Classroom Management: Making It Through the Final Stretch!

Making it Through the Final Stretch
 

Managing a class of kids through the final stretch of the school year can be difficult for many reasons! Fatigue starts to set in on the parts of teachers, students, parents, and administrators. Things that have worked in the past seem to stop working as patience starts to wear thin, and sometimes children “get used to” certain consequences for their behavior and it seems some of them even don’t care anymore if they are disciplined! Often times, teachers have “just had it!” with recurring discipline problems, and parents and administrators are also at their wits’ end, having used up all of their ideas to help. Patience and understanding that were available in abundance most of the year are suddenly in short supply. What to do?

One thing that helped me make it through the last six weeks of one very difficult school year was something that we used to refer to at my school as “Five Minutes of Fun,” which was (modified) part of a school wide “Accountability Concepts” discipline program we adopted. (I found them on Facebook, but the company is now out of business.)  This is a completely motivational system rather than punitive. The one catch is that you need PLENTY OF TIME to implement it- which is why it is perfect for the end of the school year!  Using this system made a HUGE difference in my classroom during the last month of school!  In fact, when I did this, I had the easiest year end I have ever had, as far as classroom management is concerned- even though the group of kids I had that year was rather difficult.

First I’ll tell you what we were supposed to do as a part of our Accountability Concepts school wide discipline program- all year long.  We were supposed to stop once every hour and do something fun for five minutes with our whole class (yes, every hour of the day.) Only those children that had “been good” would get to participate.

The children that had made poor choices were supposed to watch the others having fun and think about making different choices next time.  Kids had to tell me what they did wrong, apologize if necessary, and tell me what they were going to do differently.  Otherwise, then when the next five minutes of fun time came, then they again would not be able to participate.

 

A Short, Motivational “Fun Time” Afternoon Rotation!
I found that in my Kindergarten class, managing the transition in and out of these “Five Minutes of Fun” times took us about 15 minutes. Much more time than just five minutes per hour, unfortunately.  This cut into our instructional time in a BIG way.

Monster Doodles Group
 

SOOOOOoooo… I decided to “save up” our “fives” for one longer twenty minute period of fun in the afternoon, which I decided to call our “Fun Time.” This Fun Time was separate from our normal play time that everyone got anyway, so I liked that nobody was losing out on that developmentally important period of time.  I also liked that the kids didn’t have to lose their recess, which of course they really needed. I do consider myself very LUCKY that my administration supported this!

This is how my adapted system worked:
– If I had to put a child in time out during the day, I made a note of it. That child lost five minutes of the twenty minutes of Fun Time that came at the end of the day.
– If a child got two time outs, then he lost ten minutes of our Fun Time.
– If he got three time outs, then he lost fifteen minutes of our Fun Time, and so on.

The children really valued this “20 Minutes of Fun” because I would get out math manipulatives, science manipulatives, special markers, rubber stamps, and other toys that were normally forbidden during our usual play time, because I didn’t want them mixed up with the other toys, etc. Basically, I set up a “play rotation” for the children that had been good, and that was most of them.

Pom Poms table
 

Sometimes I put a whole bunch of stickers at a table and let them spend the whole five minutes choosing two each. With the rubber stamps, I just got out my “teacher stamps” that they would normally never get to touch, and some blank paper, and let them just try them. I got out things like my “teacher bell” and let them ring them, some modeling clay, magnets, and stuff like that. Nothing had to hold their attention for a very long time- it just had to be APPEALING- appealing enough to make the other children REALLY WANT TO JOIN IN!

 

Here are some things we did during our Fun Time Rotation.
Remember, these things only needed to keep them busy for five minutes or even less.

Chain Links
Chain Links
 

Electronic games, such as Hot Dots or Leap Frog Devices
Electronic Games
 

Counting manipulatives normally used in math only, such as Farm Counters, Zoo Counters, Insect Counters, etc.
Farm Animals Counters
 

Geoboards and Rubberbands
Geoboards & Rubberbands
 

Write On, Wipe Off Cards, such as Monster Doodles from Usborne
MonsterDoodlesCover logo
 

MonsterDoodles2 logo
 

Pom Poms and Tweezers
PomPoms and Tweezers
 

Fine Motor Kit Challenges
What To Put In A Fine Motor Skills Kit
 

Click here to read my post on a creating a fun and easy fine motor skills kit!
 

