Classroom Management

Teaching Students to Work Cooperatively


Today’s world is one of instantaneous inter-connectivity. Working collaboratively is an essential skill that must be taught, nourished and fostered in order to succeed in such an environment.


Working as a team does not come naturally to an egocentric kindergartner. It is something that must be taught and practiced. Intentional teamwork activities allow students to work together for a shared benefit. Such activities will not only provide collaborative experiences, they will build many other social and emotional aspects of a student's self including:  Self-management, social awareness, self-awareness, responsibility, decision making, caring about others, contributing, relationship skills, and more.

Today we had a lesson on teamwork. After learning the vocabulary words opinion and decision, we did some role-playing that provided opportunities for students to practice coming to a group consensus.  We then read the book “What’s The Big Idea Molly?

Next I divided the class into groups and asked the groups to each make an animal that lives in the jungle.  I then reminded the students to listen to each other’s opinions and decide how they would construct the animal.


At the conclusion of the activity we had a debriefing. I asked the students what types of strategies their group used to complete the animal.  I listed their responses on a chart.

This was a great activity. And only one child cried! He was pretty mad that his group made the lion a girl lion instead of a boy. This was a great opportunity to talk about consensus. Even though it was not his opinion, he could support the group decision. And, everyone loved the finished product!


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Give Me Five: Behavior Management To a Catchy Tune

Kids respond to music. So, why not captivate upon that fact when planning your classroom management routines. This poster is a quick reminder of the 5 steps of good listening and is set to a familiar tune. 

I made this poster back in 2011, and I still love using it in my classroom. The song is easy to sing, meaningful, and helps students keep the rules of listening as they sing!

Give Me Five: Set to a familiar tune

Also available at Teachers Pay Teachers!

Use this song and sign as reminder to students when getting attention.

Remember that you can print poster size or take the jpg. to a photo center to print as a poster. Print this sheet if you need permission to print, because you have it!

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Children with Behavioral Issues Need Help, Not Labels

I feel strongly that, in the classroom of the young child, there is no such thing as a behavior problem. I do agree that there may be such a thing as a child who demonstrates negative behaviors.

Children at this age are experimenting with all kinds of behavior, some of the behaviors will be positive and some of them will be negative. Our job as educators is to teach children which behaviors are productive and which are not. I worry that as we smother our students with behavior charts, stickers, and contracts, we are taking away their chance to internally process what these behaviors mean. Worse yet, when children see their behavior chart constantly on "red", notice that they never receive stickers, or realize they never get a prize from the prize box, they will begin to feel that the behaviors that they have been demonstrating are a part of them, rather than an external activity that is fluid and can be changed. The child (and the teacher) will begin to believe that he/she is a "behavior problem" rather than a child who has a problem with behavior.

I feel the way we talk to young children about bullies is especially damaging. Instead of teaching children about bully behavior, we teach them that some children are bullies. Children will experiment with behaviors that exert some kind of power over other children. Unfortunately, if we have taught that children who act this way are bullies, instead of empowering them with the knowledge that the behavior is a bully behavior, we have taken away their chance to modify their actions. We have taken away their ability to change behavior and have attached a damaging label to the child himself.

This year I stumbled upon Wonder Grove Kids, a company that offers some great character building videos and supplementary materials. The Wonder Grove Learn Education Initiative covers eight critical areas of early learning that impact a child’s ability to succeed inside and outside of the classroom. The following is one of their videos:

Notice that the child in the video who is not keeping her hands to herself does not realize that the behavior is negatively impacting her friendship. This is something she has to learn. As educators, we need to spend less time dictating the consequences of behaviors to our students, and more time helping them internalize the negative impact that poor behavior has on their relationships. And we need to be especially careful never to label them, or allow them to label themselves as a "behavior problem". If we do, we have written their future for them.

Teaching Students To Give Thanks: Gratitude and Other Important Life Skills

Wondergrove Kids are at it again!

Thanksgiving is coming! Food, fall, and football! It’s a time for families and friends to gather and give thanks. One of my favorite teacher spots,  Wondergrove   has posted five Thanksgiving videos you can share with your class. These videos offer valuable tips to remind your students that Thanksgiving is more than a big meal. It's also a moment to reflect and be thankful. Each video is less than 60 seconds so you can show one a day leading up to the holiday. Check it out here! 

