Vernier Science Education - June  2024


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Early Childhood

classroom management during experiments

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Selena Martinez Selena Martinez 190 Points

When performing experiments in the classroom, what are some strategies and or methods that will help maintain appropriate classroom behavior? 

Keela Uhlenkamp Keela Uhlenkamp 1860 Points

I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa. One way that we have talked about or I have observed is to make sure that the expectations are explicitly explained to the children before the beginning of the experiment. With conducting the experiment, if it is something that the students are conducting, it is very important for them to know what they are supposed to find out or what they are going to be looking for or what they are planning on finding out with their experiment. Allowing for the students to have more control of the experiment may have them more interested in conducting the experiment rather than messing around and getting rowdy during the science lesson time. Good Luck! :)

Nicolette Hale Nicolette Hale 415 Points

Selena, First and foremost, I believe it is important to establish clear expectations with your students. I feel that you should let them know from the beginning what you are expecting out of your students and if and/or what consequences they will face if they do not meet these expectations. Discussing safety is also very important. Have you completed any experiments with your students yet, and if so, what are some strategies you used that worked for you?

Carolina Olvera Carolina Olvera 415 Points

Hi Selena. I am currently a student teacher in a second grade classroom. When I was creating my 5E science lesson pla, my professor wanted us to think of all the safety rules that we should go over with the students to make sure no accidents happen. I believe it is very important to let the students know the rules before doing the activity and why we have these rules. To make sure you have “attention grabbers” to get the students attention then yelling over them. To help maintain an appropriate behavior you can make sure you have all the materials you need for the activity/lesson and make sure it’s where it needs to be.

Bianca Balderas Bianca Balderas 840 Points

Hi Selena! I am currently a student teacher in a math and science classroom, and I get the chance to watch my mentor teacher enforce the most effective classroom management skills I have ever seen. She uses positive reinforcement constantly. The school I am at has a reward system where they give "merits" and "demerits" for behavior. These are backed up by a system where if students accumulate a certain amount of merits, they can choose to spend them in the classroom "store" or save them for a special privilege. My mentor says things out loud to the class like "I appreciate how ___ is following my instructions, I am going to give them a merit." or "These students are showing patience as they wait for the next activity quietly, I will give them a merit." Sometimes it is while some students are off tasks, so they will redirect their actions so that they can also receive merits. If it doesn't help, she will give demerits after fair warning. Another really great technique is giving access to science experiment materials after modeling and giving explicit instructions on what they are expected to do with them. First, tell them what to do, then tell them the voice level you expect them to be at. Showing appreciation for those that followed instructions constantly. I hope this helps! Good luck!

Toneka Bussey Toneka Bussey 1928 Points

Posted rules and rewards always work for me.  I also use a digital timer on the board to let students know how long they have to work.  If the students are required to take notes in the journal, it helps to keep them focused as well.

Melissa Biddinger Melissa Biddinger 435 Points

Hi Selena,

Going over classroom expectations prior to the start of an activity is very important, especially when students will be completing an experiment where not following rules can lead to safety concerns.  With this being mentioned, I would suggest going over safety rules and behavioral expectations using a puppet.  You can have the students act out what happens when rules are followed and when rules are not followed using the puppet.  This presents the information in an entertaining way that students will most likely better remember.  During the activity, you can use students who are engaging in appropriate behavior as models for other students.  This will not only make the model student feel proud of himself/herself, but will also encourage other students to engage in appropriate behavior so that they, too, can be recognized.  Also, some issues may arise if students will be working with new materials that they have never handled/seen before.  They may feel “itchy” to play with the materials during inappropriate times during the experiment.  Therefore, perhaps you can have them engage in free-play (if applicable) where they have a few minutes to just explore the materials.

