If you’re a teacher, you are probably all too familiar with how hard it can be to focus on encouraging positive behavior in the classroom – especially when it feels like you are just trying to stay alive in the game of whack-a-mole chaos that IS every day. I FEEL YA. This is not only a kindergarten thing…but there is definitely an added ‘kitten herding’ aspect when you have 5-year-olds who have not yet learned how to “do school”. I have 2 inexpensive and EASY tricks for you to try out – and once you do – you won’t remember how you functioned without them!
If you are a brand new kindergarten teacher or if you have a child approaching kindergarten age – you NEED my free download: Kindergarten…Ready or Not? 10 Things Your Kindergarten Teacher Really Wants You to Know Before They Go. It will give you an honest and often hilarious ‘behind the scenes’ look into what to expect. Heck, think of it as a “What to expect while you’re expecting”…..just for all things kindergarten and kindergarten readiness!
Classroom Management Defined
The National Education Association (NEA) states that, “Classroom management covers a broad range of topics and is by far the most important aspect of a successful classroom.” The amount of thought and preparation that goes into classroom management is undeniably crucial.
When I went back to school (at the ripe young age of 40) to get my masters in education, I was fascinated by the many different classrooms I observed. I became slightly obsessed by those classrooms that seemed to run like a machine.
HOW did those 1st graders know what to do? WHEN did those kindergarteners learn those call and responses? WHAT sort of voodoo did those teachers possess that caused those kids to be thoroughly engaged, focused, and excited to be there?
As I set up my very first kindergarten classroom – I focused on so many little things that I thought would make all the difference. I spent hours organizing and labeling my class library. I labeled every cubby, book box, folder, and hook with a number system. I mapped out the flow of the room, the table placement, the word wall….ALL OF IT was carefully thought out and I ‘fine-tooth-combed’ it over and over.
Did this prove to be time well spent? Absolutely.
Did my classroom prep benefit me AND my kids? Sure.
Was it a bit obsessive? Probably.
Did everything go as planned? Kinda sorta.
YES…All of that time spent was important – and I would encourage any new teacher to do the same. However, when the kids actually show up and it’s just you and 20 something 5-year-olds – there’s a bit of magic you need if you really want to know how to manage kindergarten classroom chaos. *These tricks work well in other grades too – just tweak them a bit!
Why Classroom Management is Important
You know those multi-page lesson plans you slaved over for observations? You know that amazing resource you bought off of Teachers Pay Teachers? The math and phonics games you printed on your favorite astrobright paper, cut into a gajillion pieces, and then laminated with your personal Scotch machine? Hear me when I say:
Absolutely none of that matters if you don’t have good classroom management.
Wait. Say what??? I repeat:
NONE of that matters if you don’t have good classroom management.
WHY? Because if your kids are not actively listening to you, if you are constantly having to redirect and nag, beg, and plead for attention – learning at its best does not occur. THIS is what I had to learn. The “kinda sorta” that I mentioned above.
Routines and procedures are a MUST. But once you get past that…you must get creative, learn what works for your kids, and PIVOT if need be. (Yes…that dreaded and over-used word from 2021…pivot – pivot – PIVOT!)
Classroom Management and Behavior
I was in my 6th year of teaching. I thought I had classroom management under control – but the behavior aspect was lacking. I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve by that point, but that class….OH. MY. WORD. They did NOT stop talking. EVERRRRR. I was at a loss. My bell system didn’t work. My voice level lights were flopping. My threats were growing and my teacher voice was….let’s just say it was starting to scare ME. Still – nada.
Then…I discovered BLURT BEANS. (Insert the sound of angel voices from heaven)
Kindergarten Classroom Management Tips
When I’ve been asked, “what are positive behavior strategies that really work?” – BLURT BEANS are top on my list.
- ”Beans” are unifix cubes
- I like these because they snap together and make it super easy to work in simple math all day long.
- If you are in another grade – you could use buttons, dried beans, mini erasers – the trick is to make sure the size of your “beans” makes sense with the size jar you use. My jar is about a 2 gallon acrylic jar – perfect for collecting plenty of unifix cubes and not filling up too fast.
- My kids know that when they arrive each day, they are to hang up their backpack, get out their daily folder and agenda, then once these tasks are complete -they go to the basket with the unifix cubes and count out 5 “beans”
- They keep at their table in front of their personal supply caddy— it honestly helps for them to see them!
- If they lose a bean during the day for blurting, it goes back into the original basket
- Any beans they have left at the end of the day go into our BIG BLURT BEAN jar!🎉
- Once the BIG BLURT BEAN jar is filled up we will have an all class reward!
- In the past our only goal was to fill up the jar as a class…however, this year I decided to add in a little bonus for individual behavior. We are still doing the class reward, but at the end of the day they get one sticker ‘per bean left’- on their own chart that they also keep at their table. (Think #dollarstore incentive charts-stickers included)
- Once they fill up their chart they get a personal reward too!
- This has been an added boost to those kids who generally keep all of their beans – and has been a GREAT incentive for those kids who struggle the most!
- Class & individual rewards might be PJ day, lunch bunch in the room, stuffie passes, treasure chest, etc.
