KISS – Classroom Management for 1st Grade Teachers

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1st Grade Classroom Management

Here’s our new KISS – Keep is Simple Strategies – for 1st Grade Teachers

Many people feel that 1st Grade teachers are the most important in a child’s life. This is the year where reading instruction begins in earnest; until now, students have been engaged in readiness efforts. Teachers face a huge disparity in student readiness for school on the first day. Some children may not have been through any preschool at all, in some states, Kindergarten is not required and many children will not have gone through Head Start or pre-school.

To view other classroom management tips in the KISS series, click here.

Here are some of the tips we’ve collected from other first grade teachers:

Have a plan A, B, C, and D, especially in the early days of the school year.

Plan for limited attention span:

Television and simulation games have created an expectation that classroom lessons will move at this speed. Computer software that mimics games has helped students gain some exposure to subjects they will study in school, but they may not be prepared for group work or a slower pace to accommodate all children.

Project excitement for learning:

Prepare some posters and bulletin boards that say “coming soon”, they’re used to this approach in the real world and it may provide a bridge to the classroom. If you’re excited, this can be contagious. Use other bulletin boards to spark interest in learning.

Use signals for gaining and keeping attention.

Pinterest has a great section on their site for classroom management and especially the use of hand signals for bringing children to attention, getting ready for dismal, etc. My favorite is having children use their five fingers to communicate needs that would otherwise produce a distraction or interruption. One finger up means “I have a question”, two fingers means “I need a pencil”, three fingers means “I need to use the bathroom”, etc.

Bathroom practices:

Establishing bathroom rules is challenging in first grade. It may take awhile for children to adjust to waiting until the class can go together to the bathroom (if this is the practice in your school). Use bathroom passes, have laminated cards for “boys pass” and “girls pass”. You may also have a special pass one that says “emergency pass” to eliminate the embarrassment a student might feel if he has to go “right now”. You can have established times for bathroom breaks like recess, before lunch, after specials (art, music, gym). This gets them used to a procedure.

Teaching expected behavior for class:

You will have children of different social, cultural, economic and religious backgrounds in your class. There should be standard expectations of classroom behavior and this is the most difficult of all the lessons taught in first grade. Expected behaviors should be taught when all children are together, so you don’t have the problem of leaving out a student who will then have to be singled out when he “misbehaves”. In the beginning, it helps to have a visual behavior chart. Each student has his own little pocket. You can put green, yellow and red tags or clothespins on the pockets to show how well a child is behaving today. There are other ways to do this; again, Pinterest shows the way.

Use your body to control behavior:

When conversation in the reading corner is getting too loud, simply walking over can end the problem. A student who is getting too wiggly can be reminded by putting your hand on his desk. You’re using “closeness control” and it works every time.

The early years in school are when students begin to understand how to behave in the world. We can’t assume they are learning this at home.

More Resources:

Add your tips and suggestions to our growing lists, teachers helping teachers – a great way to go.

Neva FennoNeva Fenno, M.S.Ed., MLIS, has been a special education teacher, school library media specialist, curriculum specialist and grants manager for several urban school districts in New York and Massachusetts for 30 years. As grants manager for 7 years, she managed up to $28,000,000 a year in federal, state, foundation and corporate grants from application through fiscal administration. She has hundreds of stories to tell, not all successes, but from each story there is a lesson to be learned.

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