My Teaching Toolbox

Quick tips for managing kids and keeping yourself sane.

Tool #7- Versus

What- Students are losing focus and you need a way to gain their interest in your boring lesson.
(Even the best sometimes plan boring lessons)

How- Draw a T chart on the board.  On one side put one team and put the other on the other.  Teacher versus Students is very always fun.  Or students on the Right versus students on the Left, or Boys versus Girls, or ???  (you get the idea).  Now ask you questions and score a point for each correct answer.  If playing Teacher vs. Students, score a point for yourself for each incorrect answer and a point for them for each correct answer.

Why-  A little friendly competition makes it more interesting.  It has to stay friendly or it could back fire on you.  Usually the first couple times a student misses a question some other kid says or does something mean.  This is your teachable moment to establish that will never happen in your class.

Tool #6- Five Minutes of Focus

What- Students are beginning independent work and they need to focus on getting to work.

How- After all the kids are at the tables and have their materials say, "Five minutes of Focus begins in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0."  After you say zero, anyone who is talking goes back to the rug.  "I hear hear Billy talking.  Billy go to the rug."  Do not give warnings- swift justice is essential this tool. Continue sending kids to the rug until everyone at the tables is working silently.  No look to the kids on the rug, if Billy is sitting silently, whisper, "Billy, are you ready to work silently?"  If he says yes, he can go to the table and get started.  After 5 minutes, say, "You may now whisper to partner if you help."  Don't be surprised when they keep working silently.

Why-  You establish the expectation that everyone works silently with swift justice.  This lets the students know that working at the tables is s privilege.  Once the students see you mean business, they get to work.  Once they are engaged, they no longer feel the need to talk.


Tool #5- Happy Face / Sad Face


What- You are meeting with small groups and need to help kids stay focused with independent work.

How- You draw a T chart on the board.  Before you begin meeting with your small group, notice 4 or 5 kids working hard.  Write their names under the smiley face.  "I see Bob is writing his book.  I notice Susie is working on her picture silently."  Then you find a kid not on task, "Susie needs to open her book and start writing."  Write her name under the frowny face.  Ignore that she is talking to her friend and focus on she should be doing instead. This is her ticket off the list.  No one wants to stay on the frowny side. After you group is done, notice several more kids on task and if Susie fixed it, erase her name.  "I notice Susie has been working hard by writing her book."

Why- Everyone wants to be on the smiley side.  The more kids you can add to that list the more focused they will work.  Kids will work their butts off to get on the smiley side.

Tool #4- The Line Game

What- Your kids are acting up in line, again, and you need a fresh spin.

How- Once everybody is in line you say, "We are going to play the line game!  I am looking for a leader."  Ask the current line leader to walk to a check point, such as the end of the hall.  Once there, make a a big show of inspecting the line.  The pick one or two kids to go to the front.  "Manuel, go to the front, you look like a leader!  Your hands are by you sides, you voice was off.  Well done!"



Why- Kids love positive recognition for doing routine things.  This gives you several opportunities to reinforce expectations and focus on the positive.  Sometimes I combo this with send kids to the end of the line to try it again if they are not meeting expectations.  When I do  this, I try hard to find one or more of those kids to send to the front if they fix the behavior.  This shows they can control their own destiny by improving.

Tool #3- Broken Record

What- Kids keep asking you the same question over and over or is asking you something but should be
following directions first.

How- Respond in a calm quiet voice.  Repeat the same response everytime they ask.   S- "Can I go the bathroom?" T "Go sit down and raise your  S- "Can I go the bathroom?" T "Go sit down and raise your hand." 

Why- Once you give directions they must be followed before a student can ask for something.  If they can ask whenever they want, your directions are ignored.


Tool #2- Call to Attention

What- You want students to stop chatting or working so that you can speak.

How- Pick a call and response.  Mr. A. says, "I go!" students say "You may!".  Make sure  100% of students have stopped and are listening.  Start talking.  Could be any paired call and response. I have heard a ton of good ones.  Make sure it is something you like to say because you can use it a lot.  Others I have heard are- Peanut Butter/Jelly, Smartest/Artists, Texas/Longhorns, Vincent/Van Gogh, Class, Class, Class/Yes, Yes, Yes

Why- It is a quick way to redirect with minimal time wasted.  You get students programmed to the response and it works like a charm.  Picking one and sticking with it is best so the programming goes deep.

Tool #1- Stare Down

What- A student is interrupting your lesson- talking, touching someone, chewing on their shoe laces, tapping
their pencil... well you get the idea.

How- Stop talking mid-sentence (or word) and stare at the student with a slightly incredulous look on your face, as if your simply can not believe they would consider doing whatever annoying thing they are doing.  I like to keep my mouth ajar.  Sometimes you might need to wait several seconds before they notice you, but not to worry, they will notice.

Why- It works well because of the shock value of your frozen face and words.  If is slightly funny because whoever you are staring at usually is the last to figure out that you are staring at them with a incredulous look on your face.

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