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6 Classroom Management Strategies to Try in the STEM or Science Classroom

Help please! I know all schools and classrooms are created differently, but student behavior is often an issue (off task, disrupting others, not working, misusing materials, etc.) in mine. How do you handle these situations? Do you have any classroom management strategies that I can use?

Unfortunately, this teacher is not alone in her troubles. Classroom management has long been a topic of interest and for a good reason.

Any teacher will agree that it’s difficult for effective teaching and learning to take place in a classroom where students are disorderly and rude. It’s quite easy for chaos to become the norm when there are no apparent rules and procedures that guide behavior. Both teachers and students suffer greatly in this kind of classroom. Teachers struggle to teach and students almost certainly learn much less than they should. Conversely, a well-managed classroom provides a teaching and learning environment in which everyone can flourish.

However, a well-managed classroom doesn’t just magically happen. It takes a lot of effort to create—and the person who is most responsible for creating it is you, the teacher.

If you can relate to the teacher at the start of this article, here are six classroom management strategies and resources that are sure to help you manage your Makerspace, Science Lab, or classroom:

Classroom Management Strategy 1: Rules

The first thing you will need to have are a set of rules. Rules are the foundation of all classroom management.

  • State the rules positively whenever possible. Instead of “Don’t call out,” use “Raise your hand.”
  • Make the rules clear and explicit. There should be no gray areas when determining if a rule has been broken.
  • Limit the number of rules. The younger your students are, the less rules they should have to remember.
  • Have your students participate in setting the classroom rules. Participation gives students a feeling of ownership and accountability.

Classroom Management Strategy 2: Organization

Having an organized classroom is one of the hallmarks of a great classroom manager. Having one makes it easier for students and the teacher to function! The more classroom displays, labels, and posters there are, the better. Children need visual reminders for everything.

  • Develop a Makerspace, science lab, or classroom theme that the students can relate to and enjoy. A special wall or door display that has their names and/or pictures encourages a sense of pride.
  • Label everything! There should be no excuse for not putting the masking tape or building blocks back where they belong. Not sure about which supplies you should have in your Makerspace? Download the FREE STEM Supplies List below.
  • If your learning area is small or has very little wall space, designate an area for displays and posters, and change them often throughout the year.
  • If you have group roles or classroom jobs, make sure to display them. You can attach the labels on a pull-down shade with Velcro. This lets you to easily change the roles or jobs and you can pull up the shade when not in use.

Related: THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE FOR THE CLUELESS STEM TEACHER: 3 Super Simple Frugal Ways to Get STEM Supplies and 11 Great Posts You Need to Read about Starting a MakerSpace

Classroom Management Strategy 3: Reward Tags

Reward tags are student incentives that can be used to recognize appropriate behavior, encourage good choice making, and promote a positive classroom atmosphere. They are low-cost and easy to implement in the Makerspace, science lab, or classroom.

  • Reward tags can be laminated, hole punched and made into lanyards. Many teachers have students hang their lanyards in a specific spot in the classroom and wear them for schoolwide events.
  • Some teachers leave them unlaminated and write the date and feedback on the back.
  • Reward tags can be used for good behavior, academic achievement, and/or improvement in any area.
  • The variety of reward tags is limitless. You can increase the value of certain tags by making them “collectibles” that are only available on a specific day (i.e., Happy National STEM Day! tag on National STEM Day) or during a specific event.

Classroom Management Strategy 4: Reward Coupons

Reward coupons are a super powerful tool to add to your classroom management arsenal (and are my personal favorite). Similar to reward tags, they can be used to acknowledge individual student achievement and behavior. They are also practically cost free (excluding ink and laminating) and flexible. The main difference between reward tags and coupons is the tangible reward connected to coupons.

  • Some teachers think of reward coupons as “bribery.” I prefer to look at it as incentive. As much as we would like students to be internally motivated, not all of them are. We are encouraging and motivating them to do their best by offering an incentive for when a certain skill or is demonstrated. As adults, we are offered various incentives at work all the time in the form of salary, bonuses, privileges, and awards, so why not do this for students?
  • Reward coupons are so versatile. They provide you with the ability to work on whole-classroom behaviors, as well as individualize for a specific student’s challenging behavior. You can build self-esteem and character, reward academic excellence, and recognize small milestones of a struggling learner.
  • Be generous with coupons. Give them frequently and provide numerous opportunities for students to redeem them.
  • When first implementing a reward coupon system, begin with approximately 15-20 coupons. Add additional coupons sporadically through the year. Holidays and special days are great times to add coupons as well.
  • Here’s the most important point that will make or break a system: You must have reward coupons for things the students want. Be creative. They can’t be for things you think they want; the students must actually want what you have. I can’t stress this enough. The rewards can be a mixture of small items and privileges or just privileges alone, but they absolutely must be valued and sought-after by the students. How do you know what the students want? Just ask them. You can make a list on the board or have them fill out a survey.

Classroom Management Strategy 5: Behavior Charts

Behavior charts, classroom clip charts, or reward charts had a quick rise and fall from fame. Many educators have turned against them and this is just unfortunate because, when used correctly, this resource is extremely effective. Most reward chart systems have 5 or 6 levels. Students start the day on a neutral level such as “Ready to Learn.” As the day progresses, students have opportunities to move up the chart for exhibiting positive behaviors and down levels for breaking rules. Moving a child down a level has been interpreted by some as embarrassing to a student. The reality is I’ve found that quietly and calmly moving a clothespin without interrupting instruction to be more respectful to the student and the class as a whole than a verbal reprimand would be.

  • Move the clothespins yourself. Don’t tell a child to “clip down” or “change color” and have them walk across the classroom in a walk of shame.
  • Don’t make downward card changes permanent for the day. Allow the child to redeem themselves and have an opportunity to move back up. Remember this is a flexible system.
  • Ensure that any chart movement directly relates to your rules. Don’t allow anger and frustration to cause you to move a student for a rule that has not been taught.
  • Remember that the chart is a teaching tool and not a punishment. You’re using this strategy so students can learn self-control and take responsibility for their choices.
  • Keep your behavior chart focused on positive behaviors. Recognize appropriate behavior freely. When working in groups, move a whole group up for outstanding work. You can even move the whole class up for working quietly!
  • After the behavior chart system is well established, think about adding an “over the top” level that is more difficult to achieve. This level can have a privilege or award attached to it.

Classroom Management Strategy 6: Digital Stickers

Are you looking for ways to reward your students creatively while doing remote learning? Digital stickers could be what you’re looking for!

Digital stickers are like regular stickers that children, especially the youngers, love to receive. These digital versions are typically digital images saved as .png so that they have transparent backgrounds and can be placed on online work. These digital stickers work on Google Classroom, SeeSaw, and other learning platforms.

  • Use digital stickers to provide positive feedback, serve as a reward, and offer encouragement.
  • Offer a variety of digital stickers. You can have different themes based on your students’ interests or even the subjects you teach. You can also give students holiday-themed ones.
  • Provide ways to collect the digital stickers. You can set up a digital sticker book for each student so they can quickly see the stickers that they already have.

Which Classroom Management Strategies Are You Going to Try Today?

Each of these classroom management strategies and resources has its own benefits. These can be used alone or in combination. Whichever you decide to use, make it a part of a classroom management system that focuses on the positive and makes your Makerspace, science lab, or classroom a happy and rewarding place to be.

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