Managing Chaotic School Days

Every teacher has those days. Halloween, the day before Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences, the last week of school. Of course, we want these hectic school days to be semi-productive, but we also don’t want to pile even more stress onto our already stressful jobs.

Managing Behavior on Chaotic School Days

Allow for a certain level of chaos and noise.

Trying to get your kids to sit through a 30 minute math lesson on adding fractions with different denominators is a lost cause at this point, and we all know it. You’re not going to get them to do a 20 page review packet. Accept it. There’s going to be noise and excitement today. There should be, they are kids and life is exciting. The task is to harness some of that energy and keep them from spiraling out of control.

Sit with your students.

Maybe chaotic school days aren’t the best for making a ton of academic process. But every good teacher knows there’s a lot more to teaching than academics. This is a great chance to build a positive classroom culture, to help with SEL (socio-emotional learning), and just to get to know your kids better. Just having some low pressure time together can do wonders for your classroom community. Plus, it’s more fun to be part of the chaos than to try and control it.

Teach your kids good habits all year long.

Simple cues like stopping to listen when you ring a bell or have some other call to attention are nice on a normal day but absolutely essential when things get hectic. Reward them for helping each other and cleaning up all year long, and they’ll remember those skills even on the most chaotic school days. (I always love using Team Points to help build good habits!)

Make the stakes low.

There should be some sort of reward/ benefit for doing the activities you provide. But if you make them mandatory or attempt to grade them all, you’re just going to be adding to your own workload. The goal is to keep the kids engaged in things that are worth doing, not to make sure they finish every single thing.

Managing Learning on Chaotic School Days

Avoid craftivities.

It’s no secret that I hate craftivities and avoid them at all costs on a daily basis. But some teachers think that they need to send home something fancy on every holiday (National ‘Count your Buttons’ Day on October 21? No thank you.) Save yourself the headache. Do you really want to set the precedent that you’re going to send every child home with an adorable, perfectly finished craftivity on every holiday? Do you need that added pressure? I promise you, no one cares. Plus, if you send them home with half finished, engaging activities that they want to do, I’m pretty sure parents will appreciate that more than a file folder full of stuff that might look good but everyone knows the teacher actually did most of it themselves.

Provide lots and lots of options.

You want each and every child as engaged as possible. If they get tired of doing a word search 10 minutes in and all you have are word searches, it’s going to be a very long day for everyone. Allow them a wide variety of educational choices and let them choose what they feel like doing and what they are interested in. Something like an adapted Math Menu would be great.

Give them things at the just right level.

If the activities are too hard or too easy, they won’t be engaged. And you already know what happens when your students get bored…

This is the time for review, but independent review.

Chaotic school days are a great time to review vocabulary (hello, geometry!), simpler/ more fun math concepts, and build reading prior knowledge with easier and engaging texts. It’s a great time for writing and developing students SEL skills, as well. (Like with these seasonal Thank You notes, or these Measurement Centers, for example.) Just make sure you choose something that isn’t going to have your students struggling and you pulling your hair out! Look back at the math concepts you’ve already taught, pull up texts meant for a lower grade level, and make sure that whatever you choose is easy to differentiate.

>Use your available technology.

Get out the tablets, have everyone log in to interactive Easel resources (try these Halloween Coordinate Grids or these Addition & Subtraction Number Puzzles) , set up interactive games on the SmartBoard, or book a period in the computer lab. Chaotic school days are the best time to use all your available resources. Just make sure your kids are already familiar with the technology and how everything works first! You definitely don’t want to be setting up log ins and passwords or being tech support on an already hectic day.

Happy Teaching (even among the chaos!)

Christine Cadalzo