Sunday, December 1, 2013


Props for Classroom Management

Many teachers use charts to monitor behavior or whistles and bells to keep students on task. This post will talk about some simple items you probably already have that you can use to help your students.

Use red if a behavior should STOP
There have been great posts on how to use post its to teach. My favorite way to use post its has nothing to do with grammar or vocabulary. I LOVE using post its as a gentle way to get students on track.
If I notice that a student is on the wrong page, speaking to their friend, or on their cell phone, I write a quick note on a post it and drop it on their desk.
Hand out positive ones too!
It serves as a visual reminder of staying on task.

 It doesn't call the student out or make them feel embarrassed because the interaction is just between you and them.
While it is subtle, some students may catch on that if you put  post it on the students' desk, they are in trouble. You can combat this by also passing out praiseworthy post its (or bonus participation points)

2. CUPS!

This works best during group or pair work, but it can be done individually as well.
We all know that students sometimes act out because of the material. It is either too challenging or not challenging enough. This helps keep you aware of how students feel about the material.
Each pair  group  receives three cups. One red, one green and one yellow. They should be stacked so that the green cup is showing. When students have a problem that does not allow them to keep working, they make the red cup on top. When the students have a problem or question that they can skip for a bit, but do need answered they make the yellow cup show.
*  I don’t know about your students, but mine are very bad at taking turns. I will be helping one student and another student will come over and interrupt with their question. This lets you triage which students to help first, and makes it so the students stay in their seats while you jump around from student to student (something I prefer for class management).
* You can also adapt this so that students change the cups based on their comprehension of the material. If it is red the students do not understand the topic, yellow the students have questions, and green they are good to know. That way at a quick glance you can tell how many of your students fully comprehend the topic and how many need more time
Some students find the cups fun to play with, but this tends to be low on the distraction scale.

This works well for younger students, but with the appropriate demeanor you can use this with your higher level students too. Essentially you make a label that says something like “English Elixir” “Silence Spray” “Attention Formula” when a student is making unneeded noise, not speaking English or generally not paying attention you “spray them” with the spray.

If you tweet this blog post you can download four free alliterative labels (like the one on the right) free of charge! Just click the following button
*Unless you are with really really young students they will not actually believe that the spray is anything; however, students usually appreciate the light hearted reminder to behave and it keeps the class enjoyable.
*Alternative: You can fill the spray bottle / empty jar with rice that will make noises and just shake it as a reminder.
Some older students may find this childish and become offended. Be sure you know your students!

The “Silence Spray” is a type of subtle punishment for negative behavior.
However, we have all read about positive reinforcement as a preferred method of running a classroom, and the crown is a way to do this.
When a student participates particularly well they get to wear the crown.
Like a sir

This is me in the mustache hat!
*The crown can give additional privileges if you like: switch seats with someone, erase the board, pass out papers, select who answers questions etc.
In my class my students LOVE 9gag and memes, so when someone does something really well, they do it, "like a sir." 
The "Like a sir" meme is a man with a mustache, top hat and monocle. As a result, our "class crown" is a mustache headband. You can see a picture of my posing with the headband to the right.
*Positive reinforcement YAY
*The reason I like the headband more than the hat is it can be worn with most hairstyles (which is a major con of the hat per most of my female students).
* Some shy students find this more of a punishment, so be careful.
* In AMAZING  classes I find that I want to rotate having someone wear the hat about every 5 minutes (which is ludicrous) so be sure to only use it sparingly, or it loses it's special power.

I was going to put my fifth tip up here (rain sticks), but I realized I haven't used those in ages and I am much more interested in what YOU use! In the comments or on twitter go ahead and share the one "prop" that you use with your class that really helps behavior. If I find one I really like I'll add it to this list and give you all the credit!


  1. I LOVE the spray bottle! I can't tell you how often I wish I had one during a read aloud...ha! I use a maraca. It causes such "auditory interrupt" that it is an immediate way to get attention during a busy classroom time. It's very hard to talk over and block out, for being such a small object! One of my teaching partners uses a hand chime and the other a wand that chimes when you strike it off a desk etc.

    1. I love using a maraca...sometimes I use a whistle and I know some people that use a bell. In fact talks about some more... visual and auditory cues to help your class settle down, but a maraca is new to me :)

  2. Hey I am hemal from india
    I really like your ideas.

  3. Hi Carissa,

    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


    1. Thanks Ann, it is an honor to be shortlisted :)

  4. Hi Carissa,

    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


  5. Hi, Mm Carissa,
    I am a teacher too I have found your techniques really enjoyable and nice took , especially Spray formula great one . I suffer a lot from noise in class so I use the bell to stop or Freeze to pay attention .

    Wish u the best dear

    1. Mina I LOVE the bell :) I use a whistle normally. If you want other ways to settle a noisy class, check out:

      Happy New Year!


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