Quality Educator






Managing Students

All good teachers know that managing students is an essential part of teaching. This page includes some management strategies I use myself and some I know other teachers have used successfully. Whatever you choose to utilize, be sure it fits with your philosophy of education so you can implement it consistently!

Routines Behavior Rewards


Attention Getters - There are many attention-getters out there, but I've found the most effective to be Class-Yes from Whole Brain Teaching. I've also used a vocabulary attention getter that I call Secret Word. I teach the class a verb, like shrug or wilt, and an action to go with it. Any time during the day that I say the word, they need to do the action and turn their attention to me. Click here for more attention getters.

Begin the Day - As kids come in, they need to have something to do. I like daily math reviews, but any review activity will do. They are also to have their homework out on their desk. That way I can check for completion while they are working. I can mark it in my grade book and do not actually have to collect homework.

The best way to begin the day is with a greeting. While Morning Meeting or Circle of Power and Respect (CPR) from Responsive Classroom is great, I've found that some years it hasn't been practical to do an entire Morning Meeting daily; but there's always time to let students greet one another. Then we begin each day with the pledge and our rules recital(see Behavior).

Independent Reading - There are a lot of ways to run independent reading, but I've found it's most effective if students have a separate time to shop for books. That way they can't waste time looking for books when it's time to read. (If they don't have a book ready, I hand them one.) They must also have a designated place to sit, if they are not required to sit at their desks. Once there, they should not move. Finally, for this time to be truly effective, the teacher should be making sure students have a just-right book and conferencing with them one-on-one. For more in-depth discussion on the latest research concerning silent reading, see Revisiting Silent Reading: New Directions for Teachers and Researchers.

Distribute and Collect Materials - If students are in rows, we always pass things to one side or the other, never forward or backward. For science materials or math manipulatives, I like to prepare tubs of materials using plastic shoe boxes. Each group takes a shoebox rather than picking up six different materials. I know some teachers complain that they might not get their materials back, but I haven't found this to be an issue.

Transitions - Practice, practice, practice! Some teachers use music, others count down, others hold up visuals. Whatever you choose, practice until your students do it the way you want.

End the Day - Send small groups of students to get coats and backpacks. Have an activity the others are doing. I sometimes read aloud a short non-fiction piece or poem. I also sometimes play word games with my class during this time. I try to designate students to mark behavior logs if needed; they can use a stamp or marker for positive behavior - I always write for any students that had a tough day and need an explanation in their behavior log.



We follow the rules from Whole Brain Teaching (slightly modified) in my classroom.

The rule above all rules: Respect everyone!

Rule 1: Follow directions quickly.

Rule 2: Raise your hand for permission to speak.

Rule 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.

Rule 4: Make smart choices.

Rule 5: Do the right thing even if no one is watching.

All students also sign a classroom agreement stating that they will be respectful, responsible, and ready to learn.

Students should be treated as individuals, including responses to their behavior. Individual consequences, positive and negative, will be determined based on individual needs and actions. Below are some consequences for behavior I use.

Positive Consequences
  • Smiles
  • High Fives
  • Praise Notes
  • Positive Phone Call Home
  • Tile in the Bag (see the World's Easiest Token System)
  • Stickers
  • Additional Time for a Fun Activity
Negative Consequences
  • Verbal Warning
  • Additional Practice of Desired Behavior
  • Separation from Group
  • Phone Call Home
  • Right Your Wrong Think Sheet
  • Office Referral

Other behavior systems:

Classroom Store - Several  years ago, I had a great parent volunteer who helped set up a classroom store. I found the easiest "currency" to use was stamps. Each student had a stamp sheet on their desk. During class, I just carried around a small, self-inking stamp with a cute picture so I could stamp easily. Before setting prices, I stamped for a week and looked at how many stamps students had earned. Then I thought about what a well-behaved student should be able to earn in one week and what they should have to save up for. Items were priced accordingly. We did have a "sale" the week before Winter Break. Students loved it!

Auction - I think an auction works best for 5th-8th graders the last quarter of the year as a supplement to some other behavior system. Students earn "money" and then use it to bid on prizes that have been donated by parents or community businesses. I've heard fun names for this "money" like Behavior Bucks and Scholar Dollars. It helps keep the kids on track all the way to the end of the year and takes up some time during the last week of school.

Drawings - There are two different drawing systems I'm aware of for rewarding behavior. One involves teachers giving students tickets and then drawing a certain number of them each day or week to receive a prize. The other drawing system involves students signing one square of a grid that has numbers down one side and letters across the top. (You could spell out a fun word or your name or simply use abc order.) When the grid is filled, the teacher draws a letter and a number; whoever's name is at that place on the grid gets a prize.

Behavior Bingo - This whole class system uses a hundreds board instead of a regular Bingo board and a container of small chips or papers numbered 1-100. When the whole class does something well, the teacher draws a number and marks it off on the board. When 10 in a row are marked, the class gets a reward, like extra recess time.

Scoreboards - You can set up a scoreboard for teacher vs. class or among tables/groups in your classroom. Rewards go to the person/group with the most points at the end of the day/week. Learn about the scoreboard game from Whole Brain Teaching here.

Color Systems - There are two types of color systems I'm aware of: 1) a flip your card type of system where students change to a different color for misbehavior; and 2) a clip chart system where students move their clothespin to a different color for misbehavior or exceptionally positive behavior. Read about the clip chart system here.

Individual Behavior Plans - For students who just need that extra push to meet behavior expectations, I set up an individual behavior plan. Always involve parents with this. There are many types of individual behavior plans, such as giving students a certain number of chips and taking them away when they exhibit the undesired behavior (e.g. talking out in class). If they have a certain number left at the end of the day, they earn a reward. I've also had great success with point sheets - even with students with EBD.  Thanks to Krystal Ulm for creating this point sheet.

Classroom Economy - In this system, students can earn money and pay fees, teaching them a little about real life. Click here to learn how to set yours up.

Responsive Classroom - The approach that uses Morning Meeting; click here for more info.

Love and Logic - The approach that focuses on logical consequences; click here for more info.


Generally, I give non-concrete rewards like a high-five or verbal praise. Occasionally, I also give stickers. Here is a list of other rewards that are FREE!

positive phone call home stamp on back of hand extra computer time
sit where you want sit in teacher chair sit at teacher's desk
read to (principal, cafeteria worker, other staff) first in lunch line choose music for class listening
  keep stuffed animal on desk for a day