Back-to-School Survival Guide

11 Teachers’ Tips on How to Handle Children

Having trouble getting just one child to quiet down or clean up? Imagine wrangling 20. These classroom tricks will keep kids on track.

By Sarah Karnasiewicz
Illustration of a mother, a teacher, and childrenJen Corace

The advice: “If you want kids to listen, lower your voice instead of raising it. This forces kids to focus. Whisper, ‘If you can hear me, touch your nose.’ After a little while, everyone does it.”
Mary Satchwell
Chicago

Try it at home: Need to corral a bunch of six-year-olds at a birthday party? Whisper, “If you want cake, hop on one foot.” Goofy jumping is bound to be contagious.


The advice: “If students don’t like an activity, I pull out my timer and give them exactly one minute to complain. Once the timer dings, it’s time to get to work.”
Melissa Louise Page
Philadelphia

Try it at home: You can’t set a timer every time your child starts a sentence with “I don’t wanna.” But allowing one 60-second over-the-top display of whining about feeding the cat could buy you a drama-free afternoon.


The advice: “Kids who don’t write over school breaks lose their sharpness by the time they get back. Encourage them to write at least a sentence every day.”
Claire Webb
Nashville

Try it at home: If you have a reluctant writer, help her out by acting as a pen pal of sorts. Write notes to each other, leaving them on pillows or taped to the bathroom mirror.


The advice: “We have a Desk Fairy who checks the kids’ desks while they are in another class or at recess. She leaves stickers or a prize if their desks are neat. They never know when she’ll show up, so they have to be organized at all times.”
Elizabeth Mazzurco
Paramus, New Jersey

Try it at home: Make-Your-Bed Fairy, anyone?


The advice: “To get students to calm down and refocus after lunch, I dim the classroom lights, which does the trick.”
Amber Koonce
Charleston, South Carolina

Try it at home: Are the kids wired this evening? Try eating dinner by candlelight, or reach for the dimmer switch.


The advice: “Kids are less likely to complain if they feel in control, so I offer them choices where all outcomes are acceptable to me.”
Sara Lynne Schiwal
New York City

Try it at home: Scrambled eggs or cereal? Leggings or jeans? Just make sure there aren’t so many choices that you’re late for school because Miss Picky is still debating.

 
Read More About:Kids & Parenting

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