Clip charts, bucket fillers, treasure chests, and classroom economies. All of these classroom management systems have been tried over and over again. So, they must work, right? Not for everyone! These classroom management systems can have some negative social emotional effects and not mention the dent they can make in the good old bank account. What can you do to make your elementary classroom management system work? My keeping it simple with these simple classroom management ideas that work.
Why Use a Simple Classroom Management System?
While clip charts, bucket fillers, treasure chests, and many others are incredibly popular and I have tried ALL of them…literally! What did I discover? They can be incredibly hard to keep up with. If your classroom management isn’t consistent, it starts to lose its credibility. Once that happens, your expectations become harder to enforce. Instead, my simple classroom management systems make things easy to enforce and maintain.
What Does a Simple Classroom Management System Include?
When I started looking for a simple classroom management system that would work in my classroom, I knew it had to meet the following criteria:
- SIMPLE to maintain
- Adaptable to classroom personalities
- FREE (because teachers don’t need to spend money on useless junk!)
As I started searching, I found Whole Brain Teaching (WBT). This is an incredible organization that I believed in so much that I served for eight years on the board AND I became a National Trainer for the methods they share. I loved sharing their simple classroom management system with other teachers around the world because it was SIMPLE and it WORKED! Before you go searching for this system, let me be transparent in saying I no longer work with the company because it started getting twisted and too complicated.
Today, I’m going to give you the BASIC version of this classroom management system because it was the BEST version and could be used in ANY classroom and with ANY group of students! It’s so versatile you can use it in person OR online. What makes this system so effective? It’s based on the time old principle that games are fun and people like to win!
Start this Simple Classroom Management System
When you first start using this simple classroom management system, you want to create a basic set of rules or expectations. These rules are simple and cover pretty much everything that could come up in your classroom. In addition, these rules are created to help build a positive classroom environment inside the four walls of your classroom. They include the following:
- Follow directions immediately
- Raise your hand for permission to speak
- Raise your hand to leave your seat
- Make smart choices
- Keep your Dear Teacher HAPPY
Every single one of these rules are discussed, practiced, modeled, and then practiced throughout the year. After long breaks, they might even need to be reviewed. In addition to being practiced and modeled, they are easily adaptable to different scenarios in our classroom day. How? I use what I called a Rule ON/OFF system. It was SIMPLE (just like everything else)! With a stick note, I could turn a rule on and off. If we were doing an activity like centers that made rule two and three sound silly, we would simply turn them off for that time. Then, when it made sense, we would turn them back on.
Another rule that people tend to question is rule number five. However, it’s a catch all rule. Your students are creative and will come up with things that you can’t think of. Therefore, if it’s not something that would make you happy (in other words a smart choice) then they shouldn’t be doing it. In addition, they aren’t trying to MAKE you happy. You’re already happy to be there everyday teaching and spending time with them. They just need to make smart choices to keep you that way. How do they do that? By following the other rules and learning!
Put Up a Scoreboard to Keep Track of Student Behavior
A scoreboard is a SIMPLE and POWERFUL classroom management tool. All you need is a dry erase board and marker. I would draw a line down the middle. Then, one one side I would draw smileys and on the other I would draw frownies. Throughout the day, students can earn smileys by following expectations. However, they could also earn frownies by not following the rules.
The key to the scoreboard (and the simple part of the simple classroom management strategy) is that it is quickly and consistently used throughout the day. It is normal for there to be 40 to 50 marks on both sides by the end of the day.
Typically, I was giving a point on either side every two to three minutes. Now, this might sound like you’re spending your whole day giving smileys and frownies, but that simply isn’t the case. The scoreboard should be quick! Give the point and move on.
How Does the Scoreboard Function?
Because I don’t want to spend too much time on the scoreboard, I came up with a little “routine” for my students. So, when I give the class a point, I would say something like, “I love how table three has everyone looking at me while I speak.” Then, I will give a point. After I give the point, students, as fast as they can, will clap and say “OH YEAH!” and then I continue teaching. There. Is. No. Break! The “OH YEAH “ is called a one second party. It’s meant to be super fast! So, we practice it at the beginning of the year until it’s as fast as lightning! Every single simple classroom management strategy has to be modeled and practiced.
When I notice students are off task or not following rules, I simply say, “I have a friend (or friends) not following rule 3…mighty groan.” The students give a FAST shoulder shrug and groan. Then, I resume my lesson.
All of this takes practice both for you and the students. But, it was super simple and took hardly any time to get the hang of in my classroom. It is key to note that when you are giving points, simley can be directed at a specific student or group. However, frownies are done in a general fashion. In other words, always bring attention to a rule being broken without just calling a student out. This can cause social issues in your classroom.
What’s the Prize?
So, you’re probably thinking, “This is a game, so what do they win?” That’s where the money always goes isn’t it? Into the treasure chest of prizes for being a good student? Not in this scenario. The scoreboard is a WHOLE class system. So they win something or they lose something as a whole class.
When students get a prize, you want to make sure you start super small! If you go big in September, you’re going to be booking a Disney Cruise in May. Small rewards like one minute of free talk at the end of the day is something simple you can start with. You could also give students activities they think are so fun but are also learning like a Squares Your Brain game.
Then, as the year progresses and your students need a change, you can change the reward to something a little bigger. Rewards in my class would only last two to three weeks and then I would change them. Eventually, I could circle back to the previous rewards after a break from them. No matter what you choose to use as a prize, keep it stickin’ simple!
This is a basic version of what the organization (should you choose to look it up) has out now. I never found a need to overcomplicate it. Instead, I always used it as the simple classroom management tool that WORKED. Keep in mind this is a WHOLE CLASS classroom management system, not something for individual behaviors. Individual behaviors are a whole different discussion…but we’ll get to that later.
Until Next Time…
Keep Being Educational Rock Stars!