Responses on a Rowdy library class / how to handle discipline in a school
where it isn’t emphasized
*A very BIG thank you to all of the kind people who responded. Many of you
let me know I was not alone, and, well, that was super nice of you!*
I'm having some classroom (Library!) management problems! Our school leans
toward the rowdy side on a good day, just to be honest. Fourth grade is the
oldest grade in our building and I am having a very hard time with them as
Since discipline is not really enforced in our building - there is no
sending to the principal or threatening with study hall. (You see where
the problems are!) I have to come up with incentives for handling things
in my space. It is an often quoted joke that if you send them to the
principal, they'll be back in 5 minutes with a toy.
There is no way we can ever move on to doing really fun, interesting, or
more detailed stuff because I cannot get control of them. (Like having
them all up doing an activity? Complete chaos.) Can you offer
suggestions? Do you use incentives?
I have them for 40 minutes, at the very end of the day. There's about 24
or 25 in each class. TONS of behavior problems. Complete disregard for me
asking them to do something. Not really a desire at all to learn. I'm new
to this school this year so knowing their names is a huge problem. I'm
trying so hard but I'm discouraged! I feel so ineffective. As a whole, I
do have rambunctious problems in other grades, too, BUT, not nearly as
bad. The classes aren't as big either and that helps. All in all, there
is more of a desire to learn something in the lower grades.
Is it me? Am I just too nice? Can you offer advice or tips or ideas? Is
it just that I'm new and they're testing me? I have NEVER had this problem
You may want to create some fun activities that can be taken away by their
discipline issues. Since you are new they are certainly testing you to see
how much you will take and since there are no consequences from the office,
they know they can get away with it. In a situation like this, it is
virtually impossible in my experience to be nice to them. You must stand
firm on all decisions that you make and do not back down even when they
pout. Create an activity that everyone will want to participate in (BYOD,
Makerspace activity, video story time, earbuds music, etc.) and use those
to your advantage. Students that do not follow your rules or school rules
will need an alternate activity (sitting in silence, redirectional writing
assignment, cleaning the book shelves, etc. Hope this helps you some and I
sure hope your experience gets better!
I had huge horrible 5th grade classes last year.
I had plastic containers of magazines, but you could have stacks of books
on each table.
If the table members (have assigned seats!) come in rowdy and won't settle
down, they sit and read what's on the table while the quiet tables check
Some tables never got to get up! And of course, the children up checking
out are returned to their tables if they can't behave.
I find that kids WANT books and will behave to get them.
That said, I never did one "fun" thing because the kids would not behave.
It was like a prison in here.
So glad the classes are smaller and better this year...
We can give candy in our district.
As the class lines up to leave, I sometimes gave a candy to kids with books
in their hands, because they had behaved well enough to check out.
Another idea, make nametags on a string or clip.
Have them where kids can pick up as they enter, or on the assigned tables.
Table that cooperate can be rewarded with candy or getting up first.
I NEVER let my classes last year all get up at the same time!
I feel for you. Doesn't sound like admin is establishing a good learning
You might want to backup with these classes. Instead of trying to teach
library skills, play "learning name" games. The students will appreciate
that you want to know who they are. Also play some game that will teach
kids about their classmates to build team. Each time you meet with them,
teach and model one rule or procedure. You'll need to decide which
rules/procedures are the most important.
Hope things improve for you.
Even if there's just one student following the directions, acknowledge them
and reward them.
Years ago when I was in elementary I had one class of fourth graders who
were really a problem. Their teacher was very lax in the classroom and that
behavior spilled over into the library when they came in. One day out of
frustration I invented "silent library." No one was allowed to speak - not
the kids, not the teacher, not me, not the principal when she visited. We
had to use sign language/charade or if desperate write a note. Not only was
it really effective - an immediate change to their behavior - they liked it
so much that they often asked to do it again! It became something of a
fourth grade "thing" with other classes asking to play it as well. It's
probably the single most effective behavior control thing I've ever done -
can't say I've been that successful in other situations (like my current
job with teens). Anyway it's ok to be nice and not be known as the "sound
Nazi" which is what the librarian before me at my present job was called!
