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October 17, 2016

How to Manage Monsters in Your Classroom

I don't mean real monsters, I mean how to manage the students when there's a full moon, or it's Halloween, actually, anytime!The piece of advice I hear the most from my regular ed friends is to be firm, kind and stick to a plan. 
Do you have a plan?
Do you know how to be firm?
Of course you know how to be kind!
What's your perspective on classroom management?
I hear a lot of talk going on lately about how kids are changing-there's "change their growth mindset", "power teaching", "whole brain teaching" and a slew of other plans and ideas. So I thought I'd share 4 things that I think you can use in your classroom alongside these other ideologies to help you manage the monsters in my classroom.


I have a very clear and accountable plan for the students to follow and it is student directed. I have my rules posted on the board and I FREQUENTLY remind students of consequences to poor choices. I use those words.  What happens when we make a poor choice? How can we make good choices? A visual and clear list of rules is very important. How many warnings will you give your students before applying a consequence? Do you give out the consequence immediately? Do you talk to the student first-or afterwards? These are important questions to ask yourself before you implement any kind of plan.  Most of all-I believe that whatever plan you implement, you need to really believe in it and the plan has to be true to who you are as a person. What resonates with you? I for one, know that some children will respond to a threat with EXACTLY the thing you have told them not to do. So-it's important to be very clear if you're giving 1-2-3 warnings and how the consequence will be applied. 
Here's a fun-but simple song you can use to remind students of their manners.
" Keep Your Hands, Feet and Words to Yourself."

One thing I like to do is to "sing" the rules instead of "say" them. I have found that students respond very calmly and cooperatively to "sung" directions. Don't worry if you don't have a great voice! They will believe it when you sing it! 
So I use A LOT of songs and silent signs to get students attention.  Here are some I wrote-for FREE!
Freebie Line Up and Brain Break Chants, Songs and Activities
Line Up and Brain Break Chants and Songs
and an adorable set of Manners and Classroom Rules Posters (Free)
Freebie: Manners and Classroom Rules Posters
Manners and Classroom Rules Posters
Now you're getting the idea that "managing the monsters" is important to me! Yes-because when I manage proactively-I don't become one of them!


I have my "tools and props" prepared ahead of time and easily accessible for students and me to use. I have my instruments set out in buckets, I have the projector on when they come in the room, I have my music or other materials organized on the table or in drawers. All I have to do is "teach". These are my "worksheet" drawers. The crayons and pencils are stacked above in small cups for easy student use. 
I love these open shelves where I can stack my flash cards, games and instruments.

I'm a visual learner and so I tend to create and use tools that are very "visual". I came up with these "Magic" tools to help my students use their eyes, ears, hands and feet to help them keep attentive. When I ask students to use their "magic glasses", I have their immediate attention. I pretend to put on glasses, or magic shoes, or wipe magic glue on my feet. This not only get's my student's attention-it gives them something to do. It's a positive way to manage hands, feet, eyes and ears. You can have that magic in your classroom too.
                                                     Freebie: Magic Teaching Tools Posters


Hey-no one's in a good mood all the time. So it helps me too to stay positive with my students. In fact, it's going to work that helps me be positive! I'm so grateful that I get to have a job teaching music to children. Though there are tough days, most of all, it's been a thing of joy for me. I have noticed that students are positive when I'm positive. If I have a little prop to help me-then it's so much easier to be positive. Sometimes I'll use a puppet to teach the lesson.

It's amazing to me how well children respond to puppets. 
If you want, you can read more about using puppets in the classroom in this blog post. 

I made some super star wrist bands and tags to help me with my upper elementary students. They really like them--they are cool! And-they are FREE!
                                    Positive Behavior Wrist Bands and Brag Tags "I'm a Super Star"


I refuse- that's a strong word, but in my heart I have to be sure about my "game plan" and not give up my power in my classroom to a "monster".
I think October can be a scary month for all teachers. There are so many ways to correlate Halloween into all subjects-but is it over kill? I find that I have to consider the impact of the activities on the students and the overall climate of  the classroom before I commit to anything. Also-I can't folk dance all day long. I have to have a flow to my lesson plans to accommodate my energy level too. I also consider what's going on in the general school environment. Maybe I overthink this--but I find that if I'm comfortable and calm with my classroom plan, then I can handle the "monsters" more effectively. I recently wrote this blog post about finding a calm center and helping students to feel calm.


I also have a competition going on in my classroom between each class. What's really cool is that the teachers LOVE this!  They check to see where their class is in relationship to the other classes. It's super effective. Basically, the class get's 1-3 stickers for good behavior. That means that only 1 student has made a poor choice and had to sit in my thinking time.  If more than one student has to sit out-then the class doesn't get a sticker. This simple chart has more POWER than any words I might say. It works because it requires ACTION and ACTION gives you power. I calmly tell a student he/she needs to think about their actions and then I'll work my way over to the student and talk about what happened. I do give a couple of warnings-and the student KNOWS that they made a poor choice. This competition has really changed my game in the music classroom. It's also a very positive way to reward good choices. Classes that go the extra mile might earn 2-3 stickers in one class time. When a class receives 10 stickers they get a reward day. 

Here's some other blog posts that might be of help-
 "Why Not Teach Students to Be Calm"

This next idea was a FREEBIE for my blog subscribers. Yep! I love to share my crazy ideas-and I sent this out to everyone just before Halloween so they'd have a resource to use in their classrooms to help them get through the month of October. If you want, you can subscribe too! Just click the box at the top of the web page and enter your email. Don't worry- I'm not sharing your email address with anyone! 
These monster posters to help students visualize where they are in their learning and performing. I ask the students if they like to play video games...well, we're going to play a video game-LIVE! We are going to see if we can beat the monster! Can we learn the words/melody/concept before class is out? And then I move a clip up and down the cards to show the students their level of learning. I also use them for behavior. If the class has been rowdy, I move the clip down to level 1. Now they have to earn their way back up the levels. Our goal is to be at level 6 all the time. The monster theme works so well with all grades. 

Application Ideas:
Use in the classroom to help students visualize their level of achievement or behavior.
Relate the posters to “Beating the Monster” in a Video game.
“How do we beat the monster?”
Then tell students your expectations.  Keep the goals short and very specific.
For example: Let’s see if we can get to Level 6 (the highest) by having EVERYONE complete their writing assignment before recess.
Or, Let’s see if we can beat the monster-all we have to do is memorize the third verse in our song.
Simple and concrete goals are much easier for elementary students to understand.
Achieving level 6 will be an accomplishment! Cheer! “Yay” do a dance-break out the smile!
After using the Level’s for a while, your students will be able to self-assess.

This means you can then ask them, “what level do you think that work/effort was?” 

An honest appraisal is a good thing for students to learn how to do. If enables them to see where they are, where they came from and where they need to go—great skills to develop for all of us teachers too!  

I know that if I have the VISUAL tools and the MENTAL attitude in the right place-I am a much better teacher and I'm happier too--and that's what we want! Happy teachers.
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