those things, fine- but do the store once a week, or give a student the job of being a Stamper.

A discipline system needs to work for you, so choose carefully, and just like in organization, don't be afraid to try or add something new. I love my clip chart, but I know that depending on my students this year, it may not work. Or, it may not work for one or two students who need something more individualized and tailored to what motivates them personally. Keep it simple and consistent, and you should be able to find what works for your class.

And if you're not? Please ask for help. Other teachers will be happy to offer what has worked for them, and the blogging world (myself included) will be happy to offer some advice, too!


  1. I LOOOOVE your Sparkling idea! What an awesome idea. One of my goals this year is to be better at rewarding positive behavior. Thanks for the great ideas.

    Adventures of a Third Grade Teacher

  2. What a WONDERFUL series!!! Love this! And that is some great advice with some cute ideas!!!


  3. I agree! I also think it is important for students to understand why they did something wrong. I also love the idea of intrinsic rewards - so much better (and more effective) than cheap little toys!

    Sara :)
    Smiling In Second Grade

  4. Thanks so much for linking up to my blog. I've become one of your newest followers and I've awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award. :)

    The Wise & Witty Teacher

  5. I love reading your blog and just wanted to let you know that I've awarded you with the Versatile Blogger Award! :)


  6. This is just what I needed tonight. I love the idea of the Sparkling sign up paper, and I think I'll have to do that tomorrow! Also, I really appreciate this series. As a new teacher, it's really tough to get used to teaching by myself (aka without my cooperating teacher from student teaching), and it's really nice to have so many ideas and tips all in one place. Thank you sooooo much!
    Teaching in the Valley

    1. Wow. Without even going over to the other site you mentioned, (which I've actually been perusing for a while) I have a compendium of new ideas for classroom management. Usually I just transfer a few notes to my clipboard, but ima hafta bookmark this page!!
      Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I just came across your blog and I'm obsessed. It is so well done, especially your "I just got a teaching job, now what" series. As a substitute teacher searching for my forever classroom, your blog will be vital when I get my first classroom job. Thanks for writing and sharing!!


  8. wow, your blog is amazing - and so helpful too! i have a few questions for you, i really like your behavior management system here, especially the 'sparkling' addition, but i'm wondering how your student jobs work exactly, with the clipboard - do you have students record how many kids were on each color at the end of the day? and then move them back to green to start the new day? also, i like this system much more than the stoplight one, but can you offer a little more explanation about how 'being on the red' differs? just a slightly confused fellow teacher in need of some advice! :)

    1. Elizabeth, thank you so much!

      I have a little clipboard with a chart that has my students' names (and numbers) down the left side, and then going across the top, the student writes in the dates for those two weeks. Then, I usually teach them to start at the top and write in anyone who got a 6 (sparkling). Then, write in anyone who got 5 points (purple), etc. until they're all filled in. This way, I still have a record of individual students' behavior. I did have one student in the past who was on a special behavior plan, so I made sure to check that his was correct, but my kids have always done a really great job of recording (although they are specially chosen for this job so I can make sure it's someone I can trust!) Then, that student moves all the clips back to green for the new morning.

      Being on red is still somewhat similar to the stoplight system, but students can move back up from red. I do tell them that if they reach red at all, they have to take home a Think Sheet to think about how they can have a better day- but if they managed to clip back up, I write that as a note to their parents at the top, so their parents are aware that they worked to turn their day around. I think the only real difference is that they can still move back up off of red!

      I do know some teachers who mix up the colors so that red doesn't equal bad, but I don't really put too much stock in that.

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