10 Classroom Management Strategies for Primary School

By Mark Higgins
1. Establishing Routine

2. Teaching Peer Support Strategies

3. Communicating Expected Behaviour

4. Time Management

5. Reducing Idle Time

6. Facilitating Peer Feedback

7. Settling Activities

8. Movement-Based Activities

9. Developing Behavioral Plans

10. Dealing with Aggression

 

1.Establishing Routine

Establishing good routines is a vital element of effective classroom management plans. Young learners respond well to structured routines because they minimise confusion about expectations, create a sense of security, and promote their independence throughout the day.

Practical steps for establishing routines include:

  • Making a list of recurring daily activities
  • Developing procedures for each activity
  • Explicitly teaching these procedures
  • Reviewing procedures in action
  • Modifying procedures as necessary
  • Practicing and teaching until it becomes automatic (See sample from QCAA)

You can expect to see smoother transitions between activities, an increase in positive interactions with your students, and greater efficiency in your instruction and facilitation of classwork.

2. Teaching peer support strategies

Constructivist and socio-cultural methods of teaching share a philosophical belief that cooperation between students is a key element of a student-centered approach.  If you find yourself having to explain things over-and-over again to your students, teach them to ask a friend about what they should be doing.

Example one: Apply when student has question.

  • I don’t know where to put my bag?”
  • Reply, “Try asking Sam where (teacher) asked you to put your bag.”

Example two: Apply to encounters throughout the

  • Alex, you need to ask a friend about what colours (teacher) said to use on this activity.”

Example three: Apply to increase class awareness of expectations.                  

  • “I see (students) with the correct equipment ready to go. Who can help their neighbour get ready?”

Provide positive feedback when the students resolve the situation on their own.

Establishing a peer supported learning environment encourages student agency and helps them to become more self-directed in their learning. In time, your students won’t need prompting to ask their friends for clarification and they will be instinctively motivated to help their classmates.

3. Communicating Expected Behaviour

Effective communication will encompass several techniques to cater for the diversity of learners in your classroom. For example, providing positive commentary on desired behaviour in the classroom increases your students’ awareness of expectations and motivates them to regulate their own behaviour.

Breaking the negative feedback loop of calling out poor behaviour involves describing what the students behaving correctly are doing:

  • I love the way that Sam waited for my instructions before he moved to his desk.
  • Isn’t it amazing how quietly the Red group sat down and waited?”
  • “Rachel is being a great helper by showing Ollie what page we’re reading.”
  • “Great effort, Max. I know it can be hard for you to focus, but today you were ready to work and finished 10 questions. Let’s build on it tomorrow.”

This is especially effective for students who consistently misbehave to get your attention. If you can, ignore any unwanted behaviours while directing your attention to a student acting appropriately and give them praise. They will learn that the students who get your attention are the ones who follow classroom expectations.

4. Time Management

Although it’s important to be flexible at times, your students need to learn to complete activities during given timeframes. When lesson planning, you can create a strong sense structure by allocating consistent timeframes for daily activities.

Implementing a new time management procedure could involve:

  • Ringing a bell or setting an alarm clock
  • Explicitly teaching them that the sound means:
    • “Stop” (pencils down, sit up straight)
    • “Look” (eyes to the front)
    • “Listen” (no talking, ears open)
  • Practice until it becomes routine (Call and response using gestures is recommended)

By training your students to be better in their time management, they will learn to complete activities within set time limits and transition between activities more smoothly.

Establishing a routine in the classroom
Establishing a routine in the classroom is an important way to set expectations and promote productivity among primary students.

5. Reducing Idle Time

It is important to keep idle time to a minimum to prevent your students, especially those with ADHD, from becoming bored and acting inappropriately. Also, consider building short breaks into activities and lead your class in stretching or even mindfulness activities to reduce restlessness before refocusing students to complete their work.

If you have the space: create an area stocked with books, puzzles, and educational toys for students to use quietly once they have completed their work to your satisfaction.

If you don’t have the space: before the class begins, students can pick one book, puzzle or toy to keep at their desk or designated area and to use it only when they have finished your task.

Design a fast workers board with envelopes containing fun activities that the students can choose like:

  • Decorating part of the classroom
  • Using a computer
  • Visiting the library
  • Doing a find-a-word
  • Doing a sudoku
  • Playing uno
  • Colouring in/drawing
  • Playing cards
  • Playing a boardgame (chess/checkers)
  • Listening to music on headphones

When your class is working well, allow students who don’t always finish early the chance to have fun with these bonus activities, too.