What is a blurt?
A blurt is any shout out when instruction is happening. To really get my kids to understand – I model what this would look like (what NOT to do). They think it’s pretty funny – but I make sure they understand why this is not respectful or appropriate. I let a student be the teacher, and when I blurt – they get to say to me, “Bean, please”. I then model how to quietly get a bean and return it to the original bucket. I model how to do this calmly – and how NOT to do this.
Can you have a ‘body blurt?’
Yes, that phrase is pretty funny! But YES, you can have a body blurt. Have you ever had a kid who LIVES to be silly and make others laugh? Yep. The distracting tapping or rolling or snapping to get someone’s attention during whole group – the lunge – hop – flailing your body back to the carpet after a bathroom visit….body blurt. “Bean, please.”
Are they just supposed to NOT talk? Like…ever??
Of course this is not the point of blurt beans! They are not to talk OVER one another, they are not to interrupt me when I’m teaching, they are not to shout out answers or thoughts at inappropriate times, ‘stealing’ other’s thinking.
What if it’s not whole group instruction – can they talk?
We talk about this as a class and come up with our guidelines. If we are in whole group – the blurt rule is automatically in place. The first year I did this we had a little speech bubble that was a light – and when they were doing independent work, or I was with a small group we would flip the light on, reminding them they’d lose a bean if they blurted. If the light was off – talking and sharing was free and no one would lose a bean.
What if a child loses all of their beans?
I’ve definitely had kids lose all of their beans. Let’s just say that those kids work harder the next day – and when they have even 1 left – they celebrate it! Some days I’ve had kids put in 2 beans and say, “Look! I have 2 more than I had yesterday – but tomorrow I am going for 1 more!”
It’s important to note that we work really hard to promote a positive classroom culture. From the very first day they understand that in my room we are a team – a family. We build each other up – and when one of us is struggling, we all must be encouragers who cheer each other on. Tearing each other down is not allowed. Therefore – when a child loses all of their beans – it would be an extremely rare occasion for them to be overly upset. The norm is that there is a flurry of cheerleaders pumping them back up. We are solution seekers – and they will come up with a plan together to keep their beans. It’s really quite something to see!
Encouraging positive behavior in the classroom is so important. I will really try to pepper in praise to those kids who are rocking it – to not only shout out their awesome behavior, but to ‘indirectly redirect’ those showing off-task behaviors. For instance, let’s say I have a child who has lost a couple of beans already. If I sense they are still having a rough go of it – I’ll quickly say, “Stella, I am LOVING the way you are listening right now. THANK you for showing me you are ready!” This will cause a quick ripple effect of ‘fixes’ throughout those showing off-task behavior because they WANT to please and do the right thing!
MOST of the time this works FAR better than focusing on the behavior you want to discourage. If I’d said, “Reese – you need to focus and not distract your neighbor” – that may or may not have the desired effect. Most likely I’ll be repeating that comment in a few minutes in a firmer voice. Then again in a few minutes – until the teacher voice comes out. I’ve found that encouraging and shouting out positive behavior reaps FAR more of the desired outcome than going on and on about what NOT to do.
Problems With Classroom Management?
If you are experiencing problems with classroom management – may I introduce to you: (drumroll please) AWESOME BALLS! Yep. Not the most original name. It’s a name so bad…it’s good. But they WORK.
Ok….so HOW DOES IT WORK? Glad you asked! I think it’s SUPER important to teach kids about short-term goals AND long-term goals. I decided to use AWESOME BALLS as a long-term goal. The carrot I dangle in front of them? DESK PETS. (never fear – I’ll be writing a blog on this asap!)
Now, in kindergarten I do not advise implementing this reward until the 4th quarter of school. Things they know I am looking for are responsibility, respectfulness, that they “can handle” this HUGE reward. When I introduce the AWESOME BALL jar at the start of the year – I explain in DETAIL what they will get when they fill it up. They KNOW it is going to take a long time. You would be amazed at how they do NOT give up – and it makes the reward SO FULFILLING – for them and for me.
- “Balls” are pom pom balls
- I start off the year with the large 2” balls so they can really “see” it and get excited
- Once we get going – I will mix it up with a smaller size and tell them “just like in video games – the better you get, the harder the game gets!”
- We can earn a ball for things like: a compliment from another teacher,, the whole class doing something like lining up quietly, everyone participating in an ‘above and beyond’ way.
- They have pretty much come up with their own scale as to what size action equals what size ball!
- I use a glass bubblegum jar I got at the #targetdollarspot
- I time it just right – so that they earn their final AWESOME BALL right before the start of the last quarter.
- A touch of drama never hurt nobody – every time they earn a ball I will hold it up and they make the sound of angels singing. We repeat a few times for fun, and then when I drop it in they yell “WE’RE AWESOME! YESSSSS!”
Click the image below to watch the 2022 final ball drop below!
I hope these two simple kindergarten classroom management tips will help spark some ideas for you! If you try them out, be sure to put your own spin on them – and let me know how it goes! To help you get started, I’ve created some free labels for you – just click the image below. If you have ANY questions – please go on and BLURT them out!