Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Elementary Classroom Management Strategies That Still Work in Middle School

Developing a classroom management plan in middle school can be challenging, to say the least. Kids are growing and changing so fast at that age and it's difficult to judge which strategies will work best for kids in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

You might be surprised to hear that middle school teachers can still use some of the same strategies seen in elementary classrooms, with a twist, of course. Here are a few ideas that my colleagues and I have used to create a positive, safe learning environment for our students:

Hand Signals

If you've ever been near an elementary classroom, I'm positive you've seen a teacher use hand signals to refocus students. Kids can use them to let the teacher know what they need. The same idea works well in a middle school setting as well. I've used hand signals to ask the students to be quiet and my students use them to signal a bathroom break. These nonverbal cues are efficient in saving time. How often have we walked across a room to answers a student's question only to find out that they wanted to use the restroom? A hand signal saves me time and I can nod my head to grant their request across the room while working with another student. 

Sticker Chart

Bear with me, here. I know what you're thinking..."Sticker charts in middle school? No way." I'll partly agree with you. While some groups of students would find it juvenile, it may be just what you need to inspire your unmotivated kiddos. I've worked with small groups of students that were failing school. They were unmotivated, lacked support outside of school and were often removed from the classrooms due to behavior concerns. When they came to my classroom, it was my job to motivate them to complete their work. Challenging? Y.E.S. So I brought out a simple little chart with 4 rows, 5 boxes per row - one for each day of the week for about a month. Each day a student was positive and productive, I put a sticker in the box. At first they scoffed at the idea. When their peers started earning small treats and prizes (a bag of chips, a small candy, etc) after getting 5 stickers, suddenly it became very important to earn a sticker each day. I couldn't believe it! These kids transformed in front of my eyes after a few weeks all because of a daily sticker...in middle school. Miracles happen, people, and we all ended up having a pretty good year!

Voice Levels

In elementary school, you'll see teachers with a chart of voice levels and colored dots to indicate what volume the kids should use when completing different activities. I've used this with much success in the classroom. The most common voice level charts I have seen have 4 levels: silence, whisper, normal voices and presentation voices. If you write your daily agenda on the board, it's super easy to stick a colored dot next to an activity so that the students understand what's expected of them during that time. This behavior management strategy is a keeper for me.

Marble Jar

The marble jar is an age-old strategy that allows your class to work as a team to fill the jar. Whenever someone does a good deed, goes above and beyond to help a fellow classmate or the class as a whole has a particularly good day, I add a marble to the jar. When the jar is full we have a little celebration! I fully believe in creating a positive atmosphere in the classroom so I never take away marbles. Those were hard-earned and they should be proud of every single one. 

Table Points

If your students thrive on a little friendly competition, starting a system of table points is a fun way to keep groups on task and accountable for their behavior. This is a fun strategy to use at the end of the year when they're getting a little (ok, a lot) excited for summer and have trouble remembering your classroom expectations. It works similar to the marble jar idea. Each group is awarded points based on individual and group behavior. As they reach certain point milestones, they receive little rewards! The rewards can start off simple (first group to leave the classroom) to more complex (homework pass) as they earn more points. You can even go to the dollar store and pick up little prizes or treats. Middle school kiddos love those little surprises! 

I hope you find some of these strategies useful in your classroom. Middle school is such a fun age to teach and your classroom can have a positive and uplifting atmosphere for your kids to express their ideas while they learn and grow together.
Happy Teaching!

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