Managing a classroom for middle & high school students can be a little challenging.
You only have so much time to get their heads out of the halls and into the classroom for the lesson you have planned. Not to mention taking attendance, plus keeping track of grades, classwork & tests.
You don’t want to waste time fumbling for worksheets, checking the roster or trying to find someone’s make-up assignments.
Here are my favorite classroom management tips and tricks that have worked for me to maximize the time and keep things running smoothly.
- When setting up your gradebook, instead of starting student names on the first line, leave a few rows blank so that you have space under the assignment heading for things like possible number of points, date, type of assignment, etc.
- Learn names in those first few days by having a seating chart on your podium/desk always in view. Call on students in order going through the rows multiple times the first few days. Ask them to supply their homework answers and then use their names for any discipline reminders, etc. They will be very surprised that you know their name on the first day and will quickly realize they cannot get away with anything, especially if they are not aware that you have the seating chart in front of you. I’ve always been able to learn all the names (sometimes 150+) in just three days this way!
- When creating math worksheets, quizzes, tests, and other materials, use tables (visible or borderless) to keep pieces of problems where you want them. This is much easier than using columns and keeps everything numbered correctly with diagrams, equations, and figures in place and provides spaces for answers.
- To save paper, any time you are doing a single sided worksheet, cut it between two rows of problems and make double sided half sheets.
- Keep your seating chart available every day, even once you know names. Use it to quickly identify absent students. Tuck notes to yourself, papers to hand back, and messages to students in front of the chart for that class period so as you flip to the next seating chart to begin class, you see all your reminders and papers to hand back for that period.
- Start each class period with a warm-up. It can be a critical thinking problem, review questions, or even a quick quiz. Get students in the habit of starting right away when they enter. During this time, you can complete attendance and check homework.
- Grade homework using a four point rubric. Take away one point if the work is late, a point or two if it is incomplete, and a point if students did not show work.
- Give students a notebook grade. You can just do a quick quarterly check to make sure they have taken notes during each lesson. Instead of collecting the notebooks, just walk around to each desk and check quarterly while students are taking a test. (I have them leave the notebooks closed up under the desk while testing so I can grab it as I come around, flip through for a minute, give the grade, and put it back).
- In addition to a score in the gradebook, add tiny footnotes next to the number. You can use things like “L” for late, “I” for incomplete, “R” for when a student is supposed to redo an assignment, “M” for missing, and any other helpful reminders. Some computerized gradebooks allow footnotes as well. If your gradebook has plenty of room, you can even double space the names for a full row for these coded notes.
- Be willing to allow students to redo work so they are motivated to go back and get the practice they need. If they originally earned 2 out of 4 points because they only did half of the homework and did not show their work, they can redo it to earn a 3 out of 4 (not a perfect score, because by that point it is like a “late” 3 out of 4)
- Offer optional test corrections. This motivates students to go back and acquire the understanding they were still missing during an assessment instead of giving up and moving on. Give them one week to do this and turn it in after receiving their graded test. They may get help if needed, but must write in complete sentences what they did wrong the first time and explain the problem to show that they understand the concept now. They must also redo all work. Offer half credit back for each test question that is redone and explained in this format. This method puts accountability on the students.
- Set up trays in the back of the room for each class to place late and make-up work instead of handing it to you.
- When a student is absent, draw a box around (or highlight) the corresponding day for their name in the gradebook. You can still go back and put points inside the box, but this easily helps you identify why the grade is not there yet and which students were absent which days.
- When a student is absent for a test or quiz, immediately write their name on their test and put it on a clipboard (immediately after distributing tests to present students). Having them ready to go on the podium or chalk ledge serves as a reminder to you to have them take the test, and when the student returns, the test is ready to be taken to the hall to be made up without having to move desks in and out unless they prefer a desk (most kids love to just sit on the floor in a carpeted hallway to relax and take their test).
- When distributing worksheets, grab one for each absent student. Write their name on it so everything is ready to just hand to them when they return – no hunting for blank worksheets from each day.
- When YOU are the one who will be absent, try these tried and true strategies for a substitute teacher day.
Enter your email address here to get more teaching ideas, updates, and resources sent right to your inbox: