Second graders have had a few years to get into the school routine, so they should be old pros by now. It’s time to start giving them a bit more responsibility, and ask a litte more from them in terms of independence. Here are some of our favorite second grade classroom management ideas to try.
1. Make the rules meaningful.
A list of rules on the wall doesn’t mean much if kids don’t know why those concepts are so important. Keep your rules simple (be respectful, be honest, etc.), but spend some time asking kids to explore just what those rules look like in practice. Many teachers also like the idea of a classroom contract or classroom promise, which every student (and the teacher) signs on day one. Meaningful rules that kids have a chance to understand and agree to are much more likely to be followed.
Learn more: Second Grade Stories
2. Start with a morning meeting.
Spend some time each day prepping for the learning ahead with a morning meeting. Review what you did yesterday, go over the schedule for today, and set expectations and goals. This is also a good time to work in some community-building or social emotional learning. Learn more about each other, talk about current events, or play a game that leads into something they’ll be working on that day. These few minutes help to focus their minds (and yours too) before you get down to the nitty-gritty of academics.
Learn more: True Life I’m a Teacher
3. Establish an end-of-day routine.
Second grade classroom management should definitely include an end-of-day routine. Avoid the dismissal panic by setting a timer in your classroom to let you know when you have 10 minutes left until the bell rings. That’s the time to finish up work and have kids complete the end-of-day routine. This will vary, of course, but it should include things like tidying up their workspace and gathering items they need to take home.
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
4. Give the job wheel a whirl.
Classroom jobs are about much more than getting things done. They give kids a sense of responsibility and teach new skills. Some teachers find them to be difficult to assign and keep track of, but this is one second grade classroom management idea you really shouldn’t skip. The job wheel is a simple method; simply rotate the wheel one spot each week to assign new jobs. The student who had the job previously can explain to the new helper how it’s done. It’s a five minute task at the beginning of each week that’s definitely worth the effort. Discover many more creative ways to assign classroom jobs here.
5. Be done with “I’m done!”
There’s always at least one student who seems to finish every task in a flash. You’re hardly done handing out worksheets when their hand is in the air waving wildly, accompanied by “I’m done!” Banish those words in your classroom, and instead teach students up-front to go back and spend more time with their work. When they truly are finished, have them quietly turn in their work (or turn their paper face-down on their desk) and move on to stretch work (see below). Remind them that there’s no need to announce that they’re finished; you’ll look around the room or ask if you need to know.
Learn more: Teacher Trap
6. Try the Must-Do/May-Do system.
On that same note, the Must-Do/May-Do system is genius. Try to always have extra work available, even if it’s simply reading, playing a game, or writing in journals. This gives slower workers more time to finish up and keeps speedy kids occupied in a constructive way.
Learn more: Learning at the Primary Pond
7. Use Now and Later Folders for unfinished work.
Sometimes (most of the time?) there just doesn’t seem to be enough time. That’s where the Now and Later Folder comes in handy. For kids still working on something when it’s time to move on, have them place it in their folder. If it’s something that must be finished (like something you’ll be grading), have them put it in the Now side. If it’s not as important, it can be filed under Later. Use these folders when kids finish other work early; they can use extra time to address the items on the Now side first, and get to the Later side if they still have time left. (Tip: For students who always finish fast, occasionally slip a few extra worksheets or games into their Later side.)
Learn more: Adrienne Teaches
8. Set expectations for independent and group work.
By now, your students should be spending a pretty significant part of the day working on their own or in small groups. So a big part of second grade classroom management is ensuring they know how to do that successfully. Set expectations, keep them posted, and refer back to them regularly. One teacher favorite is “Ask 3 Before Me”—encourage your students to ask at least three of their classmates for help before they come to you. This builds community (and saves you time!).
Learn more: Second Grade Smiles
9. Use cues to get their attention.
Experienced teachers will tell you: yelling doesn’t work. What can you do instead? As it turns out, you have a whole lot of options. Try introducing a wireless doorbell into your second grade classroom management strategies. New models are super-affordable and have lots of different cheery sounds you can use to get kids’ attention the first time. Call-backs (also known as “attention-getters”) are popular too. Here’s a list of some of our favorites.
10. Use non-verbal hand signals to minimize disruptions.
It never fails: you’ve finally gotten your small reading group focused and working hard when another student shows up at your shoulder asking to go to the bathroom. End these interruptions with a hand-signal system. Kids simply raise a certain number of fingers to indicate what they need, and you can respond quickly with a nod without breaking the flow. So smart!
Learn more: Saddle Up for 2nd Grade
11. Reward positive class behavior.
Continue to work on that sense of classroom community by rewarding them for working together toward a common goal. One cute idea is the “Eye Spy” jar; drop in a wiggly eye every time you see your class working well. When it’s full, they earn the agreed-upon prize. Get more clever ideas for tracking classroom behavior here.
Learn more: Sparkling in Second
12. Recognize individual success.
Individual recognition is important too. You should always be generous with verbal praise, of course, but from time to time it’s nice to hand out physical rewards. We love the idea of these cute scratch-off cards; use them with special stickers you can buy on Amazon. Also, don’t underestimate the power of a simple hand-written note. Find even more student reward ideas here.
Learn more: Smiling and Shining in Second Grade
13. Monitor noise with an app.
Remember that tip about not yelling? Save your voice and try a noise monitoring app instead! These cool apps measure the volume of your classroom and give kids visual or audio cues when they need to dial it back a bit. They’re a lot of fun too! These might become one of your favorite second grade classroom management strategies.
14. Communicate with parents using Friday Letters.
Parent communication is an important part of second grade classroom management. Friday letters help kids be a part of this process. End each week with a writing exercise where kids report to their parents about what they learned, accomplished, or enjoyed during the week. Keep them all in a spiral-bound book, and at the end of the year, students will have a keepsake of their second grade adventures!
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
15. Set aside space for a Calm Corner.
Calm Down Corners have become a popular alternative to time-outs. As a teacher, you can send a student to that corner when you sense they need some time to re-focus. Kids can also choose to use the corner on their own when they feel themselves struggling. Stock it with calming books, fidget toys, and a stuffed animal or two for hugging.
Learn more: The Calm Corner
16. Have a sub plan.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans! That’s why sub plans need to be a key part of your second grade classroom management system. Prep in advance, try to provide plenty of options for extra time and be sure to have a box or folder ready to go for last-minute emergencies that take you out for a day.
Learn more: True Life I’m a Teacher
Explore second grade classroom management and much more with these 50 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas for Teaching Second Grade.