Puzzles
 

Rubber Stamps, especially those normally reserved for teacher use only, and blank paper
Rubber Stamps in rotation
 

Plastic Spiders
Plastic Spiders
 

Sorting Collections
Shiny Sorters
 

Stickers
Stickers
 

Clay or playdough
 

Science manipulatives such as magnets, magnifying glasses and birds nests, ramps and marbles or cars
Magnet Sorting Tray
Click here to read my post on my Magnet Science Center and download the labels.
 

Classroom bells and buzzers normally reserved for the teacher only
Click here to read about this fun game that includes ringing a classroom bell!
Click here to read about this fun game that includes ringing a classroom bell!
 

Answer Buzzers Box
Kids LOVE pushing these buttons, and others like it, such as the Staples “Easy” button!
 

“Crazy Scissors” and scraps of paper
Paper cups to stack
Sight Word Mini Cups Matching Idea from HeidiSongs
Click here to read my post on this fun activity!
 

Other Fun Motivational Ideas (To be used at other times, only for those that have been good all day. Children who have had issues during the day lose time in just five minute increments.)

Bubbles (only for outside, of course!)

Extra recess

Let everyone chew a piece of gum

Let everyone play with a piece of silly putty for a few minutes

Let everyone work with their shoes off

Let everyone switch desks and sit with a friend, as long as they are still working quietly

Let everyone sit under their desks for a while to work, using a book as a clipboard if necessary

Give everyone a sticker

Let them lay down on the floor while listening to a story

Show a movie (Put those who lost time out of view of the screen or in another room)

Set up a painting station to rotate through during playtime for those who have been good.

Sing some really fun songs your kids like, allowing them to stand with a friend while they sing.

 

Managing the “Fun Time” Rotation
I put them into their normal groups because that was what was easiest for me (although sometimes I mixed up the groups to make it more fun,) and set the timer for five minutes. The rest of the children that had had time outs had to sit in chairs and JUST WATCH the children GO CRAZY with all of the fun stuff I had put out! I let the noise level “go,” not caring about loud voices or anything.

Spiders table
 

Having the children that were watching sit in chairs turned out to be important, because if I had them sit on the floor, they just rolled all over the place, talking, and playing, etc., and then I had to discipline them MORE- WHICH I DEFINITELY DID NOT WANT TO DO. The children that got to do everything actually felt REALLY SORRY for the others!  I think it sometimes tortured them more than it did the ones that did not get to do it!  In fact, once I caught some of them bringing some of the stickers and things over to the kids in the chairs because they just felt sorry for them! I had to remind their friends that we were trying to get them to change their behavior and make better choices next time.

Farm animal table
 

On some days, I changed it up a bit- I got out bubbles and let them play outside with them. Sometimes I brought popcorn for the class, and we ate it while we watched a movie. The kids also enjoyed going outside to play a fun class game.

Class singing with DVD
 

On other days, we sang our favorite HeidiSongs, and the kids got to stand ANYWHERE THEY WANTED TO (within boundaries, of course!) They loved this! They got to partner up with a friend!  We did songs that have movements that include partners, (the ones that are like patty-cake style songs) and the kids that had made poor choices had to watch and think.

Music Notes
 

“HeidiSongs Partner Songs” to Do Just for Fun:

The Come Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 3) (Plays like patty cake while spelling “come.”)

 

The Some Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like patty cake but while spelling “some.”)

The All Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like Ring Around the Rosie, but while spelling the word “all.”)

 

The Put Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like patty cake while spelling “put.”)

 

The Funny Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 5) (Kids make funny faces at each other while spelling “funny.”)

The Made Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Plays like the Tooty Ta while spelling “made.”)

The Very Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Everyone pretends to be VERY scary monsters while spelling the word “very.”)

Music Notes
 

HeidiSongs Songs to Do in Lines (Like Conga Lines, or Choo Choo Train Lines, etc.)

The Now Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Form a Conga line and Conga around the room, singing about how to make a number 30!)

The Thirty Song (Jumpin’ Numbers, Vol. 2) (Choo-choo around the room behind the teacher in a line.)

The Friend Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Hold hands in a line or circle; swing hands back and forth. It’s at the end of this video!)

Music Notes
 

HeidiSongs Sit Down Songs (Songs done while seated on the floor- especially fun while seated by friends!)

