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Classroom Management That Works

This year I will be in my second year of online mentoring through the University of Texas WINGS program with Jenny, a second year teacher here in Austin. I am also in my second year of mentoring my colleague, Jennifer Moody, who teaches first grade with me at Metz. Yes, that is three Jennifer’s between us! Thank goodness my apprentice teacher for this upcoming fall semester is named Molly or else I might have had to assign everyone a number like Christina did for her interns on Grey’s Anatomy!

I have a passion for working with new teachers and enjoy helping to guide them towards their own teaching style. I strive to give them a safe, relaxed place to learn and to ask any question they need answered. I show that I am also trying to acquire new skills, just like they are, and that the art of being a good teacher is that you learn from your mistakes.

Inevitably, new teachers are most worried about classroom management and I believe they have good reason to be. If you do not take the time to put a class management system in place from day one, you are setting yourself up for a very difficult nine months. I find that most first year teachers’ worry that they are behind their colleagues in lesson plans or that they aren’t teaching enough “important stuff”. They fail to understand that using the first several weeks of school to continuously review and reinforce their rules for respect, productive work and general “how to’s” is the most important thing they should be teaching during this time! By working on this with students, they are setting up a system that will allow the rest of their lessons to run smoothly and with maximum absorption of knowledge.

Expert teachers should have a classroom management plan that works for them, but that doesn’t mean it will work for you. My management plan took a couple of years to perfect, but once I had it worked out, I have never changed it and I recommend it to all first year teachers I have worked with. I tell them to try it, use what they can from it and adapt it for their own teaching style. My plan doesn’t take away from teaching time, it lays the responsibility on the student in a constructive manner and it gets the teacher in the habit of recording infractions so they have a back-up reference if any one student shows a pattern of poor choices. Most importantly, it rewards positive behavior, because this is where your focus should be in the first place.

I am posting a copy of the discipline letter that I send home to my student’s parents on the first day of school. Please feel free to use it and modify it in any way that you would like. I also discuss and show photos of my “Good Citizen” bulletin board on my Scholastic classroom video tour, so I highly recommend that you watch that so you can get a visual image along with the written description.

Check back throughout this month to find my follow up blogs to “Classroom Management”:
• Effective Praise
• Rewarding Positive Behavior: How can students earn extra stars?
• Discipline with Reasonable and Logical Consequences
• Documenting Student Infractions
• Nice Notes and Red Notes
• Making the Call: Have a student call a parent to report their behavior
• Quick Q&A (What are sad sticks, what is in your treasure box, what are some alternatives to incentive charts etc?)
• More Classroom Management Ideas

Download ms. Atkinson's Discipline Plan.doc



Jeanne McDirmit

Thank you so much for sharing your discipline plan. I've been teaching 24 years, mostly in jr. hg. or in intermediate elementary. I recently moved down to second grade, which I love.
I have one question, in which I'd appreciate some suggestions. We are not allowed to take any recess away from the students. So, other than the loss of a sticker and five minutes time out in class, I'm not sure what to do. I do not have any free time in class, so I can do that.


I am so glad you are enjoying 2nd grade. That IS a big change for you! Thanks for asking such an excellent question. It is good to have an opportunity to clarify. Even though I do take a recess time out from my students, I do not make them sit and do nothing. I am a firm believer in having active students. If they have time out at recess, I ask them to walk our school track and to think about why they have earned the consequence they did and what they could have done differently. After the 5 or 10 minutes, I have them report back to me so we can discuss options for better choices the next time the same situation arises. That way they are still be active, but are able to have some reflective alone time to consider what went wrong and how to improve their behavior in the future. If this still doesn't comply with your school rules, you might be able to have them write about what rule they broke and how they could make better choices next time. This could be done during work stations or writing workshop. That way they still have a consequence they can learn from and it involves using their writing skills. If this still doesn't seem like a workable option for you, I will present your question to some colleagues at work and see if they have any ideas. Hope you have a wonderful year and I look forward to hearing back from you. Be sure to check back with my blogs over the next few weeks, as I will add some more entries to follow up on my discipline plan.


I love the discipline plan! My only questions: how can students earn more stars?


Dear Kim- I am so glad you found this plan useful. I am writing to you in the evening of my 4th day with my new students, and I am thick in the middle of putting my plan into action! I did have to give out some sad sticks today for the first time, but I gave out many, many extra stars or stickers! If you look under my recent posts and click on Rewarding Positive Behavior, you will find a further explanation of how I use giving out extra stars to my advantage. Really, you can give out extra stars for any type of behavior you want to encourage. Today I gave out extra stars for following directions the first time, working hard on leaving spaces between words when writing, completing a puzzle even though it took a lot of effort, working out a problem with a friend by using their words and more. Please check back this week and next for the rest of my follow up blogs on classroom management, I may have some more ideas you can use. Take care!


Hi Jennifer,

I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful idea. I'm an English as a second language teacher in Taiwan. For the last two years I've taught 5th and 6th grade but now I requested to teach the first grade. The only problem was that I felt that my reward and discipline system was a little too complex for first graders, but this is perfect. So thank you again.



Hello from Austin!
What a sweet email- It made my day! I am glad you think my classroom management plan will help support you in your new position. I am one week in to my new school year and I have to say that my discipline plan has helped to keep everything right on track. My students understand how it works, they are learning problem solving skills and they can't wait to pick out of the treasure box! But no matter how smoothly everything is going, I was still exhausted at the end of every day- those little sweeties will keep you on your toes! I hope you check back here throughout the year, I will look forward to hearing how things are going for you. Peace- Jennifer

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Inside Jennifer's 1st Grade Classroom are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.