over loaded classrooms

How Do You Manage A Classroom When You Have Too Many Kids?

childrenI’m on several Mail Rings and there seems to be a lot of buzz about too many students in the classroom.  I know there have been huge budget cuts across the board, but come on administrators 30 children in a kindergarten class and 32 in first grade?  How on earth do you expect a teacher to survive let alone teach? Thousands of studies have been done to PROVE that smaller class sizes are BETTER for students.  So why is this happening and how are teachers coping?  I’d like to know.

One of the things I decided to do when we topped 20 was to handle the class as two single classes.

  • I divided them into 2 groups. I have two teams.
  • Children love competition so that works well.
  • My students are young; and one thing they all understand at this level is colors, so I have the red team and the blue team.
  • Flags are easy to see so when we travel in the hall and line up the leader carries a red/blue flag.
  • We have two lines; the lines are shorter, and one team lines up before the other.  This is less chaotic.
  • The quieter group or the group that has cleaned up the quickest etc. gets to line up first.
  • Life and the real world is highly competitive, so I see no reason why a little competition in the classroom, in moderation, isn’t healthy.
  • When we go to the bathroom, lunch, or other transition we sit/stand/line up on opposite walls; a red/blue colored sheet of construction paper on the wall designates who goes where.
  • Our tables are color coded as well.  I color coded their name cards on their lockers too. The 1st 12 lockers are the blue lockers; the next 12 are the red lockers.
  • Even their folders and name tags are red and blue. This was especially helpful the first few days of school; they simply had to glance down and check their tag to remember what group they were in.
  • I might even have a “Wear a red or blue shirt to school to support your team Day!” This concept provides endless possibilities and keeps me and my students organized and manageable.

It’s great for behavior modification too.  If I see most of the red team working or sitting quietly, I might walk around and say: “I love how the red team is working quietly; I’m going to give them a red Skittle.” Watch how fast the blue team settles down!  I know there is controversy about giving candy to children, but Skittles are tiny, melt in your mouth and such a wonderful “super-duper-shutter-upper” behavior modifier! I buy a huge bag from Sam’s Club and do all sorts of math and color activities with them because of the wonderful rainbow assortment!

The other thing I do is send out an SOS to parents and grandparents.  I need VOLUNTEERS, not just IN the classroom, but At-Home Helpers too.  I have 4 At-Home Helper Bags that I wrote that title on along with my name.  I put all the supplies needed,  a sheet of directions, the number of things I need,  the date I need the things by,  along with a completed sample and send the bag home with a child.  At Open House I explained the concept and had parents sign up.  I also sent a newsletter home about it and asked parents to ask grandparents.  They could sign the bottom and return it.  This really helps me so I’m not bringing home work to do each night.  This is anything from simple correcting, assembling, cutting, trimming laminated things,  putting together memory/keepsake books, to putting art projects together that my little ones will complete.

Volunteers don’t just have to be adults either.  There are certain times in the day when older students have blocks of time and can pop down and be “reading and craft buddies” for my kids.  Ask a 5th or 6th grade and up teacher if there’s a time in their day that they can send students down that have finished their work.  It’s a win-win situation for them too.  They get a few kids out of their class, you get some big kids helping little kids, the big kids get out of their class,  their self-esteem gets helped,  the little kids get helped,  you have an extra set of eyes watching and hands helping and life is good.  Maybe this can’t be an every day thing,  so plan ahead and see if you can have older students help on assessment days or days when you’re doing things like pumpkin carving,  or an art project.

Well that’s just a bit of how I’m coping with “the population explosion!”  I’d enjoy hearing from the rest of the overwhelmed – underpaid – and overflowing ….so please comment if you have some energy left at the end of your day.  I’m sure we’d all appreciate it!