The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management

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I’m not a kindergarten classroom management guru. I don’t know all of the latest things that are being taught as the “in” thing to do. But I do know what works in the kindergarten classroom.

And I don’t believe that you have to shout, resort to using gimmicks constantly or have a prize reward system that rings bells, signals a strobe light and throws candy like confetti in the air.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic.

But I believe that consistency, expectations and teaching what you expect with logical consequences and rewards is the way to go in a kindergarten classroom.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management

The truth about kindergarten classroom management is that while it is unlike any other grade level – it’s pretty common-sense based, flourishes on positivity and it takes a plan. You probably didn’t want to hear that. You probably wanted to hear that I have a magic, instant, perfect, all-in-one solution up my sleeve.

Here are some of my top ways to teach what you expect and how to plan logical consequences and rewards for a solid kindergarten classroom management approach that works… just shy of a little magic.

Get a plan

Please don’t assume I’ve never made mistakes nor flopped at managing some instance of behavior in my classroom – but there’s beauty in learning from your mistakes. Hopefully what I’ve learned can help you skip over some of those flops.

First, I’ve learned you’ve got to have a plan.

The big picture things – rules

When you have a classroom management plan, you have direction and know how to act and react in most situations in the classroom.

If you don’t already have a plan for how you want to handle behaviors and rewards then you should make one. A kindergarten classroom management plan isn’t really one-size-fits-all.

You should pick what you want to focus on, keep track of and hold students accountable for in your classroom.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - teach for closeness
Students know the 4 main classroom rules by heart

It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Get your top 3-5 rules on a list and write down how you want to handle rewards and consequences. Plus, it will go a long way if you also write down a few phrases that you can say when you have to hold students accountable… that way you’re mentally prepared.

The everyday things – procedures

On top of your main classroom rules, you’ve got to know what you want during different times of the day.

Your top rules should cover pretty much everything big – but you know, there are lots of little extra things kinders have to learn. We call all of those “procedures” and they are like little mini-rules or ways to do things as expected.

The top times of the day to plan for are when students are working independently like during literacy centers.

If you’re running your classroom all by yourself (without an aide) or even if you have help, your students still need to know what’s expected so they can be successful, independent and follow through without you being interrupted to manage them.

Have a plan. It’s a starting place — and it matters.

Teach the small stuff

In my Back to School Bootcamp I share how critical it is to teach the small stuff in kindergarten.

And I’m not being sarcastic when I say you can’t skip it. Or, well, you shouldn’t. Because I believe you pay for it all school year long if you do.

The beauty is you don’t have to teach all of the small stuff all year long – but the caveat is there is a lot to teach explicitly up front.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - teach the procedures
Students learn how to check in every morning. Attendance, lunch count – done.

For example, I think you should definitely teach:

You don’t have to talk them to death to cover all the small stuff. Please don’t. That will backfire.

Consider how you can teach each one with a little modeling, social story or fun. It’ll be exactly what kinders need at the beginning of the school year.

I like using songs, icons, social stories, movement and modeling to accomplish teaching most of these types of small things.

Teaching the small stuff pays off. A smoother running classroom where everyone knows what to do next and how they are expected to do it is definitely worth the price.

Give them responsibility

You don’t have to do things for your kindergartners that they can do for themselves. In fact, you’re doing them a disservice if you are. Find ways to build in responsibility into how you run your classroom, your daily routines and let them shine.

They can do it

Giving students responsibility is an awesome component to having a kindergarten classroom management style that is both positive and age appropriate.

An easy way to build it in is through classroom jobs. If there is something regular and routine I can teach and train a student to do – I’m going to make it a classroom job.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - hand over responsibility
Student with classroom job trains another how to perform the job without the teacher

You shouldn’t be the one to do it

There are so many cases where you literally should not have to be involved in the classroom.

Why on Earth would you want to have to be responsible for getting a student a pencil every time they couldn’t find one? You’d never get anything done! They can get classroom supplies and put lost materials away without you ever having to bat an eye.

Why are you sacrificing planning time to stuff folders when, even though it takes time, they can learn to do it themselves?