I had some issues with 6th graders at an elementary school, so I sympathize
with your situation.
You may have already done these things, but here are some things I did:
I decided where each child would sit. Once I made the seating chart, I
could see which ones could not sit together without constant disruptions,
and I moved them around.
I also released them to find their books by table, and the best behaved
tables and/or students (if no complete table is being good), got to go
first. I did restrict the number of students up getting books at one
time. If students were continually disruptive, I would sit them away from
the other students., and away from each other.
What ever you have that they want--books, prizes, etc., I would give the
opportunity for these to the best students, and make the others earn the
I also made name tents out of folded card stock with each student's name on
it by class. I stacked them together by class, too. When the students
came in to the library, I had them line up by the circulation desk and then
I quickly placed the name tents on the tables where I wanted each student
to sit. That served the purpose of helping me get to know their names
quickly, and giving me control of where they sat.
Give the best behaved students a longer time to pick out books, time on the
computer, time to do a maker space project, time to do a fun activity,
etc. Let the students with behavior issues earn the right to do these
things, explaining they are a privilege they can earn by behaving.
You may want to try www.classdojo.com. You give points for behavior (and
take them away if you need to.). You can include parents so they will see
how their student is doing-and hopefully provide support/reinforcement for
you at home!
Sounds like my third grades last year. We spent a LOT of time with our
heads down at the tables. Seating charts and really enforced good
behavior. I gave out life savers or awarded quiet and attentive tables
with extra books at checkout. Extra books really was the big incentive.
Some classes were backed up to recess, so I would start adding minutes from
recess. Whatever works. The quieter kids and the ones that want to hear
you will appreciate it if you really hold to appropriate and respectful
behavior from all the students.
I told them, this is why I am not taking you to the computer lab, you
aren't even paying attention when I'm talking to you about paying attention.
Good Luck! Be a dictator at first, so you can become the open and friendly
person you really are. Once they know you mean business and do expect
Have you tried assigned seating? I had a fifth grade last year that
was very chatting, and thought nothing of talking whenever the mood
struck them. The following week, I directed them to a carpet
square...ones I use for preschool and JK ..alphabet and picture on
them. First child in sat on A, second on B...you get the idea. If two
in a row were not a good combination, I sat them on another letter out
of order. Did it two weeks in a row. They stopped...not
perfect...but the behavior improved.
I agree with the poster who suggested acknowledging the students who are
following directions/doing their jobs. I reserve cool reading spots and
cool activities for students who demonstrate they are ready to learn and
able to follow directions. Other students may do a less desirable
activity. Generally, kids fall into line when they realize they will miss
out on cool activities. I tell students who are not respectful during our
mini-lesson or read aloud that their previous behavior showed they need to
practice following directions/listening/doing whatever work was assigned,
and so they need to use their choice time (book shopping time, choice
activity time, etc. practicing the expected behaviors. If they owe you
work- reading a story- I make students complete that before they are
released to choice time. When they do exhibit the desired behavior- I make
certain to catch them being good and acknowledge their good choice.
I used to do a reward system. Every day, they had 5 behaviors I watched. 1-
quietness. 2- how messy the shelves were while they were there. 3- respect
of classmates. 4- following instructions (lining up right away) 5- respect
of library materials. Each day, they were given points for each. They
could earn a total of 25 points a day. When they reached 150 points, they
were allowed a fun library day. I had board games for them to play, or they
could bring their own. Good luck!
One thing that helped with kindergarten and 1st grade- was creating reading
spots around the library. Each one had a color attached to it. Some places
were just tables, some were fun reading nooks, some were just floor space.
That way they were spread out across the ibrary and I had less problems.
Students were given a color, and they sat where their was. Usually 4 to a
color. Each week, the color moved, so they got to sit in a different place.
