From Expectations to Efficiency: Essential Techniques for Classroom Management

Classroom Management Middle School ELA Teachers

In this blog post, we will dive into effective classroom management strategies specifically designed for middle school ELA teachers. Classroom management plays a crucial role in creating a positive learning environment and unlocking success for both teachers and students. Join us as we explore three key categories: establishing expectations and routines, communication and preventing problems, and efficient classroom management.

Establishing Expectations and Routines

First of all, hen it comes to classroom management for middle school ELA teachers, establishing clear expectations and routines is paramount. One highly effective technique is implementing bell work. As middle schoolers thrive on structure and routine, providing them with engaging bell work activities sets the tone for the class right from the beginning, ensuring active student engagement. At our school, we utilize Core Chomp and Daily Grammar Minutes as our bell work options, both available in our TPT store.

Alongside bell work, it is essential to have explicit and straightforward rules that students can easily comprehend. In our classroom, we have two rules: “Respect yourself and others” and “Stay on task.” By differentiating between procedures and rules, we maintain consistency in our expectations. Remember, explaining the reasons behind these expectations, such as the importance of quiet during reading or the need for focused attention during instruction, promotes understanding and compliance among students. Be clear in your explanations, leaving no room for confusion or excuses.

Communication and Preventing Problems for Classroom Management

Next, Building strong relationships with parents and guardians is a critical aspect of classroom management for middle school ELA teachers. Establishing open lines of communication early on, through newsletters, emails, or a class website, keeps parents informed about classroom activities and assignments. Additionally, making regular positive phone calls or text messages to share good news can go a long way in fostering a partnership between home and school. Utilizing tools like Google Voice for text communication can be greatly appreciated by parents.

Addressing challenging students requires a personalized approach. Understanding their individual needs and interests allows us to identify potential challenges and proactively address them. Building relationships and providing one-on-one support to struggling students or those causing disruptions can make a significant difference. Find the strengths in these students and collaborate with them to develop solutions together. However, it is essential to hold students accountable for their actions. Consistency in following through with consequences while continuing to show love and support is crucial.

Efficient Classroom Management Strategies

Finally, smooth transitions are vital for maintaining an organized and productive learning environment in middle school classrooms. By planning and preparing for transitions in advance, such as having materials ready and utilizing technology, you can make these transitions seamless. Implementing organizational strategies, like color-coding folders, having designated places for materials, and keeping supplies easily accessible, contributes to an organized classroom. Using tools like Google Forms for documentation and popsicle sticks for various purposes adds efficiency and structure to your classroom management.

In conclusion

Effective classroom management for middle school ELA teachers is a key factor in creating a positive learning environment and unlocking success. By implementing strategies such as establishing expectations and routines, maintaining open communication, and ensuring smooth transitions, you can set the stage for a successful classroom experience. Remember, classroom management is an ongoing process, and each new school year presents an opportunity to make connections and positively impact your students. Embrace the power of effective classroom management and watch your students thrive.


This is a part two of a mini series.  Click here for the first blog if you missed it!


Click here to see our bell ringers we mention in this podcast!

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One-Pager Assignment in ELA

What is a One-Pager Assignment in ELA?

A one-pager assignment in ELA is a creative and versatile tool that allows students to demonstrate their understanding of a text through a single, visually appealing page. They encourage critical thinking, creativity, and provide an opportunity for students to showcase their artistic abilities. Plus, they’re a great alternative to traditional essays or written assignments.

One-pagers can be assigned any time of the year, but they are definitely a valuable end-of-the-year activity for fictional texts. They can be a  platform for students to reflect on their learning journey throughout the year. At this point in the year, students know about plot, characters, theme, setting, foreshadowing, flashback, figurative language… all of those terms we’ve spent all year talking about.  A one-pager assignment will allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of these terms as well as their growth as readers, writers, and thinkers in a creative and visual way. And one-pagers can also be a lot of fun for students because they get to showcase their individuality and artistic skills while still engaging with the text.

How Are One-Pager Assignments in ELA Done?

Now, let’s move on to some examples of how one-pager assignments in ELA can be done. There are some different approaches that you can take. 

The Classic Approach

Let’s start with the classic approach. A one-pager assignment in ELA can begin with a central image or symbol that represents the core theme or idea of the text. For example, if students were studying a poem about nature, they could create a vibrant, hand-drawn forest as the centerpiece of their one-pager. Then, they could incorporate quotes, key phrases, or lines from the poem around the image, emphasizing their interpretation and analysis.  You can have them write the theme somewhere on the page and put a shape around it.  They can analyze a character and include text evidence somewhere on the page.  They can draw pictures to illustrate the theme.   This is the style that I usually use, and I give my students a list of what I want them to include.  My 8th graders recently did one for Juliet’s soliloquy in I think it’s Act 4 of Romeo and Juliet.  I gave them a list of what I wanted them to include.  They had to find at least two literary devices and label them.  They had to write a summary of the soliloquy. I had them choose words that stood out and create a border with those words.  And I give them the freedom to design the page however they wanted.  They put shapes around what they wrote.  They included color and pictures.  They had to fill up the page and make it visually appealing. 

