Teaching

Name Your Glue Sticks, and Other Classroom Management Hacks From Teachers

By Madeline Will — October 12, 2023 4 min read
Illustration of glue stick with name
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Teachers have a wide array of tips and tricks to keep their classrooms running smoothly. Some of them are rooted in research. Others are more intuitive, spontaneous, and even a bit silly.

Last month, a teacher posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to share how she’s been able to prevent the loss of glue sticks in her classroom. The post went viral, with more than 130,000 likes and nearly 9,000 shares.

Educators from all grade levels said the trick worked in their classrooms—that students are more careful with any item that has a name. Sometimes, the smallest change to classroom management can have a big impact.

One educator said he names glue sticks after characters in books the class has been reading. Students cheer when they get a certain glue stick.

Another teacher said she draws smiley faces on the glue stick lids. When a glue stick is missing a lid, she says, “There’s an unhappy glue stick,” and “suddenly 30 children rush to find the lid! 4 weeks in and no lost lids!”

And an elementary teacher said she has numbered all the toy cars in her classroom to make sure one hasn’t accidentally wandered off. It’s also been great for math, the teacher noted: “They’ll count them up, then if one’s missing, they work out which number, then hunt for it!”

Education Week asked teachers on social media to share their own classroom management hacks. Here’s what they said.

Assign each student a job

Many teachers said that giving students classroom jobs keeps things running smoothly.

"[I put] 4 Shapes at each table to designate jobs, like getting things handed out or math pieces, then one was picked from a flip chart for the day to do most things needed for the table for the day. I also used something similar on field trips to easily see groups or subdivide quickly.”

Randy G.

While teachers often task students with jobs like taking attendance or keeping pencils sharpened, some assigned roles can be quite creative. In August, Donnie Piercey, a 4th grade teacher and the 2021 Kentucky Teacher of the Year, posted on X his list of classroom jobs and responsibilities, which included assignments like poet laureate (in charge of a weekly poem), ornithologist (tasked with stocking the bird feeder and tallying the birds), and assistant (to the) regional manager (responsible for helping with classroom logistics, like sorting paperwork).

Piercey commented that students typically switch jobs every nine weeks or so.

Create classroom ambiance

“I play my favorite seasonal music..... I’m very eclectic in my taste. And I want the kids to appreciate my tastes in music: Doo Wop, Rock & Roll, Mexican, Salsa, Merengue, old school Low Rider music, Metallica on Mondays, etc. It makes my job easier!”

Dina P-M.

Another teacher said she has a “calm corner” in her classroom for students to regroup.

Keep supplies organized

“Always having sharpened pencils.”

Alyssa D.

“Eliminate barriers by having all supplies (always have replacement sharpened pencils and eraser available) for students readily available at the students’ seats in bins or small caddies.”

CaraLynn P.

“Bins with a handle for each table with group supplies”

Erin Lavender B.

Have welcome and dismissal rituals

“A welcome slide for when the students come in with announcements, birthday shout outs or scheduling items.

At the end of the week, they all get a Clorox wipe and instructions to wipe down a surface (other than desks. We do this daily).”

Erin Lavender B.

“A chart on closets with the children’s names I could use for attendance, they added their card when they came in and took it out at dismissal, or if they left [early] that day. Made it a quick extra check at fire drills etc and could also have reward cards/behavior reminders there if that was happening at the time.”

Randy G.

Practice and be consistent

“As a preK and K teacher, explicitly teaching the procedure and use of every tool and routine in the classroom. Breaking it down into steps, physically modeling it, having children physically model it, whole class practices, and then continuing to monitor the procedures. Yes, this takes a ton of time at the beginning of the year, but then the classroom runs smoothly and the kids can grow leaps and bounds by May!”

Katie G.

“Teach and practice all procedures including what to do during small group instruction. Make sure you constantly enforce rules and procedures at the beginning of the school year and then throughout.”

CaraLynn P.

Build strong relationships with students

The research is clear: Strong teacher-student relationships are associated with improvements on student engagement, attendance, and grades. Teachers said maintaining positive connections with their students might be the biggest “hack” of all.

“Laughing together.”

Bodo Paul H.

“Remove the power dynamic. I’m not the big bad teacher in control of you. We are all empowered. I control the classroom, you control yourself. When students start to realize that you mean it, the learning environment becomes kinder and discipline problems all but disappear. Also, actual conversation (with one or two students NOT whole class) eliminates most issues. At that point, actual learning begins.”

Sherrina H.

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