One of the biggest fears that I had when I first started teaching was classroom management and how to build a classroom community. Even worse – I had accepted a position as a 5th grade teacher, and fifth graders definitely scared me!
Sure, you learn various classroom management strategies in college, but we all know the reality: If you can’t “control” your classroom, it’s going to be a very rough year. Sadly, I have seen several teachers leave the profession because they had such a hard time managing behavior that their teaching career just didn’t seem worth it.
I spent that entire summer before my first year trying to research various classroom management and classroom community strategies. This was before Pinterest, so I actually searched through books! 🙂
One of the books that I happened to pick up was Ron Clark’s book, The Essential 55. The booked hooked me in after the first few pages. Ron Clark is hilarious!
Many of his essentials focus on teaching students how to be respectful and have good manners, such as:
That first year, I used several of his “essentials” in my classroom. Guess what? They WORKED! Now, mind you, I did have other rewards and consequences in place, but teaching students to be respectful, have good manners, and encourage their classmates made a big difference that year and every year afterwards.
I Was Amazed!
As a class, my students turn around and say, “Thank you” to the janitor when he comes to take the classroom garbage, or they say “thank you” to the lunch lady or to the librarian that checks out their books. The boys start to stack the chairs for the girls (without me asking them to), or they clap for the opposing team during field day competitions even when they lose!
I cannot tell you how many times my class has been complimented on their good manners throughout the year.
I have been using “Life Lessons” as a classroom management strategy in my 5th grade classroom for 15 years now!
It’s a fairly simple concept, but it’s something that has to be deliberately taught. It doesn’t come naturally, and it’s not always taught at home. I post the “Life Lessons” on my wall, but I’ve also used therm as a bulletin board display.
How to Use “Life Lessons” in your Classroom:
- At the beginning of the year, I focus on one “Life Lesson” a day. This gives us an opportunity to have a deep conversation about each one and helps students remember them. Besides, students are still in the “pleasing the teacher” mode at the beginning of the year, so they will try hard with them!
- You have to PRACTICE them! Get your students up and moving, and have them practice holding the door for one another! The more practice they get, the more meaning they will have. Students partner up, choose a Life Lesson, and then create a little “skit” scenario. We have to guess which “Life Lesson” they are acting out. The kids LOVE it! ❤️
- Refer to them often, and refer to them throughout the whole year.
- Praise kids when you see them following these lessons (when they think you are not looking).
- Have a time each week (it only takes a few minutes) where students acknowledge other classmates for great citizenship. THIS is probably more meaningful than anything else.
- Integrate them into your curriculum!
- Write simple, compound, or complex sentences using the lessons.
- Write persuasive paragraphs convincing you of the most important “Life Lesson.”
- Refer to them throughout your social studies curriculum as you talk about historical leaders.
Using “Life Lessons” in your classroom definitely takes a deliberate effort on your part, but once students “get it,” the classroom is truly a different place!