The Graphic Organizer Approach

Another approach for completing a one-pager assignment in ELA is the mind map or graphic organizer style one-pager. In this case, students can create a central image or word that represents the main character or concept in the text. From there, they can branch out, using arrows or lines, and add key elements like character traits, significant events, or symbols related to the story or poem. This approach encourages students to think deeply about the connections within the text and how they contribute to its overall meaning.  They can add their own shapes around text and colors and images somewhere on this as well. 

The collage-Style Approach

One approach that allows for even more artistic expression is the collage-style one-pager. Students can use a mix of magazine cutouts, printed images, drawings, and even their own photographs to create a visually rich representation of the text. They can layer these elements, incorporating text snippets, quotes, and reflections alongside the visuals. This approach is really good for engaging students who have a knack for design.

Why Assign A One-Pager Assignment in ELA?

One-pager assignments in ELA are quick, and they provide students with a variety of ways to express their understanding and creativity. They have a lot more fun with these than they do with essays, and if your students are anything like mine, they’re pretty checked out at the end of the year, so being able to express their analysis of a text in this way just seems to work.  

Tips for Implementing One-pager Assignments in ELA Effectively

I think it’s very important to provide clear guidelines and expectations. Give them specific instructions on what elements to include, such as key quotes, symbols, or themes, depending on the focus of the assignment.  However, while you want to give guidelines, it’s important to give students some flexibility in their one-pagers. Encourage them to be creative and explore different techniques that match their individual strengths and interests. I have found that some students prefer digital tools to create their one-pagers, using software like Canva or Google Slides, while others may prefer traditional pen and paper.  And I do find that students will be more motivated and engaged when they have the freedom to express themselves in ways that they enjoy and feel comfortable with.

It is also a good idea to provide students with examples of high-quality one-pagers. Show them exemplars from previous students or even create your own as a model. If you google one-pagers, you can find some really good examples.  This will help them understand the expectations and inspire them with ideas for their own creations.

Finally,  it’s important to provide students with an opportunity to share and discuss their one-pagers with their peers. This can be done through gallery walks or presentations. 

So I hope you  now have a clear understanding of how to incorporate a creative one-pager assignment in ELA for poems and short stories into your end-of-the-year curriculum.  And remember, this can be done throughout the year, so keep that in mind as you start thinking about next year. 

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What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom

 Over the years, I’ve witnessed significant changes in what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom. It seems that each year, there’s always new technology and social media, which we all know brings drama to the hallways of any middle school.  There is also evolving social dynamics, and we won’t even mention the shortened attention spans of our students. The truth is our classrooms are continually changing and challenging. 

And I see new teachers in my building and all over social media who look and sound defeated and who want to quit because they just can’t figure out what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom.  So, if you’re someone who feels that way, I’d like to say first of all, that I get it.  I’ve been there.  But, I’d also like to say to just hold strong… Just hold on and give it a little time.  I was told when I first started teaching to give it three years, and I still think that is solid advice. The days of a one-size-fits-all approach are long gone.  But in three years, your classroom management will get better and better, and it will get easier, and then as you continue teaching, you will continue to improve your classroom management, until it is successful. 

Now, I want to state right now that I don’t have all of the answers when it comes to what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom.   What I do have is years of experience and wisdom that I have gained by trying and failing and trying again.   I bring with me 24 years of experience, exclusively in middle school classrooms. I’ve taught 6th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade ELA in a school with classrooms that have often presented challenges when it comes to behavior.

First, I would like to take you back to my first years of teaching.  My very fist year, I was 22, fresh out of college and super excited about my first classroom and my first students.   However, if you asked me then what it takes to manage a middle school ELA classroom, I would have told you that I was struggling to know.   I won’t even go into the fact that the Internet wasn’t even around yet, so there was no way for me to find blogs like this to help.  Anyway, I did have some of the ingredients that I needed in those years to be a good teacher, but looking back, it’s easy to see a lot of what I was lacking. 

I specifically remember one class I had in those early years and a student who everybody called Day Day.  There were only about ten students total in Day Day’s class, but I couldn’t do one thing with them.  In fact, Day Day ran my classroom, not me.  And I loved her.  I LOVED her, but if I’m being honest, I guess I was also slightly scared of her.  If Day Day didn’t want to sit down, she didn’t.  If she didn’t want to do the work we were doing, she didn’t.  I vividly remember one day during class, I was reading something to my students, and Day Day was braiding my hair!  True story.  Now, this is a little embarrassing to admit, and remember now, there was no teachers pay teachers or blogs or well really anything to help me out.  All I had was what I learned in college, and when it came to the Day Day’s, that just wasn’t cutting it. 