Managing Learning Centers: You Can Be At Every Center!

Have you heard of "Talk Boxes?" If you haven't, these are a classroom must have. With just a push of a button students can be independent at each center. If students can't remember what to do, they simply push the button to hear YOU give the instructions once again. What a great way to not only build student independence, but these boxes free the teacher to concentrate on guided reading/writing or math tables! Viola! With Talk boxes the quality of classroom life is improved instantaneously.

To top it off, there are many other uses for these devices. Children can quickly record their own voices providing opportunity for students to practice verbal and auditory skills. They can be used with games, displays, word walls, phonics practice,  information, etc.

These gadgets also come is a smaller version called "Talk Points."

Mystery Box Magic

Do you have a mystery box that you use for hundreds of things in your classroom. There is hardly a day goes by when I don't use one of mine to hold cards, objects, letters, etc. to play a skill based game. To make this box new and exciting, at times I decorate it to match the game or activity.

To make the cover I take a 11X17 sheet of construction paper, measure and cut to the width of the box. Then I measure the length of the cover to equal the three sides.  Next I crease the construction paper to fit the corners of the box (to make it foldable) and laminate.

This Cover is for an Alphabet Mystery Game

To prepare for the game, I simply cover the box by attaching the laminated sheet with a small piece of masking tape on each end. Here is a very simple snow scene cover that I use when I play some of our snow themed literacy or math games.

When , so I will have this box cover each time I need it, I simply fold and file.

Setting Kindergarten Procedures

Procedures are as necessary for our students as reading and math. In fact, procedures provide the framework for the curriculum that we teach. Classroom management and beginning teacher books all highlight the importance of incorporating procedures into the classroom. 

Kindergarten  and other early education teachers usually see the importance of procedures. Our students must be taught how to line up, walk down the hall, sit on the carpet in an appropriate way, use a glue bottle or gluestick.....the list goes on and on. 

Because we have so many procedures to teach, it’s tempting to rush the process or even skip a few steps. That’s the opposite of what we should do, however! Your introduction and review should take a month or even six weeks.

When introducing a new procedure, model it if possible. Many management programs suggest modeling the procedure exactly as you want it, modeling it incorrectly, and modeling it almost, but not quite how you want it. Be sure to follow each incorrect or less-than-perfect example with the correct model!

Even when you are well into your school year, remember to review procedures. Choose one or two each day throughout the year to practice or model for a smooth-running class all year long!

Keeping Time

Keeping track of time is part of a teacher’s day. Clocks and timers can be found in most classrooms. A large visual timer can be a helpful classroom accessory, especially if learning centers are a part of your school day. Kids and adults can see how much time is available for an activity at a glance. The “Time Timer” is easy to set and turns off after three of four beeps. It can be purchased at Amazon, Lakeshore, Calloway House, etc. 


Bully Behavior

Last week we read one of my favorite books, "The Meanies" by Joy Cowley, along with several of her other "Meanie" versions.

We talked in detail throughout the week the characteristics of a "Meanie."

Today, we took a twist on the book and talked about people. People can do mean things too. When people are mean, they are usually called bullies! What are  some mean things that people can do? From our conversations, we generated this list.

Tomorrow, we will continue our conversations about "Meanie" behavior as we talk about the brain and how we learn. This always brings some important insights into the lives of a 5 year old.

Using Rock, Paper, Scissors for Classroom Management

It's important for children to be able to have the skills to monitor their behavior and solve disagreements. It's not unusual for children to want an adult to solve their interpersonal problems for them, but what they really need is an adult to teach them a strategy to use to solve the problem on their own. Strategies like, "Let's roll a die to see who will have the first turn" or "Whomever can throw the ball the highest gets to play with it first".

One strategy my students always enjoyed was playing "rock, paper, scissors" but many of them had difficulty making the hand gestures and many more had trouble with the timing (and not changing the gesture according to what the other player is doing). Using a card deck to play the game solves these problems.

The Rock, Paper, Scissors card deck is available for free at our Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can use the cards in several ways. The teacher can keep copies of the cards that the students can access when they need to solve a problem or each child can keep a set in his/her desk. We hope they help you empower your students to solve problems on their own! The beginning of the year is a great time to start teaching them how.

