Lower primary classroom management
How to tame students?
Many fledgling primary teachers very quickly realize that, whatever excellent teaching ideas they have, their lessons just don’t go the way they have planned them. It is very often caused by discipline problems. Some of you might be asking yourselves, ‘Why can’t they just sit and listen to all those interesting things I’ve prepared for them? How come they are not interested in this wonderful task? Will they ever stop ruining my lessons?’ Even if you’re an experienced teacher, you may still find some students that don’t respond well to your current class managing techniques. Since every child is different it is crucial for us, teachers, to share our ways of dealing with discipline problems in the classroom. This article will give you some information about lower primary classroom management characteristics and provide you with some tips and techniques that you may find useful, and that can simply help you to survive.
Help! First graders!
The most difficult case are probably first grades since the adaptation period might be difficult for both of you. It is the teacher’s responsibility not only to teach them a particular subject, but also prepare them for what is yet to come in their school life. Therefore, you might find that they still don’t know how to remain seated for longer, be quiet when others are speaking, raise their hands and wait for their turn and so on. Use the fact that they like feeling important and grown up. Giving them new challenges and stressing their maturity could work to your advantage.
 Create a list of helpers and monitors, changing on a weekly basis. I always have two helpers, the silence monitor, the line up monitor and the tidy up monitor. Each of them has a very responsible function, such as distributing the materials, making sure the children are quiet when they should, lining them up before leaving the classroom, monitoring if everyone is cleaning their tables. The choice of helpers/ monitors will depend on your class needs and composition, but most of the kids love this kind of responsibility and they can try really hard to be chosen a helper.
 Let the pupils them take over the lesson. If I see a child is working quickly and effectively I let him be the teacher for a while, that is, explain the task to the rest of the class, show them how it should be done, but also let him deal with talking and disturbing kids. Later on, when he’s the one disturbing, I can relate to that experience and remind him it’s not nice for the teacher. You can also let them prepare something special at home and then present it in front of the whole class. I do it sometimes with arts and crafts ideas.
 Choose the boss. When having a group work, I usually choose a boss of every group and communicate only with this child. As a result, the child feels important, learns to take responsibility, other kids learn to work as team members, and you only have to interact only with 4 or 5 students instead of the whole class.
 Praise the pupils. As simple as that, praising them can work wonders. ‘I can see Marta is already a big girl because she knows how to sit properly during lunch’, you say and a smile lights up on that girl’s face while others imitate her hoping for a similar comment.
Should you be strict or let them do what they like? Most of you would probably say that neither of those two, but I don´t agree. I believe there´s absolutely nothing wrong about being strict. Let me explain: being strict does not mean being negative, it means establishing the rules and limits and being very consistent about them. Remember, there’s a thin line between being relaxed and losing control over the class. Leave them space for their own ideas, within the outlined limits, they will surely appreciate it; yet, state clearly what you will not tolerate and once you make your stand, never change your opinion. Lack of consistency is the teacher´s worst enemy. Don´t make false promises, neither the positive nor the negative ones.
A good way of helping you remember who deserves a reward and who should face unpleasant consequences of their behaviour is placing “happy face, sad face” columns on the board. You put the names of those working nicely under the happy face (you can also send them to the board and let them put it themselves, they´ll be thrilled, I promise) and those misbehaving under the sad face. This also allows children to monitor their work and behaviour. Silence, please!
Do you want them to be quiet at all times? I don’t. That would probably be impossible and even a bit cruel. After all, children that young need to get it all out from time to time. The fact that they’re not quiet doesn’t mean they’re not working and learning. The crucial thing is to make them react when you need them to be quiet.
In order to achieve that you should try introducing some clear signals, like a bell, a whistle, counting, clapping your hands, or any other kind of signal you want them to recognize as the moment to go quiet. You can even try writing “SILENCE” on knock on the board with your marker/chalk a couple of times, to get the attention of at least some of them. They will probably start passing the message on to the rest of the class.
Getting their attention and calming them down Easier said than done, so how do we actually accomplish it? There is a wide range of techniques that can help you to control the children. Of course, some of them won´t work with particular students or even classes, but they mostly do. The crucial thing is not to get disheartened and lose one´s temper. Not that easy, I know, but let´s have a look at the examples below.
The above mentioned ‘silence’ signals such as the bell, the whistle, etc.
I count back from 5 or 10 to let them line up and from 60 when I want them to tidy up. What if they don’t do it? Well, they face the consequences. For example, my students lose some of their ‘playtime’ if it takes too long to line
Sometimes it’s enough to establish eye contact with one student and show him or her that you want the group to be quiet or to look at you. They’ll start passing the message on.
Speaking their mother tongue.
This depends how much of their mother tongue you normally speak in the class. I speak English only, excluding emergency situations when someone gets hurt, for example. That’s why my students get quite shocked when I suddenly drop a sentence or two in their L1.
Talking to a herd of kids who are running around and shouting may not be very effective, so it’s better to get them in one place first. When you manage to line them up you’ve already got their attention; now you can start talking.
When they come back running and excited after PE class or lunch break, put on some calm music and encourage them to listen, sing along, even dance slowly, or simply lay down and relax.
A minute of silence.
Seat them at the tables with their heads on their hands. You can also put on some calming music. You can decide that those who speak will spend more time at their tables, or that if anyone starts talking, the whole class will have an additional minute. Usually they calm down and become ready to start a new task.
Clap your hands if you´re listening to me…
Finish the sentence, say it aloud and act that way until they start paying attention. For example, “rub your tummy if you’re listening to me”, “touch your nose if you’re listening to me”, and “put your finger on your lips if you’re listening to me”.
Activities where you have to imitate something without making sounds (miming) or simply imitate a person, animal or thing that has to be very quiet or very slow are great for soothing the students. For example, “we’re going hunting in the forest; we don’t want to wake up the bear; we’re very sleepy; we’re a plant growing slowly from a seed”, etc.
Imitating mute people.
No matter how ridiculous it sounds this one does wonders, but it can’t be used too often. It works best when related to a topic you’re working on in class, like the senses. You ask the pupils to imagine they can’t speak and they have to find other ways to communicate. You’ll be surprised to see the ideas they might come up with, and you also get some silence.
Speaking very quietly
Or starting explaining and doing something only once
All the three ideas above are based on the assumption that there are some kids in every class genuinely interested in what you’re saying. They will try to hush the others just to hear your instructions.
Choosing the silence monitor.
What to do when the lesson is not going the way it should?
Stop the lesson! How? For example, by taking their materials away, getting them up, lining them up etc. It is crucial to explain why it’s not working and what your exact expectations are. Either they calm down and finish the previous task or you go to plan B (other activity, less complicated or less interesting). You can also try one of the calming down techniques.