6. Facilitating Peer Feedback

Providing the right format for peer feedback can  further encourage students to self-regulate during class. Practically  integrating peer feedback into lessons can increase learning opportunities for your students.

One study found benefits including:

  • Faster feedback
  • Student collaboration
  • Bridging gaps in learning
  • Raising more ideas
  • Practice in critical evaluation
  • Reflection on own work

Creating a sense of inclusion could involve having students draw a classmate’s name out of a hat and say something positive that they saw the student doing. Display a list of examples like being a good friend, talking nicely to others, doing their work quietly, and trying their best in P.E. Keep selected names aside until every student has been drawn out of the can.

7. Settling Activities

You will have a good sense of certain times when your students are unsettled or have too much energy (after lunch/rainy days/Fridays).  Making short, quiet activities a part of your daily routine can help calm your students before beginning the next lesson.

Whole class:

  • Reading to the students
  • Quiet classroom games (telephone, heads down-thumbs up, statues)
  • Completing puzzles in small groups
  • Building Lego models
  • Teaching self-regulation techniques
  • Leading meditation

Individual:

  • Personal reading time
  • Drawing/Colouring to music
  • Watching an interactive video
  • Resting on their desks
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Handwriting practice

It is important to be consistent with your classroom expectations, so be careful that students don’t learn to be noisy just to get games as a reward.

8. Movement-Based Activities

My primary school class was very energetic. We could annoy teachers with our noise levels and our inability to sit still. Studies show the benefits in respect to student engagement, concentration and enjoyment when movement is built into their learning.

When transitioning between activities, throw in an energetic interlude to break things up:

  • On Monday, play a break dance video and practice the steps.
  • On Tuesday, run a quick class lap around the playground.
  • On Wednesday, see which students can come up with the most intricate “cool” handshake.
  • On Thursday, select and play a “minute to win it” style game (these usually require teamwork and problem solving).
  • On Friday, have a student lead a class workout to their favourite song.

Scheduling energy breaks can be particularly beneficial for kids with ADHD. It can help your students to maintain their behaviour and focus when completing activities because they know they have something to look forward to each day.

Remember to switch things up as necessary and be ready with some fun, spontaneous activities for when they have too much energy.

9. Developing Behavioural Plans

Research consistently shows that when intervention is required, developing positive behaviour support (PBS) plans have an impact. Your state’s education department (and even your school) will have PBS resources if you’re unsure where to begin (e.g., NSW).

If a student is continuing to struggle in your class you might consider holding meetings with the student’s parents, executive staff, the school counselor, and the student.

The aim should be to:

  1. Determine any underlying problems
  2. Make sure their needs are being met
  3. Encourage inclusion and engagement
  4. Develop a plan for addressing challenging behaviour
  5. Communicate the plan schoolwide
  6. Make modifications as necessary

Building better relationships with staff and classmates is also important. Remember that you’re dealing with children who do not have the adult skills necessary to deal with difficult situations or experience in resolving them. By making sure that a challenging student feels safe, cared for, and included in your classroom, you can build trust and a good rapport with them.

Physical education for primary students
Adding physical education sessions to your lesson plan can assist with primary classroom management.

10. Dealing with Aggression

When there is a fight or when a student is being aggressive in your classroom, it is important to follow your school’s guidelines in response. Always remember your duty of care to all students and yourself.

Practical steps that you can take to deal with aggression include:

  1. Looking out for changes in a student over the day such as angry stares or raised voices, can help you to pre-empt and deal with a tense situation appropriately.
  2. Teaching verbal conflict resolution techniques to your students is useful as well.
  3. Remaining calm is essential when you deal with this kind of situation.
  4. Moving closer to students and demanding them to stop their behaviour in a strong, clear voice can often provide a chance for them to escape the situation without losing face.
  5. Reminding them of the consequences of fighting.
  6. Directing them outside of the classroom to calm down.
  7. Not getting physically involved.
  8. Reporting the incident.

When it comes to students who are having problems outside of school, reassure them that school is a safe place for them. Many Australian schools have started breakfast clubs that support the welfare and wellbeing of participating students resulting in improved classroom behaviour. State educational bodies mandate that schools must assist families who have trouble in meeting the cost of uniforms, so make your principal aware of any concerns when necessary (e.g., VIC). Finally, if it is clear that your student isn’t getting enough sleep, you can arrange for them to have a quiet, low stress day and make sure they know who is available to talk to and help them.

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