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Elementary Science

Classroom Management Skills

Author Post
Caroline Harger Caroline Harger 190 Points

Hi all! 

My name is Caroline and wanted some advice on classroom management during science. If the class is involved in a lot of project-based curriculum what are ways to keep students focused and on task while still having the freedom that comes with experiements? 

Thank you! 

Ellie Meade Ellie Meade 2045 Points

Hi Caroline, 

My name is Ellie and I am a senior majoring in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I currently in a science methods and classroom management course. One thing I would suggest to keep your students focused and on task while still having the freedom when it comes to experiments would have each student assigned different tasks throughout the experiment. This will allow the students to be responsible for having a specific 'job' to do throughout the experiment, but also help giving them the freedom during the experiment. You can even have the students switch roles on different days for them to learn different tasks. This will keep the learning interesting and engaging.  Another thing I would suggest is laying out expectations in the very beginning of each project-based. By doing this, your students will know what your expectations are during each experiment. 

Ryan Veencamp Ryan Veencamp 1760 Points

Howdy Caroline! Freedom and on-task are two concepts that are hard to keep at the same level in my classrooms. Some ground rules need to be establish for labs and experiments. Allows them to explore in ways that might seem 'off-task', but students really need to explore and experiement some ideas on their own. At a younger level, we would call this 'playing', and it's so necessary for kids to do this. For your students, maybe create an accountablility sheet or assessment that would keep everyone in check. Maybe have accountablility partners, to check each other on how they are doing each day.

Stephanie Sterbenz Stephanie Sterbenz 1485 Points

Hello Caroline, 


I think this is a good question that is hard to answer. I think first off you need to just know what your class is capable of handeling, once you figure out what your students are able to handel I think you can assign roles within the projects. You can give the more mature students the job of keeping people more on task. The students that struggle with staying on task I think they need the more fun jobs in the projects. so that way they are more likely to stay focused and involved in the project. Another option would be to figure out what your students interests are and put them in a position that they are able to use their talents and interests.


I hope this helps.

Aaron Grinstead Aaron Grinstead 1965 Points

Hi Caroline,

I feel that the best way to help manage behavior would be to make sure you give the students clear expectations at the beginning of the lesson. If this does not stop the misbehavior you would remind the student(s) that they will deal with the consequences if they continue acting out. I know that giving them chances to explore with hands-on activities and really getting to see what the lesson is about is a great way to keep them engaged and on task, as long as you keep giving them gentle reminders what is expected. In the end, as long as you come prepared and stay confident the management will take care of itself.

Derrick Lietz Derrick Lietz 438 Points

Hi Caroline,


I think one method you could try is giving each student a job related to the experiment. You could try giving each position a fun name related to the experiment as well. Through giving each student a job, every student will have to contribute in some way and feel more tied to the project. Good luck!


- Derrick

Margaret Howard Margaret Howard 180 Points

I think it is important to ake into account that if a lesson is planned well and thorughly then students will be engaged with materials and work and hopefully, for the mos tpart, classroom management will be taken care of!

Maria Salazar-Perez Maria Salazar-Perez 505 Points

Hi Caroline! Experiments and labs are great, but as you mentioned, keeping students on task and focused can be tricky! I think the first big step would be to make sure that you over all implement a good system for classroom management. If students know what the general expectations in your classroom is, they should know to follow those during experiments/labs as well. However, labs and experiments created a different, more hands-on, environment than what students are used to, and this is where disruptions happen. Properly planning the experiments and labs so that there is very little time where students are not engaged in an activity would help keep students from becoming distracted. Talking to students and teaching them how to hold themselves and their partners/group mates accountable can also be a great help. I’m in a third-grade classroom and it warms my heart when I hear my 8-9-year old’s reminding each other to stay on task and to focus on their work.

Marc Hampton Marc Hampton 1135 Points

I recently had a mid-life career change and am going back to school to be an Elementary teacher, but I think I have some past experience that may be relevant to your question.  One thing that I have learned in the corporate world (business folks are not really all that different from elementary school students) is to have distinct jobs for each student and then have them create a task list or to-do list each lab/project period.  This will not only help them put some forethought into what they need to do, but also can track whether or not they did it.  In the event that the list changes, that’s fine, just set the expectations that they document what they did, what changed, and why. This will provide a level of accountability and also give you some insight into their thought process so you can provide some additional feedback to them if needed.

Kaylynne Bratton Kaylynne Bratton 1985 Points

This is a great question! I believe that classroom management is something that all teachers struggle with, especially during project-based learning time! Something I will implement in my classroom is expectations and rules that apply during that time, and if they aren't followed the students will lose their priveledge to work with others. 

I am in a classroom management class right now, and we have been discussing different theorists positions on classroom management. From what I have learned, I will apply the skills and ideas of being an assertive teacher with many expectations for students. However, it is important that the students are aware of the expectations for them. It is also important for the classroom culture to be inviting and a place where students feel valued. 

In my opinion, to help project-based learning go more smoothly it is all linked to setting a classroom culture of expectations that the students are striving to meet and this is something that needs to be applied early on.


Hope this helps!


Abby Moore Abby Moore 1895 Points

Hi Caroline,

I am a pre-service teacher at the University of Northern Iowa. The first suggestion I have to keep your students focused and on task during experiments is to set clear expectations and guidelines. By setting expectations and guidelines, your students know what is expected of their behavior during the experiment. The clear guidelines help avoid confusion during the experiment. Another suggestion would be to assign different roles to your students. This gives each student a 'job' which is very motivating and engaging for them. You should switch these roles often so students are able to experience different roles related to the experiment. This will allow for the students to learn something different every day. Good luck!

Camille Henry Camille Henry 2040 Points

I have also had this question personally, but I have some advice from my Professors and cooperating teachers that you may find helpful! 

First, if the activity is engaging and exciting, students will stay on task themselves. They WANT to explore if it is interesting! If your students are extremely off task, you may need to reconsider the activity and adjust it depending on students interest. 

Second, students do like structure when it comes to exploring. Give them a set of guidelines or 'starters' to get exploring, and then encourage them to broaden their exploration!

Lastly, allow them to be off task. Some of the best learning happens when they are interested and engaged in the material, but they also need time to relax and explore without pressures. 


Best of luck!


Presada Clark Presada Clark 300 Points

Hi everyone, 

I am a teacher candidate at Missouri Western State University and came to this forum in hopes of getting some good advice on classroom management, as I feel that is the area I am weakest in. Thank you all for such good advice and suggestions and thank you, Caroline, for starting this forum!

This is such a lovely community,


Alison Becicka Alison Becicka 3120 Points

Hello! I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa and I think that one of the best things you can do for your students during student led instruction is to make sure that all expectations are clear and that they have a reason. Otherwise, I think that if the investigations students are carrying out and the problems they are investigating are engaging enough, then classroom management issues decline naturally. I think as a teacher sometimes it is important to step back and allow some noise in the classroom, because discussion and talking during this type of exploring and engaging with the content is so necessary to student understanding. Above all, don't be afraid of some noise! If you see students getting off task, then the question they posed may not be engaging enough or they may be stumped. Give them some feedback and present some new questions and you may see them engaged again. 

Autumn Rose Autumn Rose 810 Points

Giving each student a job within their team will help with classroom management and keep the students engaged. Requiring each student to complete a lab report will help make sure that each student is participating in the activity and that one student is completing all the work.

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