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Classroom Management: Tips to Make Your Class Minutes Count

By Nancy Jang on February 17, 2011
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5

I love teaching, and I love teaching even more when I can maximize my academic minutes and minimize interruptions and distractions. When I was a new teacher, I can't tell you how many minutes were wasted every day because of children arguing over "cutting" in line or seats for read-aloud. Kids missed precious class time during trips to the restroom, where they played in the stalls and flooded the bathroom.

I love teaching, and I love teaching even more when I can maximize my academic minutes and minimize interruptions and distractions. When I was a new teacher, I can't tell you how many minutes were wasted every day because of children arguing over "cutting" in line or seats for read-aloud. Kids missed precious class time during trips to the restroom, where they played in the stalls and flooded the bathroom. Incomplete homework was another recurring problem. Many of the kids who didn't turn in their homework suffered from an overloaded social calendar, travelling between spilt parents, or had parents who were not able to speak English. I was at my wit's end. What could I do to solve these problems? Read on to find out!



DSC00412Student Numbers

OK, many teachers already use this idea, but for those of you who aren't, it's absolutely wonderful and easy to do. Each student in my class is assigned a student number from one to 25, going alphabetically by last name. This is their number for the entire year. All materials in the classroom are numbered accordingly: textbooks, mailboxes, backpack hooks, pencils, markers and marker lids, glue bottles, etc. I used to label everything with students' names and then relabel everything the next year, so this saves me loads of time from year to year. And when a student moves, all of their materials get packed up, but are ready for the next student without changing the labels. 

We also line up every day according to student number, with number one as the line leader on the first day of school, number two on the second day, etc. This allows everyone to have their place in line without the worry of "cutting." Students also sit on the carpet for read-aloud in numbered order.

Collecting papers and grading is a breeze when all of your student numbers correspond to numbers in your grade book. I also have an easy check off list with the student numbers for collecting items such as field trip forms. You can also easily divide the students up into groups using their student numbers. I often will call "evens" and "odds," for example, to divide the class into teams for games.

Bathroom Tickets

Many academic minutes are wasted when kids use the restroom during class time. Some students genuinely have to go, but many others use a restroom trip as an opportunity to play around. The bathroom is a big draw for young kids. They are out of immediate supervision, the room is acoustic, and there are all kinds of things to play with. At our school, students are required to have a partner to accompany them to the bathroom, which presents another reason to play. In order to regain some of that lost time, I use bathroom tickets, which are just little cards that I made using clip art and card stock.

Each child gets two cards a week with their student number on the back. If they need to use the restroom during class time, they give me a ticket. Then I assign a person of the opposite sex to go with them and wait outside the bathroom door. If a child has any of the tickets left at the end of the week, they are rewarded with raffle tickets. If they need to use the restroom during class, and they don't have any more tickets, I write their name down and they owe me five minutes of their recess time. Losing a ticket or five minutes of recess is usually all a child needs to decide whether they can hold it or they really need to go. I tell them all the time that I don't want them to have an accident. I also remind them to use the restroom before we go to recess and lunch.

Study Hall

Most teachers have some sort of bell work that students do when they come in from recess or before they begin another subject. It helps to settle them down by giving them a task to do immediately and independently. It also allows the teacher to take the attendance or lunch count, or pass out items for the next lesson. Oftentimes these worksheets are quick reviews of concepts previously taught. One of the things I use for bell work is homework, which in my class consists of one spelling assignment, one math page, and one reading comprehension assignment or grammar page. In addition to the worksheets, students are required to read for 20 minutes each night.

I use ten minutes of my day as a study hall. During this time, I help struggling students or students whose parents work or don't know how to help their child, and I support kids who need some help, but can mostly complete work on their own. I also put out any materials that they might need for their work such as rulers, glue, linking cubes, dictionaries, etc. Kids are only allowed to work on homework during study hall, and they may read if their homework is completed. Most of the time, if a student is really focused and working, they can finish about half their homework during study hall. This increases the likelihood of their completing it on their own at home. I love study hall because it allows me to help kids with their homework and saves me from having to create another piece of paper to copy and grade.