Why would you check their folders for notes when they can turn in papers themselves?

It’s truly amazing what kinders can do. But we have to give them the opportunities, responsibility and sometimes the freedom to show us.

Hold them accountable

I know that making your classroom management plan, figuring out some of the small stuff and planning in responsibility will make you feel great about your kindergarten classroom management.

Yet, if you aren’t planning to hold students accountable then all of your hard work and preparation can all fall by the wayside.

There are two things that can coexist to hold students accountable – rewards and consequences.

  • Go with logical, meaningful rewards and consequences whenever you can. That should be your first reaction (and hopefully built into your plan).
  • Get to know your students’ personalities to know what kind of recognition means the most to them. Knowing your personality types will come in handy here.

They should’ve had everyone in teaching 101 during college read (affiliate) Personlity Plus because it is hands down one of the most useful books I’ve ever applied to my teaching career. Because all day long we are dealing with people – each unique and amazing – but similar in their desires, fears and wiring.

Use the power of your teacher voice

This last point is something that I really have only mentioned on this website as a secret that helps me stay level headed in regards to classroom management during the first few weeks of kindergarten.

But you really should know (and practice) how to use the full power of your teacher voice. And I’m not talking about the ability to talk over an entire class of little ones.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - how to use your voice effectively
How far your voice carries matters… and maybe not in the way you think

I once had a second grade teacher come in to observe me. As part of a positive behavior management course for teachers – we observed each other.

Her classroom management style was to literally say, “Shhh!” every 10-30 seconds during her day. (I’m not kidding. I timed her.) The students ignored it because it carried little weight having heard it hundreds of times in one day, every day of their little second grade career. When she was done visiting my classroom she called me a whisper teacher – not because I employed the same “Shh!” method that she did – it was because I didn’t ever raise my voice beyond the level of my regular talking voice the entire time she visited.

  • When I have a whole group in front of me – I talk so that they can hear me – but not loud enough so that those across the room can hear.
  • When I have a small group in front of me – I talk so that they can hear me – but not loud enough so that those outside of the bubble of my teacher table can hear me.
  • When I’m talking to a student one-on-one – I talk so that they hear me clearly but not loud enough that the entire table can hear me.

When it comes to classroom management – my voice has power and I need to fine tune how I use it. If I always use the same volume level, same tone of voice, I am virtually rendering this powerful classroom management tool of mine ineffective.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - teach with them as close as possible

And I will even sing and, of course, I whisper too just to keep things fun and fresh. My voice has power and I want to keep it that way.

To be transparent – I’m not saying I’ve never raised my voice. Ha! Far from it.

You can bet when I raise my voice loud enough to stop somebody from across the room (from doing something potentially dangerous that I noticed out of the corner of my eye those first few days of kindergarten) to shout a firm, “NO!” or “STOP!” that I command the attention of everyone in that room. They know the severity of something that just happened by my volume and tone and I generally don’t have to use that volume level practically ever again.

But I don’t scream or yell or bargain with my kindergarten students. I set expectations. I teach them explicitly and they are rewarded and held responsible accordingly.

Teach in closeness

I don’t teach with my students all seated and spread out across the room – that’s silly.

There is literally no reason they need to be that far away from me and for me to expect them to be attentive for any length of time longer than a single (or simple double step) direction.

Get them close to you in proximity, teach and then send them to their spaces to work.

The Truth About Kindergarten Classroom Management - teach for closeness
Student work on the floor close to the teacher

Teach in closeness. It’s age-appropriate that way.

And if you need to break up your instruction – do it. Teach one step, then send them to work on one step or do one step. Bring them back to you and repeat. This is very effective for multiple part projects!

Let’s wrap it up

My hope for you is to find what really works for you in regards to kindergarten classroom management. Take the principles of being consistent, teaching expectations and determining both logical consequences and rewards can help you shape how you want your classroom to run.

If you haven’t seen this already, here are some great tips on figuring out your kindergarten classroom management plan.

How to Rock Your Kindergarten Classroom Management

If you like what I do here on KindergartenWorks, then be sure to subscribe today. I look forward to sharing ideas with you weekly.

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