Managing any large group requires a strategic focus, and that’s particularly true when it comes to children. Thankfully, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We’ve identified a handful of tactics that are easy to test out, and effective for lots of different school environments.

Take a proactive approach to your group management with these five tips:

Connect with your kids

Adult-kid connections build the mutual respect needed for positive group behavior. Strengthen rapport through one-on-one conversations, secret handshakes, silly claps, cheers, and get-to-know-you games. Compliments and showing appreciation are also easy ways to connect.

Make use of attention getters and signals

Playful attention getters serve an obvious practical purpose, but the best ones are fun, too. Signals can be any sound or body movement that indicates an action — a whistle, clapping, two fingers raised, or a verbal cue. For more on attention getters, see our Recess Lab post on the topic.

Be clear about rules and consequences

Kids do best when they know what’s expected of them, what the consequences are, and when they see adults following through. Consequences should be designed to teach — if a student is playing rough during basketball, ask them to leave the game and encourage them to try another that they can play more respectfully. Try to avoid assigning unrelated tasks (writing lines, picking up trash) that only leads to further frustration — and once a consequence is carried out, let it go. Avoid warnings that don’t include a connection to making a better choice: “You’re getting on my last nerve.”

Consider learning styles

Just like adults, kids have different learning styles — Visual, Aural, Verbal, Physical, Logical, Social, Solitary — and you may have all seven learners in one class. It’s common for adults to default to their own learning style when teaching, so try to incorporate as many as you can to accommodate different learners — for instance, don’t just verbalize instructions, show what you mean with movement.

Try get-to-know-you games and silly claps

Here are a few we like:

  • Move Your Booty. Circle up — one person begins in the middle and says a fun fact about themselves: “Move your booty if you love playing four square at recess” or “Move your booty if you have been to Michigan.” If that statement is true for you, you must move from your spot in the circle. The person who doesn’t make it to a spot leads the next fun fact.
  • If You Really Knew Me. In groups of two, take turns speaking and listening. For 60 seconds, the speaker shares as many statements beginning with “If you really knew me” as they can while the other listens. E.g. “If you really knew me, you’d know my favorite movie is Moana.”
  • Silly claps! Check them out at this link.

We're seeing larger groups of students engaging in play that normally don't engage in activity with one another.

Avondale Elementary School District, AZ