Does your schedule next week look like mine? December may not be the most challenging month academically, but it’s often one of the hardest in which to maintain classroom management.The kids have an innate sense for when teachers just aren’t trying anymore, and they respond accordingly. Fortunately, there ARE ways to make the time count and maintain your sanity:
Don’t build anticipation.
Assemblies, presentations, and other holiday events are unavoidable in December, but you can prevent your class from getting over-excited by staying focused on daily routines instead of special activities. I list my schedule changes in a prominent place for the type of children who need to have a plan (see photo above), but I don’t mention the special events at all unless we need to prepare. If a student asks when the holiday party is, I point to the schedule, then change the subject. Right before an event, I explain what’s happening in a calm voice: “We’re going down to the cafeteria now for the chorus performance. That will take up part of our math time. When we get back, we will complete our math warm-ups just like we usually do, and then continue with our graphing activity.”
Resist the urge to ease up on your behavioral expectations.
Believe me when I say this will backfire completely. When the teacher is lackadaisical, it just adds to the environment of chaos that the students are slowly creating and makes it harder to get the class back on track. If the kids run to line up, shake your head and nonchalantly tell the whole class to sit back down and try again. “I know you’re excited about the chorus performance. But we need to line up in a quiet and orderly way, just like we always do. Let’s see which table is ready to try again. Watch Team Three as they walk at a appropriate pace over towards the door. Notice how they pushed their chairs in. Do you see how they are facing forward and not talking? Excellent. Team Four, your turn to try.” Yes, it’s December. And yes, you still have to do this.
Review your procedures and expectations.
It’s probably been a few weeks or months since you’ve articulated and modeled some of your classroom procedures for the entire class. (Just because you tell the same four kids over and over that NO, they cannot get a drink in the middle of a lesson, does not mean the rest of the class was paying attention when you reiterated your expectations.) A fun way to reinforce the rules is with this PowerPoint Class Rules Review Game. There’s one slide for each category of expectations (Papers, Homework, Moving Around Campus, Working Cooperatively, etc.), and each slide has a handful of questions about related classroom routines. The slides don’t include the answers so that the kids can supply them (bonus: you can modify your rules without redoing the PPT). This can be used as a teaching tool and to spark discussion, or can be played as a competition between teams (who knows our classroom routines the best?). I do a few slides each week during December and again when we return in January, and it makes a remarkable difference in how smoothly my classroom runs.
Click here for part two of the December Survival Tips.
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