Post Promise: If you’re a Primary Teacher and you need some extra classroom management MAGIC to get you through a tough-time OR would simply like to spice up your game, this post has you covered. Don’t miss the free Happy Bag resources I’ve included for you at the end of this post.
Teacher friend, it is officially one of the craziest weeks of the school year for us Primary folks- the week before Christmas break This means my patience and energy are running thin with all the Christmas parties, Christmas programs, Christmas presents to prepare and even Christmas pepperonis. (That doesn’t make any sense, I was just enjoying the alliteration way too much. Total nerd, right here.)
Even if you have found this information at a calm, more structured time of year (which is actually never), you can still take the ideas I share here and adapt them to help keep your students managed and your classroom flowing more smoothly. This trick has a fair amount of both management and happiness- but let me declare- management ALWAYS comes first in my book.
Check out the video blog I created for a condensed explanation of the Happy Bag. 🙂
Management > Happiness
I want my students to be happy, but more than that, I want them to be well managed. That sounds mean, but let’s skip the sugar coating. I’m not a heartless teacher by any stretch of the word- but I am a highly structured one. It is my firm belief that without strong routines and behavior management, it is nearly impossible to find sustainable happiness in the classroom. No one feels safe, satisfied and secure in a room of uncertainty and chaos. Just sayin….
As selfish as it may sound, managing student behavior isn’t just about their happiness- it is about mine. If I’m not happy, how can I give them the best of me? Unguided and unprepared students is enough to make me a wreck! As my Mamaw would say, “My nerves can’t handle that.” I can picture it now: the school secretary walking in my room to a bunch of unruly children and saying, “Sorry kids, your behavior has caused your Teacher to have a mental breakdown. The sub will be here any moment. I’m sure Mrs. Mullins will be back when she’s properly medicated.”
Through experience I’ve learned that classroom management (including dealing with student behavior) is greater than any other part of my classroom environment because without strength here, everything can fall apart, including me. It is for this reason that I personally work SO HARD to keep my students managed through clear expectations (see my rules routine), solid-routines and a toolbox of behavior management tricks that keep things fresh for my students. Always consider and care for management first, then happiness can naturally ensue. Today, I have a grand mix of both of these parts: cue the Happy Bag.
The Happy Bag
Oh, you’re going to ADORE my dear friend, the Happy Bag. You will not believe how insanely valuable a simple, brown bag can be until you slap a smiley-face on it and call it your friend. Oh no, this isn’t just a bag- it is a classroom beacon of hope during desperate times! With an ample amount of hype and this bag in hand, you can make a classroom of students do ANYTHING. (Kind of scary to think about, but so true. )
What is the Happy Bag? A management tool that promotes positive behavior. When students demonstrate qualities that deserve recognition, they get to experience a special reward from the Happy Bag.
Preparing the Happy Bag. I love how easy this is! Print out the template I’ve included below and slap it on a big bag with some sort of glue. Now, you just need to fill it up with happiness-provoking things. Beyond this initial step, you can also add some special hats (along with holiday-themed items) to make your Happy Bag more festive (for example: Happy Bag wears a Santa hat and is filled with a free pass for students to do the Christmas hokey-pokey.)
Fill the Happy Bag. I’ll give you a few ideas, but I want you to be creative here! (Actually, I need NEW IDEAS for my own happy bag too- so please share any ideas you have with me right HERE. I’ll be so appreciative of your help!) For a starter happy bag item list, download the resource I’ve included below!
Our Happy Bag needs have a variety of items inside that will make our little ones feel happy. These are simple rewards that you will visit throughout the day to encourage your students to be on their best behavior. I really love more FESTIVE, holiday themed ideas to make those hectic days easier to handle. Thankfully, little ones can be wooed with just about anything, so your job here isn’t too difficult.
Some of the items I’ve included in my happy bag are:
- Silly Stickers (not just your average sticker. See my video for clarification here.)
- A stuffed animal friend to hold
- Fart Machine
- Special Happy Chappies
- A Silly Hat or Mask
- The MOST AWESOME BOOK ever
Introducing the Happy Bag. This is your moment to succeed or fail miserably with the Happy Bag. As the name implies, this bag makes everyone happy, even you. When you see it, you smile- even giggle a little- because everything about it brings joy. (Modeling happiness will make your students naturally happy as well. Don’t believe me, try it.)
On the day of the introduction, I have my Happy Bag (full of items) hidden under a shelf curtain. My dialogue with the students goes something like this: “Oh boy, this is a SPECIAL day! I am going to introduce you to one of my BEST friends. Do you know why he is my BEST friend? (Students discuss for a moment.) He makes me feel SO HAPPY, that is why! Just one look at this little guy, and I feel this joyful feeling right-down in my heart. My face can be sad like this (demonstrate) and go straight to super-happy, just like this (smile your face off here.) He is so happy, his name is Happy! Actually, his real name is HAPPY BAG. Oh, my happy bag is so happy, he makes everyone happy. I bet when I pull him out to show you, you’ll feel so happy that you’re face will look just like mine (model huge, goofy smile.) Let’s see…..”
Pull out your bag dramatically and watch the little faces light up with joy. It works, and it’s a magical moment for me every time- because it reminds me of the simplistic joy within children. Why can’t we make everyone happy with a brown bag? I wonder if this trick would work with my boss?
I go on to explain him further: “Deep within my Happy Bag, there are special things that I will only share with students who EARN them. To earn something from the happy bag, you need to be… (describe your terms & conditions here. More info below.) At special times, when I see students doing just that, I will go over to the Happy Bag and deliver a special, happy gift to those students. There are some gifts inside that I can give to everyone, but some that I can only share with a few people. So, if you want one of THOSE gifts, you have to do an extra-special job.”
Happy Bag Terms & Conditions. When speaking about potential happy bag winners, outline your conditions clearly and base them on the activity at hand. For instance, when working on independent work- you may say something to the extent of, “Oh, I’ll be watching carefully during our seat work to see who is working quietly, is being careful not to make any mistakes and for students that are using extra-neat handwriting. If I see all of those things from you, I may have to sneak over and check out an item from the HAPPY BAG.”
Remember, we are rewarding positive behavior here and we need to make it clear to our students what we expect to see from them.
When to Use the Happy Bag. Don’t think of this trick as an every-day tool. It is only appropriate for a season. If you try to use it every day, the magic of the Happy Bag will quickly disappear. I personally use the Happy Bag during special occasions when I know my students need the extra support to stay focused and engaged. (Don’t tell my Principal, but formal observation day is a great time to pull out this Happy friend.)
Get your HAPPY BAG right HERE!
Are you ready to give this trick a try? Have fun with it and see just how happy it will make everyone involved. Your’e students will be happy for the fun and you’ll be happy for the positive behavior management that it creates.
Teacher Friend, please CHECK-IN!
I want to hear from you, friend! What pro-tip do you have to share with our fellow teachers? Have you used a trick similar or even better than this? Share it in the comments below or collaborate with us in the PRIMARY TEACHER FRIENDS Facebook Group! Talk to you soon!