Hello, hello, hello there beautiful teacher friend! I have so much fun with you here, and if you know me classroom management is so fun for me to talk about. So that’s why I’m really excited to bring you five clever ways to simplify your classroom management today. It’s very easy to get distracted with fun and wonderful looking new ideas. But sometimes friend, simplicity is king. So today, I’m going to give you five ways that you can simplify your classroom management to make your room flow even better and make your life more joyful.
I truly cannot describe the impact that the shutdown and the virtual teaching taught me last year. I learned so much about myself as a human and especially as a teacher. Although for many years, I thought of myself as a very simple minimalist kind of teacher, I learned that I could deduct more things in the classroom to make my life easier and still have the same results in my classroom management.
What I learned from 2020/2021
So yes, last year from August until December, I was full blown virtual teacher. Then in January, we returned for the remainder of the school year in hybrid in person mode. What I learned from that experience is that I could deduct more things to simplify the way that I taught and manage my classroom. It just made my life much more simple. Virtual teaching, although it was hard, has had a lifelong impact on me as a teacher. Hopefully you learned what I did during that experience: that sometimes we’re going above and beyond with no greater result.
If you happened to listen to the Finish With Joy series I did at the beginning of summer, you may remember I talked about the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the impact we have comes from only 20% of the things we actually do. Keep in mind that simpler is better. Only a small portion of what we do is actually creating 80% of the impact.
Simpler is Better
Although I’m going to share five ways that you can improve your classroom management, I want you to have this perspective in everything that you do in your classroom. Ask yourself, “How can I take away from this to make it even more simple? What can I eliminate that is unnecessary here, and what is absolutely necessary, part of my 20%?” Don’t get caught up in the cute, frilly, enticing things. I’m going to share with you five ways that I have simplified my classroom management over the years.
With all five of these things, you’ll see the trend that my classroom management wasn’t always that simple. I have reduced things over the years to make them as simple as possible. I’ve found a direct correlation between simplicity and joy in teaching. Not only will you benefit from things being more simple and clean cut, your students will also reap those benefits. If it’s complicated for us, imagine how they feel entering our classroom each day.
Simplify Class Rules
One way to simplify your classroom management is to use simple class rules. If you caught the Ultimate Guide to Simple Class Rules, then you already know what I’m going to say here. If you didn’t, please hop back. One of the most transformative things that I ever did in my classroom was implement simple class rules. It sounds so simple, really. But that is the beauty of it. And that is why it is so powerful.
So I suggest that you use simple class rules that are specifically designed for your little learners. There is a bit of a science to this. I really hope that you will use movement and really learn to manage that in a way that is so effective for your classroom. One of the greatest decisions that I made was to get rid of an old clip chart that I used and wasted too much time on. I really full force put into place simple class rules and utilize them every single day.
Clever way number two to simplify your classroom management might hurt just a little depending on which side of the fence you are on. But I say to cut out some of the homework that you send to your students. Homework can be a controversial topic when it comes to teachers, just like everything else in the world. But realistically, you are probably spending a lot of your time and focus worrying about homework.
I used to send home homework for each and every day. And I fully believed that yes, my little learners were going home and getting reinforcement on the skills that I was teaching during the day. I put a lot of time and effort into it. I checked it every day the students returned it. And what I found was, it did not make a long term impact on my students’ learning. It was not part of that 20% that made 80% of the impact. The 80/20 rule is called Pareto’s Principle, and it’s been proven in many aspects of life.
How I Use Homework
Homework was not creating any noticeable impact. I did it a few years, and I did without it a few years. I tried to implement it again, and it was just too much. So this is what I do for homework. It is my belief that certain things absolutely have to be reinforced when students are developing certain skills. For example, sight-word practice. Students have to see a sight-word a lot of times before technically it becomes memorized. I do not have the capability to show that word that many times to each and every student and ensure that they are getting that. So I do send flashcards home.
I also really find it very important for parents to read with their children and reinforce the leveled readers that we use in the classroom. I also do the math facts and spelling words. As far as worksheets and things like that, I have never found a clear result or impact from all of that work. So really think about cutting out some of the homework and how could that save you time and trouble the entire school year. Maybe this resonates with you completely, and you’re ready to cut out all of it. But I do suggest having some of those reinforcing skills, keeping parents involved with that as much as possible.
Simplify With Hand Signals
With that, let’s move on to clever way number three to simplify your classroom management. Let’s talk about hand signals. So probably you’ve seen some hand signal posters somewhere. Well, not only are they cute, but they are incredibly effective, and they can simplify your life. So you’re probably saying, What is a hand signal?
Well, little Jimmy is dying to use the bathroom and instead of shouting out, “Mrs. Mullins, Mrs. Mullins, I gotta pee!” He instead raises his hand and crosses his fingers. I immediately notice that, and I in turn signal for him to go to the bathroom. All of this is done nonverbally with hand signals.
I highly recommend you get some hand signal posters, teach this routine to your students, and simplify your life. It is so powerful, I love it. I won’t do a year without hand signals. There are five major ones that I use. I don’t want to have any more than that, because that in itself could become complicated. I have a restroom signal, a tissue signal, an emergency signal, a pencil signal and just a random question signal. This helps me manage the movement in my classroom. For instance, instead of having students up and about at any given time, I teach them they have to ask permission.