Hope this helps,


Annika Amundson Annika Amundson 2645 Points

Hi Selena! I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa and classroom management is actually one of my favortie topics I like to discuss! First and foremost we need to realize that there is a HUGE different between managing a class of Kindergarteners and managing a class of 7th graders. Even though the strategies may be different, making sure the class is under control during science experiements is extremily important for the safety of all students. That is actually one thing to mention to the class before engaging in the activity. It is important to go over expectations and norms for the activities before the students do them, and they should also know that these expectations are to keep them safe. When going over the norms beforehand, having the studetns help you create a list is a great way to get student input and to make sure everyone is paying attention during the discussion. When doing the experiements, it is imporant to remind students that they are getting an opportunity to use the materials given to them, and if they are misbehaving or putting the safety of others at risk, they can lose that opportunity. I hope this helps a little bit even though there is so much that actually goes into classroom management. I have pasted a link below from the Next Gen Lesson Plan website that talks about classroom management that may have more information to help you!

Kyle Skillings Kyle Skillings 4340 Points

I am an Elementary Education major at the University of Northern Iowa. I would say the best approach to a managed classroom in accordance to science content would be to keep the students involved and interested. Have students formulate questions based on what they want to learn. Have classroom discussions where rules and expectations are set in order for everyone to talk and share their experiences to one another and to allow other students to gain outside perspective. From the outside looking in, it could be really easy to think that a science experiment would be chaotic, however, I think as teachers we need to embrace this chaos. Students learn more when they use the relevancy of newly processed information to talk about with other students. Students around the classroom are going to do different things based on how they proceed with their experiments or testable questions. Overall, the point I am meaning to get across is that the best method for classroom management would be a well structured lesson plan/ curriculum plan for the content.

Keyerra Stapleton Keyerra Stapleton 285 Points

Hello Selena,


For early childhood students, I think simple is best. So for classroom management during experiments, you could maybe try singing a song that gets your students attention. You could even ring a chime that would get students' attention and have them do hands up so they can listen to the instructions that you are going to give. If for some reason, you need to redirect a student, I would do it immediately but still do it in a loving but firm manner. 

Hannah Tweedy Hannah Tweedy 2810 Points

One idea for you.  If you create specific jobs for each member of a group during a exploration such as: photographer, measurer, recorder, etc.  This gives them responsibility and keeps the more active students from 'taking-over' an exploration.  You should lay out the discriptions for each of the roles that they may recieve.  Students should be encouraged not to be upset if they don't get the job that they were hoping for.  Hope this helps! Good luck!


Macie Ault Macie Ault 3370 Points

I think it is very important to state expectations before starting the experiement. Students can't read minds, so making sure that they know what they are suppose to be doing at all times is a great start. It also doesn't hurt to give some reminders throughout the experiment students can get excited and forget what they are suppose to be doing. It is also important for you as the teacher to make sure you are following the expectations because you are a role model for your students, they are watching you and will do what you do. Overall I think encorporating experiments in the classroom is a great idea because it can really paint a picture for students, but safty is the main concern and it is important to make sure the students know that.

Josie Asklund Josie Asklund 2755 Points

Hello! My name is Josie Asklund and I am a senior at the University of Northern Iowa. In October I participated in a week long experience in a third grade classroom, and one of the main areas I focused on teaching was science content. One of the experiments we did was placing celery in cups of different colored water to see how inherited traits can be affected by their environment. During this experiment, classroom management was key to keeping the classroom clean since water and food coloring were involved. In order to keep spilling and additional out of seat movement to a minimum, I designated one member of the group that was following expectations to come get the materials I had already prepared for each group. Once this student had taken their materials to their table I asked them to sit quietly and wait for further instructions. Now that all of the students had their supplies, each student was assigned their own cup. I asked them to label their cups a,b, and c with a sticky note. While the students were doing this, I asked one group to come up at a time so I could fill their cups and they could return to their seats while the other groups got their cups filled. This kept the students from overfilling their cups, spilling, or trying to all run over to the sink at once to fill up their cups. Once each group was settled with their celery in their cups, I came around and added the food coloring. I chose to do this step because food coloring stains the skin, and I didn't want the students to get the food coloring on their fingers or clothing. When finished, I came around to each group and grabbed their tray with their cups and set it on the windowsill in the room to keep the cups out of the way, since they had to sit for 24 hours before we observed them again. I think that these management strategies helped setting up the experiement go smoothly and there were no spills during this activity. There was also minimal off-task talking or behavior because each student wanted to model the correct expectations in order to participate in a part of setting up the experiment. 

Akeili Hawkins Akeili Hawkins 1985 Points

Hi Selena!

One thing that I have found works really well with younger children is to have 'jobs' during the experiment. By giving each student something to do, it helps them stay on task while waiting for their turn to do their job. It also helps keep them angaged because they are super excited to do their part and want to focus so that they do not miss their turn. They find joy in seeing their peers do something as well. This also helps get them moving and using their hands instead of just watching an experiment be conducted and being asked to sit still. 

Kristin Preast Kristin Preast 1670 Points

I would discuss the strict rules and that if you act silly or do the wrong thing, there will be consequences and it can cause danger. I would have groups and have a system to get their PPE and supplies. Then have the next group continue with the same process and so on. Once everyone has their materials, then start with the discussion of their task. After they get started I recommend checking with each group throughout the experiment.

Gladys Gonzalez Gladys Gonzalez 610 Points

Hello, I am student teaching in a second-grade classroom and one things that works great for me is explaining the expectations EVERY time the students will begin an experiment. Even if they have done it 100 times before this helps them refresh their memory and they have set expectations about how they are to treat our materials, what voice level to use, etc. Once the expectations are set the students can begin their experiment. Another strategy I have seen is giving each table a yellow,red, and green cup (stacked). You explain to the students that if they are stuck on any part of the experiment and they have no idea what to do that they are to put the red cup on top. This tells the teacher to go over to help them. If the students place a yellow cup on top it states that they are struggling, but figuring it out, and a green cup means they understand and have no questions. I found that this best works 3-5 grade better than younger ones. This helps from having every student yell across the classroom when they need help.

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92369 Points

Gladys, I totally agree with you! Even with 4th and 5th graders, we go over safety procedures every time we do an experiment/lab. We review jobs and expectations for each group. I love the cup strategy!!! I need to borrow that!

Kaylee Nungaray Kaylee Nungaray 3404 Points

I am a student teacher as well and agree 100% with you! Never assume your students know what you're expectations are for any activity or experiment. No matter the grade or activity, students need to know what you expect from them at the start.

Cassie Elbert Cassie Elbert 3345 Points


I’m currently a student at the University of Northern Iowa, and my Science Methods classmates and I recently visited a mock classroom that is available to us in our education building. It’s set up as an elementary classroom would be with all sorts of stimulating stations and hands-on activities for children to experiment with. As we entered the room, the first thing I thought of was safety and how I would allow students to explore while also making sure they’re always safe. According to the article Science and Literacy Centers by Beth Dykstra Van Meeteren and Lawrence T. Escalada, “In recent years, science has taken a backseat to reading and mathematics in many primary classrooms.” I feel as though this may be the case because many times science is more difficult to have enough time for along with the safety risks that it comes with. In order to really allow students to explore their curiosity and investigate on their own, they need to get their hands dirty and experiment without so much guidance. Going over expectations and safety is SO important just like you said. I also love the cup idea! It’s impossible for the teacher to be at every group the entire time, but students could simply let the teacher know if they need help or if they’re doing just fine.

Miriam Luna Miriam Luna 495 Points

Hello, I am a student teacher and I am currently in a second grade class. What I have seen that works is having CHAMPS. This helps them to know what the teacher is expecting from them when doing not only science experiments but all kinds of classroom and school expectations. One of the schools that i observed at was all about CHAMPS and students were expected to follow them at all times and for this school it worked. Also my teacher always explains carefully what she is expecting from each child and gives examples of how each instrument should be handled. They also go over the class rules. For example: Never run in the classroom and always ask for permission to get out of your seats. She makes it clear that if they have a question they are to always raise their hand for assistance. In second grade the students don't really do much experiments most of them are modeled by the teacher and then the students are to record their data. So my teacher always makes sure each child gets the most out of it by making it fun and interactive but also keeping it safe.

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92369 Points

Miriam, if you get a chance, observe other teachers and see how they manage their class. We all have different methods and I am thankful you are with someone who has good classroom management. I'd like to suggest you read a post under New Teachers, where a teacher, who teaches 2nd grade, did a weather project with her class. She incorporated cross curricular content and the students had a choice when presenting. I taught 2nd grade for 12 years and that age group is very open and excited to do hands on science. I realize that we have to go slow with them at first and review rules and expectations with very simple, perhaps even recipe-like experiments, but before November, you will have a small crew of super scientists to work with!

Pamela Dupre Pamela Dupre 92369 Points

Miriam, I'm sorry, it is in Elementary Science- Weather Project.

Nayeli Salas Nayeli Salas 990 Points

Hi Selena, It is important to make sure your students know the safety expectations when conducting an experiment. If your school has school-wide rules to follow, you can ask students to tell you what they are before beginning the experiment. As the students are experimenting, never assume the students do not need any help and be consistent in scaffolding throughout the experiment to answer any questions. I am a student teacher and still learning about classroom management. Everyone who commented previously gave great advice which I will be taking into consideration myself.

Aleena Naqvi Aleena Naqvi 370 Points

One of the main things I have found is making sure the students know the expectations before starting the experiment! Setting expectations and making the students are aware of possible consequences beforehand is very helpful in keeping them on task during the experiments. Also, constant redirection and scanning the classroom is a great classroom management technique to keep in mind. Another great strategy to implement would be to point out when you see positive behavior!

Brenda Rivera Brenda Rivera 605 Points

When performing experiments in the classroom, what are some strategies and or methods that will help maintain appropriate classroom behavior? Hi Selena, One strategy that you can use is to set up the scene for the experiment. If they will be using scientific tools it would be a great way to let them know that those are tools that scientists use. This will make them feel as scientists and they will try to be on their best behavior as scientists stay on task. Hope this helps!

Anna Snowden Anna Snowden 320 Points

Hi Selena. Recently, I experienced this similar problem when I tried to teach a lesson on sound energy and felt overwhelmed with classroom management. My suggestion is to constantly remind students they are scientist and must respect the tools they are using and remind them of lab safety. I just remind students to stay on task and if they are not respectful then they cannot participate in the fun. It can be tiresome because we just want the experiment and lesson to be fun and successful. Hope it helps.

Kohleen Mendoza Kohleen Mendoza 650 Points

Hello Selena! Some tips I would say dealing with classroom management during experiments, is first setting expectations. This is always crucial, always set your expectations to your students. Also, constant reminders of what you expect of them is never a bad thing. Children always need to be redirected no matter what age. Another would be knowing your students well, knowing what they can be responsible for. Walk around and monitor your students, and engage in conversation with them. If you know a group of students always needs redirection, stay in close proximity and let them be aware you see them. Finally, knowing good transitions is key if you're doing workstations in your science lesson! Hope this helps and good luck!

Angelica Munoz Angelica Munoz 320 Points

Hello, Some of the things I do when we are doing an experiment is tell the students the expectations ahead of time. For example, on one occasion we were working on procedural text and we made lemonade. I was prepared for misbehavior when I passed out the ingredients, therefore I told the students my expectations before I passed out anything. When I passed everything out I had to remind them once again to not touch anything. Children need directions and reminders. If I did see misbehavior , I would stop the lesson and tell the students we can't move forward with our fun lesson because so and so is doing something they're not supposed to be doing.

Peggy Ashbrook Margaret Ashbrook 10973 Points

I agree with Carolina that what really helps maintain children’s interest and attentive behavior is having a system for calling children to attention (chime, clap, other signal), and having all the materials needed for an exploration or investigation at hand so you don’t have to interrupt the flow. Stating expectations is very helpful.

I agree with Keela that “allowing for the students to have more control of the experiment may have them more interested in conducting the experiment rather than messing around and getting rowdy during the science lesson time.” Consider adding in some time for students to “mess about” with the materials or phenomena before the teacher-directed experiment so they learn all they can from their own ideas and actions (within safe limits set ahead of time). By having this prior exploration time they may be better able to attend to an experiment where they follow specific instructions. 

See the NSTA Early Years February 25, 2018 blog post for more information on this kind of “messing about:” Explore, investigate, experiment, and inquire: What do we call it when young children “do” science? 

Building relationships over time with every child will make the group activities go more smoothly. Preservice teachers, you can expect to have more effective classroom management strategies in your future classrooms.

Carisa Meyer Carisa Meyer 2780 Points

Hi! I am a student at the University of Northern Iowa to become an elementary/middle level teacher. A have many field experences and one thing I have learned from my mentor teachers is to do positive reinforcements and have a behavior chart of some sort. My level 2 field experience teacher has tallies and if students had so many tallies they had to stay in from recess just to talk to her, more tallies would mean an email to parents, and even more tallies would be a visit to the principle and a phone call to parents. She also made sure instructions were post somewhere in the room or on a personal paper to make sure students knew what they need to get done so they did not just sit there, wondering what to do  next. 

Brianna Parker Brianna Parker 235 Points


The first thing you must do is address appropriate classroom behavior and expectations. To keep students on track I would give them a worksheet to fill out that allows them to write what is happening throughout the experiment. Not only is this a good tool for you to see if they are staying on track but it is also a good tool for them to look back on and see what happened during thier experiment. 

Good Luck!

-Brianna Parker

Molly Karr Molly Karr 2985 Points

Classroom management is one of the hardest things to control and be an expert at in the classroom. When doing science experiements, I have learned it is more important to keep all students engaged and interested in what is being done. Not to have several students just standing around, try and involve all students. Secondly I belive when trying to manage students, especially young ones, it is important to spend the first three weeks only on expectations and what you expect of them, with everything from these experiments to how to blow there noses. It really seems to pay off when you spend time on this, practice, model, and reinforce these every single day. Hope this helps. 

Kassidy Shaw Kassidy Shaw 225 Points

Hi Molly! Thank you so much for sharing your strategies for classroom management during science lessons. I am currently studying Elementary Education at the University of Arkansas, and in a class called Teaching Science. I liked how your strategies weren't just about posters that have the information for students to read, but for you as the teacher to model it. I have witnessed many science lessons yet,  but I am excited to see the students at work. I hope to implement these kinds of strategies into my classroom one day! 

Christy Beatty Christy Beatty 305 Points

I really think that all of these suggestions are great. i also have struggled with direction and restructuring during and after the experiments. I also think that the best way is setting clear guidlines and expectations before and during the experiments. 

Kate Campbell Kate Campbell 1820 Points

Hi Selena.

This is a great topic to bring it up because it's very important to think about during experiments that involve materials that the students might not be used to or know how to handle. The first thing to do is when planning for the lesson make sure that the students know there are clear expectations of what to do and what not to do during the activity/ experiment.  Also going over the safety rules before the lesson is huge. Tell the students you care about their safety and want to make sure each student is safe during the lesson. I think that also have a poster up in the classroom about the expectations you have of the students during these activities is a good way to help remind students what you expect of them, and if you see a student struggling with this you can redirect them to the poster as a warning. Also having a poster up of the safety rules would be helpful too. Making sure the students know what is expected of them and how to stay safe is your number one priority, and also make sure the students know that safety is their number one priority as well. 

Sara Whitehead Sara Whitehead 1275 Points

Hi Selena.

I am an early childhood education major at Wright State University. In my opinion, establishing clear and and explicit expectations with students is a key component to the success of the lesson. When explaining safety rules, I think it is imperative to also explain to students why safety rules are necessary. With young children, it is more likely that students may respond to rules positively if they truly understand why the rules are in place. Practicing the rules and expectations prior to completing the activity is also huge. Repetition and consistency play a huge role in successful classroom management. If students have an opportunity to practice the expectations and visually understand what is expected of them, they will be more comfortable when completing the experiment. I like the ideas presented in previous comments as well. Providing students with visual reminders of safety rules and expectations in the form of a poster is a great idea. If a student begins to come off track, you can reference the poster and allow that student a moment to collect themselves and remind them of the expectations. 

Alyssa Jannello Alyssa Jannello 5155 Points

Hello. I am currently and Early Childhood/ Elementary Education major. When observing my students through student teaching, I feel that students will maintain classroom behaviors when they are given an assigned task to focus on when conducting an experiment. Students tend to be more active when they are given a duty to perform and succeed at for the teacher. A strategy that teachers could use to get their students to behave during experiments is redirecting their attention. Students at a young age can easily be distacted. When students are shown and told something more than once, it can redirect their attention to focus more carefully on what is being said. Finally, letting students conduct the experiements on their own allows the students a chance to succeed or fail and determine what a student can do independently. 

Anne Lowry Anne Lowry 8763 Points

Creating a visual of the expectations is a strategy I find useful.  it also serves as a good safety rules reminder.  Also, as I teach PreK, I have something for the hands to do during the entire process. I find that when they are doing the work themselves, with me acting as support staff, they do much better and retain and connect the information better.  I will do specifics during an activity, based upon safety, but then they have to tell me what it is I am doing and how to be safe.

I like to build upon activities, so I do a lot of documentation (photos, video, quotes, observations), as do the students.  This also serves as a great base for discussing expectations for future activities and helps keep them focused.

Depending upon your class size, you might work in small groups.  When possible, let student interest create the groups.  And when I am doing an activity with a small group, try to have the rest of the class involved low maintenance activities.  In addition, I position myself and the activity where I can see everyone.  Depending upon the groupings, I have the oil and vinegar students working in separate parts of the room :)

And let the activity fail upon occasion!  That's a great learning opportunity on many levels, and also serves as a provocation for the entire class

Good luck


Taylor Seasor Taylor Seasor 10 Points

Hi Selena!

I am currently working towards my degree in Elementary Education and have been observing several classrooms along the way. I observed a 2nd Grade classroom that was taught by a highly experienced educator (16 years), and took note of several of her methods. She made sure to keep all students engaged and feeling like they had a purpose/contribution to the assignment. She allowed students to get excited and have fun with it, but also made her instructions and safety precautions clear before releasing them back to their seats. After reading the instructions/safety precautions she asked follow up questions like 'so if ____ happens what do we do' or anything along those lines to make sure she was clear and understood. But by letting the students get excited and having them channel their energy into the assignment, wass ultimately what made the difference in the success of the experiment because it created a positive learning environment that kept the students WANTING to participate and be on task (which also assissts in the teachers ability to maintain control so they can complete their tasks theyre intrigued by).  Of course it is important to keep in mind that the teacher had already established classroom management skills before the experiment, which is necessary for all educators to have before attempting interactive activities in general. A few of the little things I took note of were that she would only release a table at a time to prevent any clutter or causing a chaotic free for all, and assigning only one student in each group to get the materials from the back table. The teacher would also assign specific jobs if there were multiple steps in the experiment preventing any conflicts between the students over who holds what, who measures, etc. Lastly, her 'point' system was successful and used throughout the day, and she still utilized it during science experiements to reward those on task. The students not participating or on task typically redirected themselves so they could get a point next to their name and be recognized by their teacher too. The point system has been a success for many teachers, especially those teaching younger grades, because it gives them something to work towards and serves as a motivator to be the best they can be. I hope this helps!

Now my question is for those who have a classroom that is ultimately difficult to control, how do you approach interactive activities/experiments if they cannot handle it? What are some ways you give them exposure/experience with interactive learning after repeated behavior issues during science? I know that even with the best classroom management skills, some classrooms are harder to handle than others, so I wanted to see if there are any suggestions for those who have students that cant handle these tasks but at the same time dont want to prevent them from the experiencing the perks of experimenting and interacting with eachother. 

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