I remember when I first started teaching fifth grade. I was so excited, but I was also a nervous wreck. Could a young, twenty-something be respected and actually handle FIFTH GRADERS?! I didn’t know if I was ready, and I really wish I could have read a little bit of advice from teachers who had walked the path before me.
So below, you’ll find a few words of wisdom from some Not So Wimpy Fifth Grade Teachers! If you are a fifth grade teacher, you’ll love the ideas, inspiration, humorous stories, and conversations that are taking place in our group.
“As a first year, it’s all overwhelming. I organized my Reading Streets lessons in my file cabinet by unit and then by lesson. I did the same in science. But in math, I organized by chapter in the file folders. My social studies isn’t fully there yet but I’m working on it and it will be done by chapter at the moment.” -April
“Never let them smell your fear!” -Jessica
“Classroom management – if you say you’re going to do something, you HAVE to follow through.” – Becca
“Get involved in your students’ lives outside of the classroom ~ go to their ball games and dance recitals….. that will halt a lot of the negative behaviors.” -Anna
“Consistency…minute to minute… hour by hour… consistency. Model your expectations… repeatedly the first few days/weeks of school… reinforce with positive feedback… by doing this you will set the tone for your classroom… (For example, set the expectation for the first few minutes of class…do you want your kids to come in and get right to work (bellringer or reading, etc) then set this expectation… model.. model… model…” -Debbie
“Start strong!! Start how you want to end the year because they will create classroom habits quickly. Don’t be their friend!! You can be kind and fun without being a buddy.” -Christy
“I read one time that you should treat each management situation like you are a referee. It’s not emotional, you don’t have to hem and ha over what to do. You simply give whatever consequence or reward fits the action. That helped me be better at not waffling and staying consistent. Also, you will never be done managing. Just because it’s February doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep watching for and managing behavior and you’ll probably have to repeat yourself in some ways all year long, especially with some kids. It’ll get easier as the year progresses and your students buy in and understand the system, but you can never put classroom management on auto pilot and forget it.” -Kaylie
“Don’t assume that they’re more mature (they’re not!) and therefore don’t take as much repetition to learn and remember routines and rules! Spend the first two weeks practicing and reinforcing your classroom rules and management plans – when they can get out of their seats, how they manage getting their computers, etc. They will ask you questions you might not be able to answer – especially right in the middle of the million other things you’re doing. It’s okay to say you’ll research it, or they can go and research it and report back to the class.” -Cindy
To go with Cindy’s advice above: “I have a parking lot for this on my wall. I put sticky notes next to it and at the beginning of the year we practice reinforcing that if it does not immediately apply to our topic to park it and I’ll get back to them. Minimizes disruptions and hold both of us accountable. I also tell them if it’s private or personal to put the sticky on my desk instead. If it becomes a struggle with a particular student I can privately talk to them about the parking lot misuse. (For example, thinking a private note is …I really like dogs like the one in the story.)” -Ashley
“Interact with children at ALL grade levels! I smile and chat with kids from K-4 as I walk through the halls from point A to point B, every day. I attend as many grade-level performances and activities as I can. They know my name and I know their faces. After years of mostly pleasant interaction, they enter my fifth grade classroom with a strong level of rapport already built. I work in a low-income school with a lot of kids that carry a lot of baggage on their shoulders, but I rarely have major behavior issues in my class or across my grade level. Build the relationships and rapport with the kids coming up and you’ve already won over a good portion of your class.” -Linds
“I use a “10 Line” in my class to get them lined up. 1=stand, 2=step behind your chair, 3=push your chair in, 4= make your way to the door (walking), 5-10=time for everyone to get there. The whole process is SILENT and my class has the best line in the school. If at ant point someone slips up, you start over.” -Elizabeth
“They still like it when you read to them.” -Chen
“Assigning group colors, numbers, and group jobs. I have 7 colors, each group has 1A, 2B, 3A, and 4B. Jobs are rotated based on numbers. 1A will be material manager for the week. 2B will be assistant. 3A will be data collector. 4B will be reporter. Only 7 kids are coming up for their groups papers or turning in papers. Only 7 kids are getting materials. It has helped me so much with classroom management!” -Bri
“Build those positive relationships with students and parents! Connections are key ♡.” -Gracie
“If there was a mistake to be made, I probably made it. My favorite thing……. sometimes you and the kids need a minute. During independent work, while the co-teacher is there step outside the door with them and just check in. “Was the bus ride okay?” “Did your afternoon go well yesterday?” “Anything we need to talk about or having trouble with”? Also, PLAY with them at recess. Do a yoga pose, swing the jump rope, etc. Never, no matter how much they cry and hate you, never, lower your expectations of them as learners and humans. They are growing adults, but still kids.” -Megan
“Consistency. Procedures. Consistency. Hold them to high expectations. Consistency. Do not engage in their backtalk/arguments. As hard as it is…walk away. You will be so much less exhausted at the end of the day. That said…I enjoy 5th graders because of their independence, ability to form relationships and understand sarcasm, and sense of humor.” -Mandy
“Start with the end in mind. Second semester is tough and middle school is no joke. Graduation is a big deal…help them be aware of it.” -Allison
“Respect. Treat them with respect and you will receive it back. I try and treat mine like little adults. But remember, they are little, so they will make mistakes. The more they respect you, the more they will WANT to please you and follow your directions.” -Amy
You don’t have to be an expert in everything fifth grade! You just have to be willing to jump in with both feet. If you haven’t already, hop on over to a Facebook group dedicated to 5th grade ideas, curriculum, and advice!