Getting Down To Business (Settling Kids Down)

Oh, the excitement of a new year! Imagine those hallways the first day back… everyone talking, laughing, comparing schedules, comparing lunches, greeting old friends and meeting new ones. With all the hustle and bustle, how in the world are you ever going to get them to be quiet once the bell rings? Everyone can probably agree that on the first day, you might not get them quiet right away! But as the year starts up, now is the time to get into a groove, and form habits that will be healthy and helpful for everyone involved.

How do you kick off the morning? (Tell us, we’d love to hear your answer!) Across the board, many of the methods are similar. Board work is a popular way to get students focused as they take their seats, and relaxing music is also popular.

Bath and body stores sell wonderful aromatherapy candles that can help bring a calm to the room. There are also similar types of relaxing potpourri, light bulb rings, aroma jars and oils. All of these things contribute to the atmosphere without you having to direct attention to them, unlike board work. Note, however, that some businesses and schools have banned perfumes, and some adhere to strict fire prevention rules as well, so you should check before plugging in your potpourri pot.

For more than just a different atmosphere, put “bell work” to the test. The moment the bell rings, have students do a fun activity, like solving a puzzle or riddle, or assign a journal entry, short pop quiz, or worksheet. Be careful that you don’t just supply “busy work.” Grade or give set points for whatever you require them to do, otherwise put up an extra credit assignment. Not giving points for an assignment might bring resentment.

Our T2T contributors share their own ideas for the best way to start the morning. Read on for their quotes…

I have found it useful to have the lights down low and sometimes the lights down low with the overhead projector on with an assignment, mindteaser, or announcements projected onto a screen. The dull lighting seems to promote an aura of calmness and the light from the projector focuses their attention on the task at hand. Sometimes I will have classical music playing too. -Ron Dyck

I start each day by greeting my 3rd graders at the door. They have a choice of a high-five, hand shake, or a hug. By doing this, I can take care of any problems that might have happened on the playground or see which students might have had a bad start to their day. I also have instrumental music playing. An activity to get started on is a must. I give table points through the day, so they know that I will be looking for tables that have settled down quietly and gotten right to work. -Lisa

I would also recommend a new CD I just received titled “The most Calming Classical music CD ever!” I ordered it through BMG and then saw it advertised on TV. I got it as one of the freebies and they advertised it for $26! It is a double CD. I will have this playing everyday in class at the beginning. -DeDe

I have been reading “The First Day of School” by Harry Wong and his suggestion is that they should always come into class with an assignment to start immediately (either on the board or on their desk). This should eliminate the talking. His book is excellent on classroom management. -SJohns731

In our team taught classroom we clap and snap patterns to quiet down the students… CLAP, CLAP, SNAP, SNAP…CLAP, CLAP, SNAP, SNAP… and everyone joins in and within a few minutes as everyone follows the pattern, you just stop and it is VERY quiet. As the year progresses, we snap and clap MANY different patterns to keep them interested! This is a second grade classroom. -Sharon Dodge, Littleton, NH

We have a homeroom period before school. This is brand new for us. Last year, I had morning work for the children to complete when they got to school. Another teacher in my building calls it “Hello Paper”, and it is something that has to do with the previous day’s lessons. With the new homeroom period, I will be doing the same thing. The students arrive, check in, choose their lunch, and do the Hello Paper. -Lauren

I teach 5th. At our school, we bring our class from the playground after the take-up bell. If mine have no additional verbal instructions from me, they have 10 minutes to come in, unpack, copy the assignments for the day from the board into their assignment logs, and begin a particular assignment/worksheet that doesn’t require teacher assistance. During this time I am collecting notes and homework, taking attendance and lunch count, and dealing with immediate issues and concerns. -Trish

After greeting students at the door, I have a journal question ready for them on the board. They have to respond with at least 3 sentences and have 10 minutes. They seem to get settled quickly and I walk around and put a red star on each journal as I read it. After 10 minutes we start our days assignments. (I teach a 3rd/4th combined room.) -Laura McDonald

We have 3 bells that ring in the morning. The first signals that the building is open. The second is a 5 min. warning bell, and the third is the “tardy” bell. My students eat breakfast in the room. From the first day I stress that breakfast is over at the warning bell. During the time between bell 1 and 2 (15 minutes) they are also responsible for unpacking bookbags, turning in homework, sharpening pencils, and moving their lunch card from the chalk tray to the basket on my desk. When the second bell rings whoever still has breakfast on their desk must dump it. Then they still have 5 min. to finish getting ready for the day. Once bookbags are unpacked they are not to go to them until lunch. This one is tough because someone always forgets to get out their homework or a pencil…but I continually remind them of the rules and do send them home to parents, as well. At the tardy bell the class stands and recites 2 pledges. The first, of course, is the Pledge of Allegiance. The second is a School Pledge. It doesn’t take long for them to memorize it. By the second grading period they start without me. If I’m in the hall talking to someone and the last bell rings, the next thing you hear is my class pledging the flag. It’s one way to signal the beginning of the day. (I started this with first graders and it worked just as well. They are even slower about breakfast, if you let them.) -Susan Anhold, Third Grade

We have started with the “Clean Joke of the Day”–the dumber (groaner) the better. Laffy Taffy wrappers are an excellent source. Kids want to hear the joke, but if they miss it, it’s their loss. Also, it’s not vital info that they’ve missed. I announce the joke, tell it, we laugh/groan, and then start class in a good mood. 😀 An example: What do you call four matadors standing in a pit of quicksand? Cuatro sink-o HA! -Bethanie Carlson

I use 3-2-1 and then say lights. It works! If they do not get quiet by lights than they lose 5 minutes off their recess. -Shon Adamson

I teach grades 7 and 8 and have found that bell work makes a big difference. It can take many forms – a review of what you taught the day before, a brainteaser, etc. The questions are always on the board when the bell rings and the students know the routine. They arrive, get out their books and begin the activity right away. It usually takes them about 10 minutes to do the work, which gives me enough time to collect/sort homework, tally trip money, pizza orders, etc. etc. etc. -mayo

Our entire school does SSR (Silent Sustained Reading) every morning for fifteen to twenty minutes before announcements.„Our principal walks around the school during this time and selects a class who was doing an exceptional job of silent-reading and this class wins a small treat!„ It really helps the kids settle down and focus–I’m at a new school now, but I still plan to do SSR each morning. -Sandy J.- 1st grade teacher

A good tip for settling down your students after recess, lunch, etc. is to let them go into the room one at a time. The first student must be in his/her seat before the next one in line can go in. This works well with younger students especially in the beginning of the year when they are still working on appropriate classroom behavior. -Cassie Lambeth