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Management for Elementary


Susan U.

I just started subbing last month with no training, workshop or previous teaching experience. I'm literally learning as I go! I'm just doing 1st thru 6th for now. Does anyone have any wisdom to share for dealing with students who are chompin' at the bit to leave the room? Every assignment I have had I get at least 5 or 6 students within the first 10 minutes asking, "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Can I go to the library?" "My head hurts, can I go to the nurse?" "Can I get a drink of water?" "I can't find my jacket, can I go to the lost & found?" ...
and it doesn't stop all day long. I know that for the most part they are testing my boundaries and I want to let them know they aren't going to pull my chain like that all day so I mostly say no. The bad part of that is that I feel like I'm starting the day off on a negative note and I'm sure there is a hint of irritation in my voice because...well...it's irritating.

I'm also looking for suggestions on dealing with the chronic talkers. I've read that nagging doesn't work...and I agree. I've tried standing quietly by the culprits and just waiting. That works sometimes but often there's another group on the other side of the room doing the same thing and I can't run back and forth doing this like a trained monkey!

Sorry this was so long!



Do all your classes immediately ask you these questions? I hate whiners, of all ages. You may feel bad saying 'no,' but you have to because the students can't get what they always want. However, you can turn it into a positive. For example: "you may get water once I see you finished math," and etc.
About talking: use behavior strategies instilled by the teacher (the popular when is changing their card color from green to yellow to red). If they keep on talking, move them to a corner or right next to you. Threaten to take away recess. Important, make them realize their are rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior!
BTW I am also learning this substitute position on the fly. In middle school I sometimes feel I try to do too much, where in elementary it seems the opposite. I like subbing elementary (grades 3-5). Much easier and enjoyable than middle school.


Full Member

This is my second year subbing and I have had many children try to take advantage of me by going out of the room for illness. I usually handle this by telling the kids to wait until after lunch and see how they feel. Most of the time the problems are happening right before lunch. Then once they come back from lunch they have forgotten their illness. If they really look like they don't feel well, or if they continual tell me they don't feel well I will send them to the office. As far as the bathroom, I just watch and see who has used it a number of times. They don't use it during times when I am teaching, or giving directions. They can use it however before school, after school, recess and during free time. This usually helps curb the I have to go potty saying. When I have talkers in my sub room I try to involve them in the discussion that I am having, or I will move them to a different location in the room if they aren't getting their work done. I hope this helps.


A good book to read...

Classroom management is very important...especially if you're a sub. Harry Wong has written a really good book about it. I can't remember the title, but if you do a search on the internet and use wong and classroom management as key word searches, his book will come up. It is a very easy to read book and was one of our required textbooks in K-6 classroom management. There are some great tips.
I usually require students to prove to me they deserve to get out of their seat for a bathroom break or water...working quietly and consistently and following the rules...then I reward them. Otherwise, I usually do not let them leave the classroom unless they look like they are going to vomit. You get played a lot on the "I don't feel good" and sometimes you just have to make a judgement call, especially during flu season. Don't feel bad about saying no about leaving the room...you can say yes on other things that they can do in the classroom: games, free choice reading, drawing, whisper socializing, etc.
Chronic talkers: I usually follow the teacher's discipline plan, and when that doesn't work...I either make them switch seats with another student or have them sit alone for a time out period or for the rest of the day. Good luck!


Senior Member
wanting to leave

It's pretty common for kids to try and leave class to go to the health office, the bathroom, another class, etc. For health issues I usually try to ignore most of them. I'll have a student come up and say their head hurts. I'll usually say, "I'm so sorry to hear that. Go back to your desk and try not to move around so much and it will get better." This usually works after a few attempts. If they persist for something minor then I will tell them they can go to the health office at lunch. The ailement is usually gone by then.


I Bribe them!! LOL

It sounds funny but it SO works with me (99% of the time). Here's what I do.

I keep 2 lists on the board, 'CAUGHT' (My good list) and 'Ugh-OOh' (bad list). I look for kids to 'get caught' doing what they are supposed to do like coming in quietly and getting out their book, heads down, not talking in line in the hall, holding doors open for the rest of the class without being asked, being quiet if everyone else is talking, etc. In the room I slip them a dry erase marker and say shhh really quietly and motion for them to hold on to it. I then get the class's attention and tell them I just caught 2 (usually a boy and girl) doing what they were supposed to be doing. This gets them quiet really quick. I say if I just caught you go put your name on MY board. At the end of the day or halfway through I'll let them pick out of my 'caught bucket'. In the hall I will tap and rub them on the shoulder and just walk by them without saying a word-and they KNOW what just happened. Before we go anywhere I tell them I'm looking for people to catch and that I hope I can catch some good behavior. For my 'ugh-ooh' list anyone who isn't doing what they're supposed to be doing I make them go write their name on it. The first time is a warning, a check is a note to the teacher to handle how he/she wants to when she returns. This usually works for me. Oh, the first time I sub in the class I sit them at thier desks tell them my name,and explaine my 'system' to them. I also show them the candies I have in my bucket. I get good candy too like the snack sized bars, shock tarts(very popular), m&m's, gum, etc.The #1 question I get is do you loose your candy if you get on the ugh-ooh list and the caught list. I tell them no that they are separate lists. If they get on the ugh-ooh list they can still possibly get on the caught list. And once you are on either list, your name stays on it, period.

