It's no secret that this year I moved to 4th grade and I am loving every minute of the upper elementary world. I was recently talking to a substitute who was asking for advice with behavior management when she's subbing in primary buildings. She brought up how hard
it was to come in and out of classrooms and not know exactly what the behavior systems entail. It brought back sweet memories of my kindergarten and first grade days and it made miss the madness that goes on in a primary school (shoutout to my former teammates #thestruggleisreal).
I decided to compile a list of my favorite NO-PREP, go-to tricks for managing behavior! These aren't just for substitutes, they are for all the teachers out there who are desperate for some law and order!
This snack hack was shown to me by one of my best friends when I first started teaching. I like to let my students talk during snack time because it's a good time for them to get their chit chat out and socialize with their friends. But sometimes they get too noisy, or sometimes we all need 15 minutes of quiet time. The rules are quite simple. One student is "it" and has to walk around the room and tap someone else who is quiet. Then that student gets up and does the same thing. The game round ends when I decide to (I tell the kids they never know when it is going to end, but when it does, the whole class has to be quiet in order to win the round...this encourages the kids who have already been "it" to not start talking just because they were already "it") I write a tally mark on the board for each round they win. Each tally mark is a bonus minute of free time at the end of the day. You can choose what you want the winning to be (maybe if you have a class jar of something that you fill up when the kids are good, etc.) This gem of a game is so simple, and you can multitask in the quiet time while the kids eat their snack! It also encourages teamwork because the kids are all in on it together.
At the end of the day when the kids all have their backpacks and coats on, I always play the KidTV123 Channel on YouTube. My students LOVE the songs, they are educational, and they are only 2-3 minutes each. It keeps the kids settled down and quiet and they look forward to it so they get packed up fast and go right to their seats quietly. We all know how slow-pokey and wild they can be at dismissal!
Sight Word Survivor is a great game to help the students practice, and can be differentiated for each of your reading groups. It's also good for filling 5-10 minutes of time or perking up your students when they are fading. Here's how it goes: Let's say you have 5 kids in a group. You start with one kid (they don't know who you will start with so they always have to be ready.) You say "the word is LIKE". Point the the student you start with, and he or she has to say the first letter, then the student next to him or her has to say the next letter, and so on. When the word has been spelled, the student next to the last letter has to repeat the word. If a student says the wrong letter, then they are out. The game goes on until there is one Sight Word Survivor left! It's such a great game to practice the words and even the kids that get out toward the beginning are listening to the words being spelled and repeated. The game typically goes pretty fast. You can differentiate this game for your leveled groups, or if you teach older grades you can do this with spelling words to practice. Some of my students have said they make their parents play Sight Word Survivor in the car! Too cute.
Rock, much like The Quiet Game, is a great way to keep the kids quiet during an odd time. Have the girls sit on one side of the hallway and the boys sit on the other. The kids have to sit like "rocks" (criss cross, silent and perfectly still). I always say "Rock...starts...NOW." When the game is over, you announce who the rock was (or rocks, if you chose multiple rocks) and I always give a Dojo point to the winning rocks. So simple, yet so effective for keeping them quiet in the hall. I've used it when we are waiting at assemblies, waiting to go into a special and when I have to have my class stand in the hall while I run in the main office for something. If they are standing then I call the game Statue.
Ahhh yes. My favorite trick ever. Mystery Walker is the GREATEST way to encourage quiet, orderly walkers in the hallway. When we line up, I say "I'm choosing a Mystery Walker in 3....2....1....GOT HIM/GOT HER." Then we walk. The kids don't know who the Mystery Walker is or what the Mystery Walker Surprise will be if they are picked. When we arrive at our destination I either say "The Mystery Walker was ______ and he/she will get to sit in the Teacher Chair (or whatever reward you choose)" OR if the Mystery Walker doesn't get it, I say "Unfortunately my Mystery Walker did not earn it...I will choose that walker again next time." I often use this game when I want to help a student turn around their day. If they had a tough morning and we are on our way to lunch, I will try to choose them and then praise the heck out of them when we arrive. Sometimes being the Mystery Walker is just the motivation a kiddo needs to get back on track!
When my students are having an exceptionally chatty day/week/month, I will put a word of the day on the dry erase board. Sometimes it's just PLAY, other times it is related to our theme (i.e. ELF, TURKEY, PUMPKIN). When the whole class is being too loud or not trying their best, I erase one letter. I erase one letter if they get a bad report from a special area teacher. If the whole word is erased, they lose whatever it was that they were working for (playtime, a Christmas game, a pumpkin activity, etc.)
This is the reverse of Erasing Letters and instead of negative reinforcement, this is positive reinforcement. When the whole class is on track, I put one letter on the dry erase board. I tell the kids how many letters the word will have. As they earn letters, they enjoy guessing what the Mystery Word will be. Some ideas would be POPCORN, STICKERS, PLAYGROUND, etc. I've done this as a word of the week, word of the month, word of the day. It all depends on your class and how much reinforcement they require.
What are your little gems that you couldn't get through the day without? I'd love to hear.
You can read more about my behavior management system by clicking here!