Tips From Rick Morris

Many of the ideas that I have loved using came from attending a seminar at my school led by Rick Morris. Rick Morris is an inspirational speaker who has really been in the trenches teaching. He provides staff development and training on classroom management and has written several books that are well worth the cover price. I own about four of them. Check out his brilliance at New Management. There are also several ebooks available for free on the site. I utilize many of his ideas in my classroom, and I know you will enjoy his sense of humor and easy-to-use ideas.

Happy teaching,


Comments (20)

Rebecca, Thanks for your comment. I agree, it does help with maximizing your instructional minutes and minimize the disruptions!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

I believe that students should only get 2 passes a week to use the bathroom during your class period. Many students use the bathroom as an excuse to get out of class and roam the halls. Once their 2 passes are up for the end of the week they are forced to stay in the classroom. This causes less class interruptions and allows more students to sit at their desks, pay attention and actually learn.

I am a pre-service teacher and I believe that bathroom tickets or a sign out sheet for using the bathroom is a great way to keep your class going. Kids tend to use the bathroom when they do not need to simply because they are sick of sitting in class and just want to get up and roam the hallways. Giving them 2 passes a week will get more students attention in class because once those 2 passes are up they can not use the bathroom anymore during that class period.

Kathy, Thanks for the reminder. Some parents are not very receptive to it, but in my experience, most are!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Be careful with the consequences of using the bathroom pass. I had a mother threaten to sue me for physical abuse when I regulated bathroom trips.

Vickie, Thank for your comment! I LOVE my numbers too. I seriously number almost everything. Notebooks, crayons, markers and lids, glue sticks and glue stick lids, cubbies, pencil boxes, pencils,backpack hooks, and homework folders!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

I use the numbers for everything in my room as well, love it! When they put their name on their papers, they also put their code number on....it's so easy to put them in order and find out who is missing their work quickly!

Catherine, I hope the bathroom tickets cut down on the playing in the bathroom for your kids. Let me know how it works out for you!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Kelli, Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I absolutely love using their student numbers for everything and I hope you will love it too.

Happy Numbering! Nancy

Love the bathroom ticket idea. I am going to try this as my 2nd graders enjoy playing in the bathrooms during class time quite regularly.


I love the idea of numbering everything. I give my students a number based on alphabetical order, but we only use those numbers when we have the computer cart in the classroom - this makes it easy for students to know which computer to get. Your system of using numbers for everything sounds like a much more time-effective. Since we are already over half way through this year, this is something I can start working on now for the next class. I love the bathroom ticket idea as well. It is not only distracting to me when students need to interrupt a lesson to go to the restroom, but also to the other students.

Thank you for all the great ideas!


Elisabeth, Thanks for your comment. I'm glad that others are using the idea of study hall to help their kids. I love the ideas with the magnets too!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Amy, Thanks for your comment. I hope that the bathroom tickets work for you as well as they have really worked for me. It really cut down on the number of kids that had to leave class. I have loved using it for years. Let me know how it goes.

Happy Teaching, Nancy

Yvonne, That's a great idea. Thanks for contributing it, and thank you for reading my blog posts.

Happy Teaching, Nancy

An organization idea I use with my students library pass is to use the plastic name badges with the clips. An index card is inserted with the students photo and bar code on one side. Guided Reading levels (for second grade) are listed on the back. As the student advances in GR level, I mark out the old level and circle the new level. The clip is metal so it is carefully returned to the student's magnet on my filing cabinet.

I like the idea of giving each student 2 tickets at the beginning of the week for using the bathroom during class time. I think I am going to try this!

I used this one with the magnetics. It really works well!

Thanks a lot. In my school I spend 3 periods a day for the Hall. The kids sit there and do their homework. If they do it quickly enough I let them go to the hall and play. So, they call it "Selfpreparation".

Regina, Thanks for your comment. I love the magnets with their name on it. I have a similar thing with my kids that go to pullouts. Thank you for your ideas!

Happy Teaching, Nancy

I have a one boy/one girl out of the room at a time policy. To prevent kids interupting instruction, I have a "move your car and go" policy. Each of my kids has a magnetized car labeled with their name. When they need to leave the room (bathroom, nurse,library) they move their car to the appropriate metal shape. That way I can see from across the room who is out. Also if a fire drill is called when someone is out of the room I know if I am missing someone without stopping to count.

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