The one thing I did have then was the passion I needed to be a good teacher.  I also had the skills to develop good relationships with my students.  Just as much as I loved Day Day, she loved me back… I would argue that they all loved me.  But there were days after school when I would sit at my desk and cry.  I knew that even though I had good relationships and great lessons, my kids weren’t learning every day.  I lacked classroom management.  

So the first, and yes, I would argue, the most important ingredient you and I need to successfully manage a middle school ELA classroom is the ability to develop relationships with students.  But, that alone will not cut it.  However, I truly believe that relationships is the foundation.  You must have positive relationships before anything else, so let’s start here.  

How can you build those relationships?  How can you get to know your students?  With ELA, it can be really hard because we have so much to cover and so much to do.  There isn’t a lot of time for chit chat.  What our subject does lend us to, however, is the chance for storytelling.  

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Story Sharing

In ELA class, we’re always reading and writing, right?  When you’re reading a story or having students write something, take the opportunity to share with them stories from your own life.  Most ELA teachers are pretty good storytellers.  Don’t hold back in sharing some of the crazy things that have happened to you over the years as the opportunity arises.  I have always done this and I truly believe it has helped my classroom climate.

One time I was on an airplane and this man sat beside me.  Five minutes into the flight, he started screaming that the plane was going to go down.  I was terrified.  I have a seriously suspenseful and funny way of telling that story.  I go into details about what I was thinking, how I wanted to kill my husband who was sitting in front of me and didn’t jump up to help.  My students hang on every word…and that storytelling.. that letting them get a glimpse of Mrs. Temple outside in the real world, helps them to warm up to me, to like me, to see me as a regular human and not just a teacher.  And you know how it is, when you share a story, their hands go up, and they want to share their own.  My advice is to allow this from time to time.  I know we’re busy.  I know we have standards, and I know that kids want to get us off topic to waste time, but if you will allow this every once in a while,  your classroom climate will become more positive and your room will become more of a fun place to be.  And those times when you don’t have time to listen to story after story, have them turn to a partner and share and then tell them to come up with only two sentences that sum up the story and let them share that way.    Their stories will help you learn about them as well.

Here are some other more intentional ways that you can build relationships with your students.

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Letter Writing

At the beginning of the year, have your students address an envelope to themselves, or a postcard if you want to get fancy.  Then, spend some time within the first months of school writing a letter to each kid.  This takes time, but it is such a personal gesture that will go a long way in building relationships.  Brag on things that you’ve noticed about them, even those kids who may seem to be giving problems.  A kid who stirs trouble for example could be told, “I have seen how you are such a leader and how others listen to you.  I am excited to see how you can use those leadership skills in a future career, and I’m so glad I get to be your teacher and part of your story to help you get to that future that is so bright for you.”  

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Praise

Some students never receive praise from adults so this can really make a difference, and speaking of praise, this is the next way to build relationships.  Praise them!  Praise them individually and as a class.  You will see a huge difference.  Say things like “I am so lucky that I get to teach you guys.”  or “My job is the best because I get to hang out with all of you!”  Praise them in the hallway, in the lunchroom, and in your classroom.  Praising your students is a way to build relationships with them.  Do it for the whole class and take the time to give individual students praise too, even the most challenging students.

What it Takes to Manage a Middle School ELA Classroom ~ A Little Time to Ask Questions

Another way that you can build relationships is to ask your students a question as they enter your classroom.  We all know that we should greet them at the door.  Why not greet them with a question that will help you get to know them?  One fun thing you can try, even if it’s just once a week is a “would you rather question”.  Ask each kid the question as they come in and get their response.  Then, when you start class, you can repeat the question, tell them your answer and have them stand up to show who answered what.  This would only take seconds, and if you want to only do it once a week, you could call it “Would You Rather Wednesdays”.  If you don’t want to use would you rather questions, you could just ask regular “get to know you questions” like Do you have siblings?  Dogs or cats? What’s your favorite candy? 

In conclusion, developing strong relationships with your students is the key to successfully managing a middle school ELA classroom. By sharing personal stories, taking the time to write individual letters to students, and offering genuine praise, you can establish a positive and supportive classroom environment. Additionally, incorporating fun icebreaker questions like “Would You Rather” can help you get to know your students better and create a sense of community.

While building relationships is crucial, it’s important to note that it is just the foundation for effective classroom management. In the next blog post and podcast, I will delve into specific techniques and strategies that can be employed to manage a middle school ELA classroom successfully. These techniques will address the challenges posed by changing classroom environments, evolving social dynamics, and shortened attention spans of students. Stay tuned for valuable insights and practical tips on managing your ELA classroom with confidence and success.

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