Classroom management is a key element in every classroom, something Shonda Williams, kindergarten teacher at Mountain View Academy (MVA), has learned well. After teaching in public schools for 20 years, she has a deep understanding and a tried-and-true approach for classroom management.
“Ms. Williams builds positive relationships with and among students based on mutual respect, trust, and appreciation to create a safe and fun learning environment for all students,” said Amanda Ortiz-Torres, principal at MVA.
“Her years of experience do not go unnoticed because she focuses on building positive relationships with students as she establishes, models, and practices effective classroom routines and procedures that allow students to move seamlessly throughout the day without disruption of learning. Most importantly she establishes, models, and practices high behavioral expectations for all students including implicit and explicit teaching of Moral Focus virtues in order to create a self-managed classroom. Ms. Williams is a true asset to the growth of Mountain View Academy.”
During the first three weeks of school, Ms. Williams focuses on making sure her students understand the classroom expectations and procedures. She believes consistency sets the tone in the classroom, so she takes the time to correct mistakes and give her students the opportunity to memorize the routine. She shared that hard work in the beginning of the year makes the rest of the year run smoothly.
She starts this by practicing lining up at the door. She puts students in groups with animal names, and she has them practice lining up one group at a time.
“My expectations for the hall are quiet walking feet,” says Ms. Williams. “I choose a ‘secret student’ every morning and that student will find out at the end of the day if they followed the hall walk procedures. The student doesn’t know who they are all day, so it’s a mystery.”
She also uses hand gestures in the hallway, like holding up four fingers, which stands for still, silent, smile, and straight line. Later in the year, she starts using “quiet coyote” in the hallway by using a hand gesture that looks like a coyote.
Ms. Williams mentioned that by creating a strong understanding of expectations and making sure to correct mistakes, it allows her class to have a productive year. She believes once that is established, students will respect their teacher.
She takes on a “whole brain” method when it comes to rules and procedures, connecting each rule with a hand gesture. Her class goes over the rules every day, and she models while they echo with the hand gestures. Some of the rules include following directions quickly, raising hands before speaking, and keeping your dear friend happy by showing kindness.
She is also big on kindness and respect, which helps her build a class family atmosphere. Her students know she loves them and treats them like her own family. If her class is having a particularly bad day, they will go sit on the rug and have a family meeting where they talk about their concerns. “It’s important to be heard at this age, so I always respect that,” said Ms. Williams. “I teach them that we are like a family and we have to show kindness and respect so we can learn. If someone is unkind, I address it immediately. If I let it go, the behavior will continue throughout the year and we can’t learn in that environment. If I stop the behavior, we will have a more productive year.”
Another classroom management strategy that Ms. Williams uses, mainly at the end of the year, is a punch card reward system. When a student receives 10 punches, they get to have lunch with her. Ms. Williams believes that rewards systems like punch cards and “secret student” help students work toward short-term goals. Her class also works on long-term goals, like learning for first grade. She shared that setting goals gives students a sense of accomplishment.
“My favorite part of classroom management is watching them echo what I do,” said Ms. Williams. “I model the good behavior, reward the good, and do not focus on the bad. We learn from mistakes and we are all good students. I enjoy listening to students repeat my language. They hear kind words, and it comes back into the room with students using kind words.”
Keep up the great work, Ms. Williams!