Setting Classroom Expectations

Today I attended a great back to school motivational workshop taught by author and consultant Dr. Anita L. Archer. It was a great reminder that the first few days can certainly set the tone for the entire school year.
Some of her tips include:

  1. Set expectations, tell students that they need to learn how to be your students.
  2. Allow students opportunity to practice the expectations. (Tell them, model, practice, repeat)
  3. Don't ever assume, pre-teach all areas that may need attention.
  4. Allow students (gentle) re-dos to fix problems with routines.
  5. Teach with passion and manage with compassion
  6. Always deliver instruction at a perky pace.
There was a lot more I could add, but instead I will send you to her site:
What a great start for a new school year. Thank you Dr. Archer.

Book Bag Buddies Build Excitement For Reading!

Your students will love having classroom book bag buddies! I have had buddies in my classroom now for 20 years and they are always a hit! Here are my current 25 buddies packed and ready for their turn. For easy management I have found it best to get them ready all at the same time, but as you build the program, simply prepare them as needed.

I generally send home two pets at a time. One for the helper and one for the caboose. You can organize it however you wish, and send home one or two at a time. I have found two to be the perfect number for me.

To start, simply find a book you love and then find a pet to match. You can usually find a pet at a thrift store, a garage sale, on amazon, or department stores (such a Kohls). I will also add an informational or nonfiction companion book if the story lends itself that way. For example if the story is Brown Bear I will include a real book about bears.

Next, make a journal! Copy the cover (add a picture that matches your pet), and then copy the inside front and back so that it will open from the top showing the next page when the page is lifted. 

Now, gather a vinyl backpack. Once again these can be found in all of the places listed above. Place the pet, the book(s), the journal inside of the backpack and it is ready to send home with the first student. 

Remember to introduce your class to the pet, set your rules with the pet, and build the excitement!

Add a Buzz to Games

If you’re looking for something to motivate your students, try using answer buzzers. This Learning Resources product  is available at Learning Resources, Calloway House, Amazon, and many other places. It adds fun and excitement to almost any game, lesson, or skill review. 

Students can hit a buzzer to answer a question or identify a sight word. They can also buzz in when completing a fluency exercise. However you choose to use them, answer buzzers will help keep your students engaged in learning! 

Constructing at the Art Center

With more and more emphasis on academics, making time for construct projects can be  a challenge. Construct projects are not just fun or frivolous activities, however. They provide students with the opportunity to follow directions, strengthen hand and finger muscles, solve problems, review shapes, use math skills, and be creative.

Construct projects can increase student interest in any subject that you are studying. They provide opportunities to use language and  interact with classmates. Completing a project often gives students a feeling of accomplishment. Furthermore, if the finished projects are posted, students have a greater sense of belonging in the classroom.  

Most students enjoy construct projects. Whether making  an octopus, a pirate ship, a leprechaun, or an astronaut, they will eagerly tackle the latest project, many times remembering it as the favorite experience of the week!

Kindergarten Classrooms Should be Noisy

This weekend I started reading the book, “Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education” by Elena Bodrova And Deborah J. Leong. Lev Vygotsky was a genius Russian psychologist who studied cognitive development despite the difficulty of being a Jew in Russia, and the pressure to conform to the ideas dictated by the Russian government. Because his ideas were buried in communist Russia, it was only in the 70's that we in the west were first able to access and use the theories he developed. 

I already knew (and love) the theories of Vygotsky, but it was only by reading this book that I realized the impact that he’s had on education. Before we knew what Vygotsky had discovered about the way children learn, classrooms all looked like the one pictured above. Teachers lectured. Students worked independently. This was because back then, we believed learning to be an entirely internal process. Then Vygotsky came along and we discovered that learning happens in a social context, and language is the key to developing mature mental processes.

And that is why my classroom is so noisy. And that is why it's okay. Because research has shown that language is a key element in a child’s learning. There are times when it is important to listen. Children need to learn when and how to attend to information and how to show respect to a speaker. But children also need to be able to have shared experiences with language in order to build their mental processes. Learning cannot happen in silence. Learning needs conversation, so, a noisy classroom is a learning classroom.