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Classroom Management Tips for Primary Grades

Janelle Cox

If you have ever been in an elementary school classroom, then you know that using classroom management to teach this age group can really test your patience. If you are a parent of even one young child in this age range, then you know how difficult it can be to deal with them. Now close your eyes and imagine that you are alone all day long with about 20 of these young children. Do you feel like ripping your hair out yet? All jokes aside, children at this age are really sweet, but also can be quite needy, distracted, and full of energy, all of which can make for a tough day.  However, if you were to ask a veteran teacher how they have stayed in the field for so long, many would probably say because they have figured out a few classroom management strategies to help get them by throughout the years. Here are a few of their classroom management tips.

Classroom Management: Show No Fear

Children can literally smell fear from a mile away. If they enter your classroom and know that you are scared, then they will take full advantage of that fear. If you are new to the job and are feeling anxious, then go by the motto of “Fake it until you make it.” Put on a fearless face and pretend that you are not scared of anything and that you are in complete control. By presenting a tough exterior (not too tough, though -- you still want to come off as likeable), then you will have the students right where you want them.

Always Be Firm

Besides having no fear, you also want to present yourself in a firm manner. From the moment the students enter the classroom door and you see them, you need to present yourself as strong and tough. By being firm from the start, then you are ensuring that your students will not only behave properly, but they will also respect you more. Now, being firm does not mean you have to look and act stoic, it just means that you need to present a tough front so that the students know that you are not a pushover.

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement can go a long way with younger children. For instance, if you are a substitute teacher and the students do not know you at all, you can have students earn points or letters for good behavior. For example, every time that you see the students are behaving well, they can earn a letter. At the end of the day, if they spelled the word “School,” then they can earn free time. This is a great trick to help keep students in line all day. Some older primary students can benefit from positive reinforcement as well. Allowing students to earn the opportunity to finish their homework in class can also go a long way with this age group.

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Plan for the Unexpected

To ensure that you will not have any classroom management problems, then you must plan for the unexpected. There will be times when students will finish early or a class may run late. There may be an unexpected assembly or fire drill. You need to have back up plans prepared for these moments. If a student finishes before their classmates, this student may disrupt the whole class, so it’s wise to have a plan for early finishers. Art class may have run a few minutes late and now you can’t do the lesson you planned because it no longer fits into your schedule. So, you must have a backup activity at your disposal. Try creating a backup activity folder where you can always go to when you are in a bind.

Plan for the Whole Day

One of the most important things that you can do as a primary teacher is to plan for the entire day. When you run out of things to do in class, that’s when the chaos will ensue. When you are organized you can ensure that you will have a successful day. Plan for at least a week ahead of time. This way if you have to call in sick, then you will have plans already set and ready to go. An easy way to do this is buy a five-drawer plastic tote. Label each drawer the day of the week and place all of the materials that you will need for that day inside. Then, when you get to class in the morning, you will have everything you need for the day.

An important thing to remember is to do what works for you and your students. If you find that using positive reinforcement is not working, then try something else. If you hate the idea of planning for two weeks in advance, then only plan for a few days. There is no exact science to managing primary students, you need to do what works for you.

Do you have any tips on managing students in primary grades? Please share your classroom management tips and tricks in the comment section below, we would love to hear your ideas.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.