For elementary teachers classroom management is the difference between a productive day and spending your day trying to get everyone on the same page. While returning and experienced teachers have a wealth of personal experience to draw from, as a new teacher you are starting from scratch! This means it’s important to set yourself up for success as best you can heading into your first year of teaching.
Success for every classroom will look a little different but in general your classroom management will go a long way in determining what your school year looks like. Below we’ve listed off some of the key tenets of classroom management, along with some quick do’s and don’ts to help you get your classroom ready for a great first year.
Establishing Classroom Rules and Expectations
Your classroom rules and expectations will be the backbone of your classroom management. These are what you will want your students to eventually know like the back of their hand so that they know exactly what is expected of them throughout the day and year.
- Do establish clear and concise rules that align with your teaching philosophy and the needs of your students.
- Do involve students in the rule-setting process to promote ownership and understanding. If you have younger elementary students consider giving them options to choose from during the rule-setting process or simply having them leave a mark on a rules “contract.”
- Do consistently enforce the rules to maintain a structured and respectful learning environment.
- Don't set too many rules as it can become overwhelming for both you and the students.
- Don't neglect explaining the rationale behind each rule; students should understand why they are important.
- Don't overlook the need for flexibility; be open to revisiting and modifying rules as necessary.
Don’t worry - having a long list of rules won’t stop you from being a fun and engaging teacher. In fact, it’ll help you keep your class on track to get to all the incredible material you have planned for your students!
Creating a Positive Classroom Culture
Take a moment to envision your dream classroom. Does part of the picture include an environment where students are supporting each other? This vision doesn’t have to be a fantasy if you put the work into establishing a strong positive culture in your classroom.
- Do build strong relationships with your students based on trust, respect, and empathy.
- Do foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity by valuing and appreciating each student's unique qualities.
- Do encourage a supportive classroom community where students collaborate and help each other.
- Don't tolerate bullying, discrimination, or any form of disrespectful behavior.
- Don't favor certain students over others; treat all students fairly and equally.
- Don't ignore conflicts or issues among students; address them promptly and promote resolution.
It all starts and ends with your students. Find ways to get to know your students better and use that information to build strong bonds with them and you’ll be well on your way to creating a great classroom culture.
Effective Lesson Planning and Organization
Staying organized and one step ahead of your students is a great way to ensure you keep your classroom running smoothly all year long. If you do get off track, which is bound to happen at some point, just remember to get back on track as quickly as you can.
- Do plan engaging lessons that are aligned with curriculum standards and cater to diverse learning styles.
- Do break down lessons into clear objectives and provide step-by-step instructions for students.
- Do incorporate a variety of teaching strategies, resources, and activities to keep students engaged.
- Don't over complicate your lesson plans; keep them focused, concise, and achievable.
- Don't rush through the planning process; allocate sufficient time for preparation and gathering resources.
- Don't forget to assess and reflect on the effectiveness of your lessons for future improvement.
Because you’ll be doing everything for the first time this year it’ll feel overwhelming at times. That is totally normal! Don’t let that stop you from building reflection time into your day and week to think back on how your lessons went and what improvements you want to make for next year.
Classroom Environment and Setup
You likely already have a vision for how you want to set up your classroom, which is great! Here are some tips to remember as you start to put your classroom vision into action.
- Do create a welcoming and organized physical space that supports learning and collaboration.
- Do arrange desks or seating in a way that facilitates interaction and visibility for all students.
- Do display visual aids, student work, and learning resources that are relevant and inspiring.
- Don't overcrowd the classroom with unnecessary decorations or clutter that may distract students.
- Don't neglect classroom routines for maintaining cleanliness, organization, and smooth transitions.
- Don't underestimate the importance of safety measures and emergency procedures in the classroom.
Your classroom setup isn’t just art on the walls and arranging furniture. It will help you emphasize and enforce your teaching philosophy so be sure to think through how your setup will enable your students to succeed. This could include arranging desks to facilitate flexible grouping strategies, setting up a classroom learning center, or gamifying your classroom.
Behavior Management Strategies
When dealing with elementary students it’s helpful to remember that your young learners are still growing. Having a behavior management system to get your students back on track after distractions arise will help you maximize instructional time.
- Do establish clear expectations and consistently reinforce positive behavior through praise and rewards.
- Do address misbehavior promptly and assertively, using logical consequences when necessary.
- Do practice active listening and empathy when dealing with challenging behavior; seek to understand the underlying causes.
- Don't publicly shame or embarrass students when addressing misbehavior.
- Don't solely rely on punishment as a behavior management strategy; focus on teaching appropriate behavior.
- Don't forget to consider individual student needs and provide necessary support or accommodations.
Communication and Collaboration
You’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about communicating with your students. However it’s important to also consider your communication and collaboration with your fellow teachers, administrators, and parents.
- Do establish open and regular communication channels with students, parents, and colleagues.
- Do actively listen to student and parent concerns and address them with empathy and professionalism.
- Do collaborate with colleagues to share resources, strategies, and support each other's teaching practices.
- Don't neglect timely and effective communication; respond to emails, messages, and parent inquiries promptly.
- Don't make assumptions or generalize about students or their families; approach communication with an open mind and cultural sensitivity.
- Don't hesitate to seek help or guidance from colleagues when facing challenges or seeking new ideas.
Differentiated Instruction and Individualized Support
Differentiated instruction strategies help you tailor your teaching to meet the individual needs of all your students.
- Do identify and address the diverse learning needs and abilities of your students.
- Do provide differentiated instruction by offering various learning activities, materials, and assessments.
- Do collaborate with other teachers and support staff to develop individualized plans for students with diverse learning needs.
- Don't overlook students who may require additional support or have unique learning challenges.
- Don't assume that one teaching approach fits all students; adapt your instruction to meet individual needs.
- Don't forget to regularly assess student progress and adjust instruction accordingly.
Managing Transitions and Classroom Routines
Mastering classroom transitions will help keep your elementary class focused and your plans on track. This is easier said than done but here are some transition and routine do’s and don’ts to help you get started.
- Do establish clear procedures and expectations for transitions between activities and routines.
- Do provide verbal or visual cues to guide students smoothly through transitions.
- Do practice and reinforce routines until they become automatic for students.
- Don't underestimate the time needed for transitions; allow for sufficient time in your lesson plans.
- Don't rush or abruptly change activities without giving students adequate preparation or warning.
- Don't forget to model and reinforce desired behaviors during transitions to maintain order and focus.
In your first year you will have some transitions that don’t go well. That’s okay - don’t get discouraged and instead reflect on what went wrong and what you want to do differently next time.
Self-Care and Well-being
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about your students and preparing to help them but you also need to take care of yourself during the school year.
- Do prioritize self-care and well-being to maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Do establish work-life balance by setting boundaries and allocating time for relaxation and hobbies.
- Do seek support from colleagues, mentors, or professional networks to share experiences and strategies.
- Don't neglect your own needs and well-being; taking care of yourself enables you to better support your students.
- Don't hesitate to seek help or resources when feeling overwhelmed or experiencing burnout.
- Don't forget that self-care is an ongoing practice; regularly evaluate and adjust your self-care strategies as needed.
All teachers, even your favorite teacher, was a new teacher at one point in time. Give yourself some grace in your first year to make mistakes and learn from them.
One great way to have a good first year of teaching is by giving your students engaging educational experiences. That’s one of the reasons why our founders created Kodable, a free online programming game for K-5 students the basics of computer science. If you’re looking for another exciting addition to your classroom this year, check out and create your own free Kodable account today!
Looking for more new teacher resources? Look no further: