Chicago Cares Read-with-MeIf you’ve ever led an education program with Chicago Cares, or facilitated any group of children, you might have experienced a time where you felt you lost control of your students. Papers are flying across the room, students won’t stay in their seats, and every attempt you make to raise your voice to be heard over the noise of the room leaves you only with a hoarse voice and an inattentive classroom. Chicago Cares recognizes these struggles, and the education program coordinators recently attended a workshop in classroom management to understand more ways to equip our leaders for these situations.

The training, hosted by Communities in Schools of Chicago (CISC), gave us several ideas that we are eager to implement in our ongoing programs. Whether you’re a volunteer or leader at our programs, or you are seeking management skills in your own classroom, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Be prepared. We spend part of our own training for education leaders focusing on the importance of being prepared, so we were happy to see the tool reinforced in the CISC training we attended. Having your activity planned ahead of time, in addition to having some back up activities ready in case the first activity runs short, allows you time when you are in the classroom to focus on the students rather than scrambling for something to do.
  • Use a calm voice. It can be tempting to resort to yelling out of frustration or in attempt to be heard over the voices in the room. The CISC training taught us, however, to stay calm. Remember to treat your students with respect and that your students will respond better to a calm voice than a strained yelling voice.
  • The Chicago Cares RulesGather students’ input when establishing rules. Chicago Cares trains education leaders to go over rules with students at the beginning of every program, but CISC encourages us to go a step further and include students in the creating of the rules. Gaining input from students about what they think the ground rules should be helps keep them accountable for themselves and for each other.
  • Practice a refocusing strategy. Establish and practice a way to refocus the group before they even begin to lose focus. Strategies like “1-2-3, eyes on me” and “If you hear me clap once, if you hear me clap twice” are great, but students won’t know how to follow you if you wait until the classroom is getting distracted to use the technique. Practice the strategy at the beginning of each program, and use it to regain attention when you’re about to move to the next activity.

To try out some of these tips firsthand, visit our calendar to sign up for a program, or read about how to become a leader with Chicago Cares.

Today’s post is by Senior Coordinator of Education, Martha Renken.