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3 Tips for Meaningful Classroom Management in Your Lower Elementary Classroom

Blog post by PopPD Coach, Caitie Cupples

Caitie is a 2nd grade teacher turned instructional coach passionate about helping teachers build a culture of connection in their classrooms. A strong believer in the power of community and SEL, Caitie knows how important it is to teach important skills like conflict resolution to our young students so they grow up with the tools to make the world a kinder, more compassionate place.


As educators, we know the importance of classroom management. The success of our classroom depends on our ability to support student behavior.


We need to help students make positive choices that encourage learning and ensure safety, belonging, and joy. And we need to effectively respond to misbehavior.


But management isn’t the only thing that successful, happy classrooms are built on. We also need to continually foster connection, relationships, and SEL skills through our classroom community.


Specifically, we need to nurture relationships between:

  • Teacher-Student
  • Teacher-Family
  • Student-Student
  • Student-Self


(I call these the four key relationships read more about those here!)


In our efforts to create and maintain a well-run and efficient classroom, sometimes we accidentally sabotage the work we are doing to build relationships.


Here’s what it comes down to: Your classroom management system can only be effective if it’s rooted in practices that build and nurture your classroom community.


So let’s dig into a few ways that you can both effectively support student behavior with your classroom management plan while also supporting your classroom community.


Think Prevention First


Those relationships I mentioned above? They are an essential part of your classroom management. Relationships alone don’t solve all discipline problems. But they do prevent many challenges and they help you navigate those challenges if and when they do come up.


One thing you might try right off the bat to make connection a part of your school day is making time for a morning meeting each day.


Your morning meeting is a time for students to gather as a class and connect with you, with each other, and with themselves. For me, the key components are:

  • Reviewing the schedule for the day (especially any changes to the normal routine)
  • A mood or emotion check in either independently, with a partner, with the class, or anonymously
  • Students sharing about what’s new with them (either with a partner or the whole class)
  • An opportunity to set a goal or intention for the day


Remember, every minute you put into fostering the four key relationships will pay back later with easier management, more engagement, and a more peaceful classroom community.


Co-Create Your Classroom Rules


Making your classroom rules alongside your students is a powerful way to build buy-in and student ownership.


When we tell our students what the rules will be, we miss out on an opportunity to show students that their voices matter. Teacher-made rules can lead to more compliance-driven behavior, rather than intrinsically-motivated positive choices.


We want our students to know the WHY the rules we have established are important so that they understand the impact of their choices. When students are involved in this process and see the purpose of rules, it supports not only the behavior in your classroom, but also students’ sense of belonging and agency.


And when students feel they belong and have agency in the classroom, they are more likely to be engaged, happy learners who make positive choices.


I’m sharing more about this process and how to co-create classroom rules and classroom agreements in my free 10 minute training here on PopPD. Check it out here!


Conflict Resolution


A common misconception about classroom management is that if we have a good, effective system in place, there will be little to no conflict.


But that’s just not true.


A peaceful classroom is not a classroom without conflict. It’s a classroom where students have the skills and the opportunity to resolve conflicts in meaningful and authentic ways.


Conflict is a natural part of life, and as all teachers know, it pops up throughout the school day in small and big ways. Maybe students are…


  • frustrated about something that happened at recess
  • needing to find a compromise with a classmate
  • feeling sad about a comment made by a peer


These student problems often disrupt our teaching and it feels like there isn’t time to deal with it. So, sometimes we quickly and automatically dismiss a problem brought to us by a student so we can finish what we were doing. Or, other times, we go into “fix-it mode” and solve the problem for the student. 


(I’ve totally been there!)


But instead, we should work to foster an intentional conflict resolution process that puts students in the driver’s seat. With our support, they can:


  • Determine if a problem requires adult attention
  • Advocate for their needs when they feel they’ve been wronged
  • Meaningfully repair with a peer when they’ve caused harm


Again, building this ownership for students is so powerful– it makes teachers and students partners in the work of maintaining the classroom community and builds essential SEL skills.


In my PopPD workshop, Peaceful Classroom Conflict Resolution, I’m sharing how to build this process so you can empower your students to be independent problem solvers, while also making day-to-day teaching and learning easier for you as the teacher. Learn more here!


The Behavior-Community Connection


The bottom line is that we need to promote positive behavior with meaningful, positive discipline strategies that nourish our classroom relationships.


Keeping community in the forefront of your mind can help you be intentional about your management choices. Making time for relationships, building student ownership, and supporting independent problem solving are just three ways to bring this vision to life.

Come join me over on Instagram at @CaitieCupplesTeaching for more on building classroom community, supporting student behavior, and integrating SEL into your lower elementary classroom!


Loved this blog post?

Check out Caitie’s free #snacksizedPD on how build classroom community with co-created expectations. (Perfect for returning to school after a break!)