OOh, 'Lost' is coming on. I'll post more later on some tricks I've found that help alot.


First, I spelled 'explain' wrong in my post. LOL Here are some other tidbits of information I've learned over the years (I've subbed for 3 years total)
1. Don't act like a know it all You-know-What when you enter the room. Be firm, but nice. Kids will just know it is a cover up and run all over you. The opposite is true, don't be overly nice like their friend.

2. Ask one student if you have a question on how something is done, not the whole class ("does anyone know...." BIG NO NO). If someone else answers, tell them politely that you didn't ask them, and redirect the question to the student you asked. This keeps you in control.

3. Tell children not to raise hands with questions until YOU ask for questions. Raised hands while you are giving out directions or explaining something can be very distracting. I always lose my train of thought when I see hands pop up everywhere.

4. When kids say, 'Mrs.....' doesn't do it that way, say, 'but I'm not Mrs.... and we're gonna do it do it MY way. (be polite of course)

5. You will soon realize the 'one' that will be ADHD/defiant. Go out of your way at the start to encourage him/her, have them be a helper, or ask them questions you have. Many times these kids, if given respect and love, will open up like flowers and be your best kids. And many times these children don't get love and respect at home, very sad... If children tell me, "oh that's _________ he/she always gets in trouble." I tell them, "I don't know_______ and for all I know he/she is a sweet child and probably won't give me any troubles." Usually kids will say this right in front of the troublemaker and I will look over at that child and say, "right? I don't even know you do I? For all I know, you're probably the best kid in the class, huh?" This has worked wonders with me in the past. There have been very few times this has backfired on me. Every child has something that can be praised (even if it is a stretch for some).

6. If kids are talking while you are, ask them to be honest and put their names on the board. Especially if you know who was talking. Tell them you want them to be honest. Most of the time when honesty is mentioned the ones talking will fess up and write their name on the board. If they don't, tell them you know who was talking and if they don't do it now they will get in trouble (a check by their name) for being dishonest. Those with checks get reported to the teacher. Thank the kids if they fess up for thier honesty, tell them you are proud of them.

7. Assign a bathroom monitor for the boys and girls when having a group bathroom break. In front of everyone tell them to be honest in their job and tell everyone that you will believe only what they report, that you won't even listen to what anyone else says as you know that the monitors are going to be honest. This usually works well.

8. For bathroom emergencies, have kids sign out on the board to go to the bathroom. I write: Restroom and write boy: girl: and only one can leave at a time. They erase their name when they get back. This helps me as I don't have to stop the class to say yes or ask if it is an emergency. It also helps if there is an emergency I can look on the board and know where that child is. this is especially true if I don't know thier names. I forget who I've said could leave the room.

9. for minor boo-boos it is amazing what a wet papertowel will do to make them feel better, headaches as well. If a kid really seems sick, send him/her on to the nurse. I've even pulled another kid over and quietly asked if the other one goes to the nurse alot. If they say no, I will usually just let the other kid go.

10. Try at all costs not to punish the whole class for the behavior of the few. It is horrible to be the good kid and get punished for someone else being bad. The good kids cannot control the behavior of the bad ones. For me it is better to miss out on punishing a bad kid than punish a good one. Many times I will name or point out as many of the guilty ones that I can and punish them. I will say, "I know there's probably more that need to be punished, but I don't know exactly FOR SURE which ones. The ones who 'got away with it' this time have to live with themselves and live with their conscience. I'm sorry, but I don't want to punish the innocent ones in here. It's not fair to them" It's amazing how when honor comes in to play how many will often fess up.

11. If a kid won't do his/her work, say, "it's okay, that is YOUR choice. You will have to pay the consequences when your teacher gets back. You know what she/he expects from you and you know what your parents expect. You just have to be quiet for the rest of the class or you will have to leave." There is no way we are going to be able to force the kid to do the work, don't waste your time arguing with him/her. You won't win.

12. If you have kids of your own, treat them all like your very own. You know sneaky your's can be? Well these kids are just the same. Sometimes sarcastic light humor works wonders. Like I had a boy put a plastic roach in my hair or on my shoulder (my son does this with my pillow all the time LOL). I just looked at it when it fell off and said, "Sweetie, I've got 4 boys..., you're gonna have to come up with something better than that if you're gonna get me." It was quite cute.

13. To get kids quiet I will say in a low voice, "if you can hear me do this.....(raise your hand or something), if you can hear me, do this... (do something else like raise your other hand), If you can hear me do this... (put your hand over your mouth), If YOU don't have YOUR hand over your mouth right now, put your name on MY board." This usually will work by the 3rd command.

I'm sure I could think of other tricks for classroom management that work for me, but it's late now. I hope you all have a nice evening.