4 Strategies for Elementary Classroom Management


4 Tips for Classroom Management

Even the best elementary school teachers can struggle with classroom management. 

We have come up with four tips that we hope will help you to prevent and manage student behavior. Read on for strategies related to how teachers can use rules and routines in their classrooms, and how to respond when students do not follow them.

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What to look for in this post:
Have clear rules and expectations for your elementary classroom
Choose your battles with your elementary school students
Do not make promises or threats you cannot keep with your elementary students
Do not respond in anger with your elementary students

If you prefer to hear us talk through this, here is a video featuring all of this content:

[0:43] Classroom Management Strategy #1: Have clear rules and expectations

As an elementary school teacher, you may have read Harry Wong’s book The First Two Weeks. Wong talks about how important the first two weeks of school are when it comes to developing classroom rules, and he advocates doing that together as a class. Another approach is described in Ron Clark’s book The Essential 55. Clark would post the 55 rules he had for his classroom.

Regardless of your preferred approach, it is important to have a strong set of rules for your classroom. Students need to know what you expect from them - both what to do as well as what not to do. If you choose to create the rules yourself and share them with your students, be sure to point out when they are not in line with the rules, as well as when they are following them well. In addition, the rules should be posted in the classroom and referenced often.

An effective classroom management strategy for elementary students involves revisiting specific rules throughout the year. You can remind them of a special rule of the week to focus on, and then you can draw their attention to that rule daily. At the end of the day, you can provide feedback to the class about how they did.

This likely goes without saying, but the best time to develop and implement your rules is the beginning of the school year (or the semester if you are on a semester schedule). If you think your class needs a refresh, however, you can certainly start over or make changes to your rules or systems. Whenever you roll out new rules, of course, you have to spend class time emphasizing them. At times, you have to prioritize classroom management over curriculum. It is imperative that the students know the rules, understand the expectations, and can function smoothly within those parameters. You may go a little slower those first couple of weeks, but you will gain that instruction time later in the year when you don’t have to constantly correct, remind, and teach your students about the rules.

One of the most difficult routines in an elementary classroom is station rotations. Done well, however, it can run like clockwork. Students can be in charge of setting the egg timers, and there should be a clear way to figure out where they need to go. The true test of your rules, routines, and procedures, is how the students behave when you are not there. When you have a substitute teacher, you will be able to see what works well and what might need to be addressed again.

[8:19] Classroom Management Strategy #2: Choose your battles

It can be frustrating, but sometimes you just have to let things go. How many thousands of little things can students do during class time? You don’t have to take away from your teaching time to address things like pencil tapping - just ignore it. Maybe you go over and gently lay your hand on his pencil as you are delivering your lesson, but you don’t have to interrupt instructional time for these kinds of things. It’s not worth it.

Additionally, it is crucial to be as positive as you can be with students. Positive reinforcement for doing things well pays off in the long run. Even when it seems like every student is doing something disruptive, look around the room and find something positive that someone is doing. You can inform them that you are thinking of a secret rule in your head, and someone following it would earn a prize. If you give a prize for having feet on the floor, you will surely see an increase in the number of students whose feet are on the floor. That positivity puts behavior on everybody’s brain, and it could be your saving grace for that day.

[11:56] Classroom Management Strategy #3: Do not make promises or threats you can’t keep

Upper elementary students, in particular, are good at getting you to break this rule. When you get upset and frustrated, you are more likely to tell a student that they are going to miss recess for the rest of the year. Then you quickly realize it’s August, and they cannot miss recess for the rest of the year.

Be sure that you remain as calm as possible, and select an appropriate consequence with which you can really follow through. If you aren’t in charge of suspensions, do not use that as a threat.

[13:31] Classroom Management Strategy #4: Do not respond in anger

We have all been angry with students before, and sometimes they can bring us right to the edge. If you get to that point, you can always call an administrator and ask for a break. Step away from that situation so you don’t do anything you regret. You don’t want to do anything that would be a negative headline in the newspaper.

It can be helpful to remind ourselves that we work with children, and their brains are not fully developed yet. They are still people, however, and we need to show them the same grace and patience that you would want shown to you. Expressing anger toward your students is not beneficial for your relationships with them, so we want to avoid that as much as possible.

When you are in control of your emotions, you can certainly raise your volume at an appropriate time. Picking and choosing these times allows for emphasis at key moments. If you yell every day, they may not pay attention when you really need them to or they may not realize when you are truly upset.

[16:22] A Summary of Our 4 Behavior Management Strategies

Behavior management in the elementary school classroom starts with clear rules and routines. You need to choose your battles carefully with your students. Don’t make promises or threats you can’t keep, and don’t respond in anger. If you enact these classroom management strategies, you can have a great school year with your students.

Click here to access the Coaching for Classroom Management Guide FREEBIE:


Looking for more classroom management resources?

The Classroom Management Behavior Plan is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

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