The Good Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 4) (Calls children to “sit down flat on their cushion, no fighting or pushin’ and be “G-O-O-D, good.”)

The In Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 2) (Kids pat their own knees and their neighbor’s knees in time to the music and making a pattern, while spelling the word “in.”)

The An Song (Sing and Spell Vol. 2) (Plays like Johnny Works with One Hammer.)

Before the Children Who Had Misbehaved Could Join the Group…

As they were watching, I would continually ask those children to tell me why they were there. They could not get up from their chairs until they told me what they did wrong, and what they would do differently next time. If a child stubbornly refused to respond or admit what he did wrong, then I did not allow the child to get up at all, and that was that. They absolutely HAD to tell me what they were going to change next time and/or apologize to a child that they had wronged, etc.; this was part of the Accountability Concepts training that we went through, and I really liked that about it!

All of these things made the children who were given to misbehave (and even more so at the end of the year) began to think twice before they started to break the rules. And although the “Fun Rotation” seemed to be essentially a great big waste of instructional time, it was the same amount of time as stopping every five minutes. And we STILL had our regular playtime inside anyway.

For children with very severe infractions, they occasionally lost playtime as well, but that was rare, and it was essentially because there was just nothing left to do; they hadn’t responded to any of the motivators at all, and I couldn’t figure out what the underlying problem really was.

The children began asking first thing in the morning me what we were going to do for our “Fun Rotation” or Fun Time in the afternoon, and I started using that to my advantage!  So I would remind everyone of what was coming and that they would want to make good choices. I even started letting the children help me encourage their classmates that were in the midst of misbehavior to make better choices.  I would ask them if they would like to play with their friends during our Fun Time later when we were going to ____.  Then the kids would all start to encourage their friends to behave!

The thing I like about this system is that it automatically rewards everyone, while only taking away an EXTRA fun time for the ones that didn’t earn it. So it’s not meant to be punitive, but rather motivational. And it was definitely HARD to make those mischievous ones sit and watch, knowing how miserable they were, because I’m just like most teachers- I have a soft spot for all children, and I hate disciplining them as much as anyone. But it did seem to work pretty well, especially at the end of the year. The secret seemed to be to keep changing up the little rotation centers and keeping it fresh.

If I were to do it again and started running out of manipulatives, I think I would start trading items with other teachers so that there would be new things there consistently.

Other Management Tips
– For me in Kindergarten, setting up the Fun Time Rotation meant that I needed a little time when the children were occupied with something else. Projecting an e-book often really helped. There are lots of e-books online that you can tune into and let your children watch while you set up or put things away. Check this blog post for some links, and also my Pinterest Board “E Books Online.”

Follow HeidiSongs’s board E Books Online on Pinterest.
– Ask your children what they would like to do for their Fun Time for more ideas!

– Put off the Fun Time for the very end of the day as much as possible. Try NEVER to take away something that is meant for the next day, unless the “Fun Time” is already over for the day and the child is breaking rules during dismissal. SEVERAL of my kids had this all figured out; they figured that once Fun Time was over, “all bets were off” for the day and they had no more reasons to behave. So I was really FORCED to start making lists of children that would lose five minutes for the following day. Once they saw that I would truly follow through with that, they mostly stopped misbehaving during dismissal- except for  a couple of them!  And I think that the reason was that these rather immature children were the type that simply couldn’t think through what was going to happen the next day and self-regulate their behavior in hopes of a good day tomorrow.

The ONLY way I was able to help them with that was to physically separate certain children during dismissal, putting some of them alone at tables so that there was really nothing they could do to get in trouble during dismissal time. Basically, I “rigged it” so that the child would be good during dismissal, since I already knew that certain children just wouldn’t/couldn’t do it for themselves, and I didn’t want to start out the following day with instant negatives from the day before.

Here are some other blog posts on classroom management, for those of you who are interested:

Getting Control of a Very Difficult Class
Getting Control of a Very Difficult Class
 

Getting Control of a Talkative Class - HeidiSongs
Getting Control of a Very Talkative Class
 

Getting Control of Dismissal FB
Getting Control of Your Classroom Dismissal Time
 

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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. This is such a great idea! We have two weeks left of school and some of my kiddos seem to have forgotten the rules! I can hardly wait to try this on Monday.

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