So think about using hand signals, but don’t just use them lightly. Really enforce them at the beginning and you will see year long impact from that. So I love, love, love hand signals. That’s why I have a free set that you can add your own name to. You can find those free posters HERE.
Simplify Classroom Jobs
Let’s talk about clever way number four to simplify your classroom management. This one too may hurt a little depending on how attached you are to your classroom jobs poster. Teachers love those classroom jobs.
I see it in all of these groups. Show me your classroom jobs poster, how do you organize it? How do you manage it?
My question is, why do you manage it? Why would you spend your valuable teacher time going through and having to manage all of those different classroom jobs every day or every week? Trying to remember which kid does what? I’ve done it. And no, it was not worth it.
Really think about how important is it that every student has a job every day. Technically, every student does have a job every day. Their job is to manage their behavior, to keep their desk clean, and to help out whenever needed. Why do they have to have these silly titles like caboose or garbage picker upper? Why do we do that? I know it’s because we want every child to feel part of the team and community. But as I said, every child does have responsibilities every single day in my classroom. You may have a strategy that is more simple than every child having a job. But I’m going to challenge you today to take a new perspective on it.
What if, my friend, you had one helper per day?
Yes. What if you had one single student that was responsible for helping with whatever was needed in the classroom for each day? How much simpler could your day get if you didn’t have to worry about all of those helpers?
Let me tell you how I do this. I simply print out my class list, put it in a sheet protector, and hang it on the wall under a little sign. Each day, I put a mark next to the helper of the day. I go alphabetically by last name. The students will help you remember when it’s their turn to be the helper, because they watch that list. It’s right next to the door. Anytime we line up, they see it. They know tomorrow or the next day, whenever, I cannot be absent because it is my turn to be the helper. Now if they are absent, the day they come back I hop back to them, because I do want every student to have a turn. Then when the list is over, I start back from the beginning.
There is a book by Morning Meetings and Classroom Wrap Ups. I really love it, and she actually taught this in her book. She calls it the student teacher.
Basically, you are the second teacher, your job is to help people, to assist the teacher, whatever is needed. Because it’s so important, you have to take turns. She even suggests having a special hat and a seat for students to sit in during student teacher day, maybe a seat that is closer to your desk, that makes it more special. Think about this and how it could change your time in the morning or however you prepare for classroom jobs.
Simplify With Decluttering
And with that, let’s get on to clever way number five to simplify your classroom management. I do include my classroom environment in my classroom management. One important part of the environment, the feel of your classroom, is being nice and tidy, clean, and clutter free. So one thing that you can do to improve your classroom management is to organize and declutter this year.
Guys, I’m so excited to tell you that I have switched schools. I am in the process right now of preparing a first grade classroom. It’s always been my dream to teach first grade, and I’m so happy I finally made the decision to try a new school. It’s been eight years in the making.
What I want to tell you is that I had to kind of get in a rush to clean out my old classroom. I put it off until the very last moment. Actually, the day that I moved over to the new school is when I went in and just pulled everything out of my old classroom that I needed. But in this moment of being in a rush and needing to get out quickly and move my things to the new school, I finally realized I had too many things.
There is this book called The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up. I read it about seven or eight years ago, and it had a pretty profound impact on me. I came home decluttered my house, I decluttered my classroom, but over the years, things still managed to sneak back in.
What I’m challenging you to do is to think of it the way that I had to. If I had only a few hours to move from this classroom, what would I take with me? What that will empower you to do is to look at things and decide, do I need this? I would say that over 50% of the items in our classroom could be eliminated.
So we need to think about how important our classroom space is visually. How do you feel about cluttered, piled up spaces versus clean and open, free flowing spaces? Space is important to me. Whenever we can eliminate things we create more space, more freedom, more air. So look at your classroom and think, what can I get rid of that’s going to simplify my life? Do I need 10 sets of this one thing? Could I simplify the indoor recess area and give students fewer options and less things to clean up when they’re done?
By doing this you’re going to make a profound impact on your classroom management and on the way that you feel about your classroom. It’s going to be more joyful to walk in and notice that hey, there’s more space in here. it’s actually freeing to get rid of things you don’t need. I saw a quote on social media the other day that said the best way to organize your things is to get rid of most of it. And that is absolutely true.
See What You Can Simplify!
Teacher, that was a little more fun than it should have been. I hope you take some of these ideas and simplify your teacher life. Give it a try my friend, you don’t have to keep it that way forever. Let me also give you a quick update about Joyful Teacher Academy. I’ve had some emails from friends wondering when this is going to be available. Well, I’m going to tell you out of the honesty of my heart that this is absolutely so, so important to me. I am trying to perfect the program to make sure it is absolutely what you need it to be. I expect that to be available to you around the middle of September. If you are not on the wait list for Joyful Teacher Academy, sign up HERE, and you will get a notification when it is available.
I hope you are gearing up for the very best year you’ve ever had. I’m praying that we all have the kind of school year that we wanted last year, and I’m just happy to be along this journey with you. So please join me next week, same time, same place. Until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend!