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5 Fresh Classroom Management Ideas to Reengage & Rejuvenate your Students

Ahh...February. The month of LOVE and KINDNESS and HISTORY. There is SO many reasons to love this month, but it can also be a struggle. We've gotten to the point of the year where students are starting to get antsy. Winter break is long gone and Spring Break can't get here fast enough. Maybe you've had a few snow days, or you're hunkered down due to indoor recess. Your classroom management strategies from August (or October...or January) aren't cutting it anymore. Can't a teacher get a BREAK?!!?

I'm here for you teacher friend!! I understand your pain (you can click here for my own February madness story during my first year of teaching), and I'm here to help refresh you and your classroom to finish the year strong, with a tight-knit classroom community and a well-oiled classroom management machine! I have some FRESH classroom management ideas for your elementary classroom that will take your class from ugh to YAY!! The best part is...you can start using them TOMORROW!
Just so you know, all of the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links. This means I make a small amount from any purchases made through my links, which helps me keep teaching abroad as a missionary in Tanzania! 

Idea #1: Assess what's working and what's not. 

You know your students by now - what makes them work hard, what makes them give up, what lights up their faces, and what makes them groan. Use this to your advantage! Take out a piece of paper or open up a document on your computer (yes, right now!) and write down everything that encourages and motivates your students. Write down what systems are currently working WELL in your classroom and what problems you're having.


Now, let's figure out how to make your life easier by motivating your students in ways that actually work. Do they respond well to encouragement? Or do they enjoy competition? Have you tried an individual behavior management system? Or does a whole group, teamwork idea work better?


Here is something that work best for ALL students: giving them ownership...whatever the reward is, let THEM decide. Take a vote, make a list, choose a random number, etc. This puts their behavior and their actions back on them. If you decide that you're having a popcorn party if they all bring homework back on time, but they don't like popcorn, the homework won't be back on time! But if you vote on three suggestions that are all okay with you, and they get to choose, you bet your students will be motivated to do anything and everything to get that reward!

Idea #2: B I N G O

I've taught Kinder, First, and Fourth, and all of my students LOVED games and competitions. Bingo is a super fun and easy way to capture their attention and get them working on a goal. I made my own Behavior Bingo last year for my fourth graders, and it looked like this:


But, I have to say, I've found a better way for you. Ashley, the mastermind behind Teach Create Motivate, has made these super fun themed bingo games! She has big ones for your whole class or small ones for individuals or groups. I love this because you can use it time after time or year after year by laminating every thing and using velcro!! You can get her free emoji bingo to get you started!

Idea #3: Back to Basics Bootcamp

Sometimes we all need to go back to the basics. To reset, refresh our memory, and renew our focus. You can do this with your students by becoming a Skill Sergeant with some camo, aviators, and a whistle, putting camo plastic tablecloths on your desks, and planning a day of reviewing classroom routines & expectations along with bootcamp exercises! If you want some extra special additions, check out these inflatable tires, camo netting, camo pencils for your students, and dog tags!

Michelle @ Pocketful of Primary is the cutest Skill Sergeant! Click the pic to check out her bootcamp ideas!
You can also add new procedures or change some of the things that are not working on this day. This would be a great time to implement a new classroom management strategy, like bingo above or some of the other ideas below! 

I did a week of kindergarten bootcamp after winter break, and it really helped my sweet kinders get back in the swing of things! Here are some of my favorite resources to use with K-2 when reviewing expectations:


Both of these resources help your students practice their phonemic segmentation, inventive spelling, and writing, as well as the specific expectations in your classroom. You can use them as a reminder all year long, or at the beginning of the year.

Idea #4: Share the Responsibility

Do you have classroom jobs? Do they actually work FOR you or are they giving you more work to do? I love giving students responsibility in our classroom...because it is OURS. But, I struggled with keeping up with all the jobs, so I created Team Jobs. They have been awesome for my sanity and my classroom community!


I love that each poster has the expectations and jobs for each team on them, so we can reference them throughout the year, and I don't have to explain them 5,002,743 times! They are editable too! I also can switch up the teams of students so that everyone gets to work with different classmates. I have found that with team jobs, I don't have to remind students to do their jobs, because the teammates do!


Each of my students have a number, and I print and laminate these numbers on Astrobrights paper on the posters that I printed and laminated. I also have velcro dots on the back of the numbers and on the posters to easily switch jobs every month.


For the younger students, my friend Danielle has an awesome blog post on giving your students responsibility in keeping your classroom tidy, and some classroom job ideas too!


Another idea that I've used in Kindergarten is having a helper (or two) of the week. That way everyone gets lots of time to help, and you can easily remember one or two students to give tasks to (passing out papers, messenger, line leader, etc.). You can see how I display my helpers here!


Idea #5: Take it One Step at a Time

Sometimes changing your classroom management might feel overwhelming because you see so many things that need a refresh. My suggestion is to choose one thing to focus on that you feel is the most important to your classroom's harmony and your students' success. Work on that for a couple of weeks and then go to the next small piece. Soon enough, the domino effect will take place and your classroom will be better than ever! Here are some great ideas to get you started:




I have personally used Quiet Critters with my Kinders, and though I don't recommend using them all of the time, on those certain occasions when you do need the whole class quiet, they are FABULOUS! It feels like a classroom fairy has come and sprinkled quiet dust all over your students!!
They are easy to make - sparkly pom poms, googly eyes, and foam cut into little platforms that look like feet. Here's a free label for your jar too!

I'd love to hear from YOU! What are your favorite Classroom Management ideas? What has worked well for your students? I'd love for you to pin the image below so that you can refer back to these classroom management strategies for elementary students!!


Five Engaging ESL Games for Middle School

Finding ESL Games for middle schoolers can be a challenge, depending on the levels of your English Language Learners. These ESL activities are proven to increase engagement and language learning!  They would work great for high school ESL or upper elementary English Language Learners too! 

 I teach ESL to 4th-8th graders in Tanzania, and it can prove difficult to find ESL classroom games that help my students practice important skills while having fun! I know you and your students will love these 5 ESL games for middle school students!


Kahoot can be used for all levels and all areas of study, but I've found that middle schoolers love this game because they love competition AND technology! If you haven't heard of Kahoot before, it's a website where you can make a question/answer game with your own questions, or you can choose a game that someone else has created. Your students use devices in teams or individually to answer the questions, and you project or show the questions via SmartBoard or Projector. It times the students, keeps track of points, etc. It is SUPER engaging, and the options are endless!


Scattergories is such a fun word game that challenges students to think outside of the box, and choose unique words. They learn new words from each other, and think critically about the words they use. I use these games as a warm-up at the beginning of ESL Class.


I give the students a list of categories, we roll a letter dice, and they have a few minutes to think of words that fit the categories and start with the letter that we rolled. It's harder than you may think! Then, students get points if they write unique words that match the requirements. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins!


I've got a growing bundle of all of these Scattergories Games that I create in my store too, so you can play all year long! Grab it now before the price increases!


For some reason, I get instant engagement from my middle school ELLs if we play a game with a ball. I love this Socratic Soccer Ball idea from Building Book Love! We read The Tale of Desperaux together as a class, and at the end of the period, we would pass around the soccer ball and answer the questions!


Quiddler is another awesome word game! It's like a card game form of Scrabble! I love playing this with small groups of my middle school ESL students. You start the first round with three cards, but with every new round, you get another card. And each card has a letter(s) on it. The goal is to make words with the cards you have!


One important skill that English Language Learners can practice is showing, not telling, in their writing. Deb from Crafting Connections has an AWESOME free lesson with a fun bingo game on this! My ESL students loved playing the game, and I loved teaching them how to make their writing more descriptive. Here's a snapshot of her game:


I hope this blog post gave you some new ideas for your ESL classroom! Share below your favorite ESL games! I would love to find some new ones!! Novel Studies are another one of my favorite ESL activities for middle schoolers because they build so many skills!


Teacher Must Haves for this Teacher Abroad!

I teach in Tanzania, East Africa, the land barren of Target, Amazon, and Etsy. So whenever I'm back in the States I make sure to stock back up on my favorites! These are my teacher must haves! I do have to be selective though, because I only get 2-3 50 pound bags to take with me. These favorite things are the cream of the crop!

Hydroflask Water Bottle

This is always by my side! I drink SO MUCH WATER in Tanzania because it's dry and hot most of the year. Our classrooms are open air, and sometimes we'll get a *wonderful* (said very sarcastically) burst of dusty wind that blows through, and I literally cannot keep teaching without quenching my parched throat! Also, this thing is HUGE and keeps my water as cold as I want it!!! Also, I love the straw attachment. It sounds strange but I truly think that I drink more water because of it!

Essential Oils

I use these at home and in the classroom! I buy my oils from Edens Garden - I especially love their Create-Your-Own Gift Sets! These essential oils are great quality and potent, but not quite as pricey as some other ones on the market. I enjoy the Synergy Blends - Fighting Five, Breathe Easier, and Exhale are some of my favorites! I love mixing peppermint, lemon, and lavender in the classroom for a blend of focus and relax! The Fighting Five blend is perfect for the cold and flu season, as it has oils that provide immunity support! Also, I love the oils for their fragrance aspect. I love candles, but they are HEAVY to pack in my suitcase, so these are a great, better-for-you option!

Papermate Pens


Hi my name is Allie and I'm a pen addict! ;) But, I do have high standards, and the pens in TZ just don't cut it! If I'm writing, the Papermate InkJoy Gel Pens are my favorite. They write so smoothly, dry quickly, and the colors are beautiful! But, I also have a pretty great Flair Pen stash! The colors are so fun, and I love using them when I'm doodling, handlettering, etc.

All the Bins & Storage

I love a good plastic container that keeps me organized! I use a myriad of these in my classroom, and I try to bring over a few each year to make it easier to stay organized. The ones pictured above are from Really Good Stuff. They're perfect for my classroom library! Here are some more of my favorites:
Project cases store
paper and things to save!

 
Plastic book boxes store
my files!
This caddy is perfect
for desk organization!







Device Protection

If Tanzania has taught me anything (and believe me, I've learned A LOT), one of the big life lessons is to PROTECT MY DEVICES! I've had quite a few technology fails (including a broken laptop screen that I took to get looked at, decided to wait until I was back in the US to get fixed, and then found out the guy in TZ had stolen my hard drive 😠🤦🏻‍♀️), and now I have all of the protection! I got this case for my laptop, and absolutely love it! If you're a map & watercolor lover like me, you need it in your life!

I stick to Otterbox cases for my iPhone, because I find that it is the best at protecting. Currently I've got this one on my iPhone 7.










The Quietest Pencil Sharpener

 This pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies is the BEST for 3 reasons:
1. It doesn't require electricity - and the power goes off frequently in Tanzania, so we really can't rely on it.
2. It doesn't over-sharpen - we all have those students who take forever to get the sharpest point, and end up breaking the pencil tip over and over again! With this sharpener, you can keep turning the handle, but you'll notice that the blade won't be doing anything once the pencil is sharp!
3. It's quieter and less expensive than most electric sharpeners! When purchased in a three-pack, they cost $17.99 each! And, once you teach your students how to use it correctly, it's very user-friendly.

Multifunctional Teacher Bag

I don't know about you, but I lug a lot of stuff to/from school each day - laptop, planner, personal items, teacher manuals, papers to grade, and much more. I've finally found my FAVORITE teacher bag- the Vera Bradley Campus Tech Backpack. I love it for many reasons - it's a backpack, which makes it easy to carry; it has a special compartment just for my laptop; it has lots of space with three different pockets, the largest pocket is very roomy, and fits everything perfectly; it has a trolley sleeve so I also use it as my personal item when traveling; it has side pockets for my water bottle and travel mug on either side; and so much more!!




Teacher Planner

I've got to have a good teacher planner! I'm one of those people who really enjoys paper planners - and I've used several that I loved! One year I splurged and got an Erin Condren planner - it was gorgeous! But now I'm definitely on The Happy Planner kick! I've mentioned this before, but my favorite part is that I can insert and remove any papers I want! I print out my schedules, to-do lists, student info, and it all goes into my planner! This is the kit I got this year:






And here is the hole punch you'll need if you plan on inserting any paper you want! It is well worth the investment!





I hope you enjoyed reading about what I, as a teacher, must have in my life! Would you be interested in my classroom must-haves? These would include my favorite tools, manipulatives, and resources. I'd love to share them with you!! What are your teacher must haves?


*All links are affiliate links. I make a small profit if you purchase through my links. But I will never suggest anything that I don't fully love and back up!*