When it was time to check out, I could call each color to my desk, so they
didn't all stand at my desk at once.
Also, do you sing "Noisy Nora"? When the noise levels get to loud, just
start singing the song, the kids join in, and are reminded to keep their
voices down. It is sun to the tune of 'Are you Sleeping'- Noisy Nora,
Noisy Nora, Why so loud? Why so loud? Some of us are reading. Some of us
are reading. Quiet down. Quiet down. Works great reading the book first
then teaching the song.
First is don't even let them in the room until they demonstrate they're
ready. Don't say a word until they are listening...no point.
What I've noticed is among the best is they are ruthlessly consistent, even
when you hate to follow through with a consequence. They say what mean and
mean what they say and often don't say it meanly, just firmly. Although
much the same in this school with regards to the principal, teachers do
keep kids in for recess or sitting on the sidelines.
I had a class once where I almost did nothing all year but have them
practice sitting nicely in a chair. I would let then one student at a time
select a book, silently. It was painful (it was hard to be ruthlessly
consistent) but the next year I did not have to do that with them.
If you are making any dramatic changes I would tell them about it. And
then its up to you to follow through and be ruthlessly consistent.
I completely empathize with your situation. I'm a second year LMS and I
still struggle with some students. At the beginning of last year, the
library was complete and utter chaos. Here's what worked for me:
1. I created a "Books for Kindness" incentive program. I made assigned
seats and each table became a team. If the entire team was on task, I
would put a small square piece of paper in a container on their table. At
the end of the class, the team that had the most squares would get to put
their names on a piece of paper, which I collected and put into a bucket.
Each month, I picked two of the names out of the bucket and those students
were given a prize (a book of their choice to keep...I used Scholastic
dollars to purchase some of the newest/most popular books). What made this
really effective was the fact that students were pressured by their peers
to behave. I would often tell the students that it was not up to me who
won the squares; it was up to each member of their team.
2. Go back to basics. As horrible as it was to me to have 4th graders only
complete book check out in their 40 minute class, they needed to relearn
the exact procedures and rules that I wanted them to follow. Relearning
good habits took a lot more time than learning it that way in the future
would have. Unfortunately, I did not start of particularly strong so there
weren't any other options. Once I got the procedures and rules were really
established, the students became much easier to handle.
3. Learn their names, if you haven't already. I have two elementary
schools with a total of nearly 900 students. I'm still struggling to learn
(and pronounce!) their names. However, knowing their names and being able
to call them out by name is amazingly helpful.
4. I offer tons of praise and call out students for doing well. I tell
them that I am looking for role models. I give high fives. Believe it or
not, even my toughest students tend to respond to this. Not all students
do, but I've been surprised by how often this helps. Along with positive
praise in class, tell their teachers (in front of the students) about the
students who did the best. Be specific. "Joan was such a wonderful role
model in library today. She completed book check out and sat quietly
reading to her self until others were finished." Make these sorts of phone
call homes, too. I've completely turned some of my toughest students into
my best by making those calls home.
Just know that you're not alone. Last year was so hard. I went home
crying a number of times. It's SOOOO much better this year.
I know the type of class you are talking about. I had a group all through
elementary(grades 1-5) that wanted to talk to each other, above all else.
If you punished them for talking, they would immediately talk to each other
about that! They finally stopped when they got to middle school and were
mixed with other, less talkative, groups. Here is the plan I used with
them, and other misbehavers, when I was provoked enough. I called it " the
letter." I had a letter printed out, that read something like this: " Dear
Parent, today, in the library I was talkative or disruptive. I was not
allowed to get a library book and I will need to bring this letter back to
the librarian, signed by you, because it is important that I learn to
behave properly in any social situation." ( I had run this past the
principal first, though. He was very supportive.) If the whole class was
disruptive, I wrote this on the board for them to copy on paper,with a
pencil or pen, and take home. The whole point was to create a moment of
calmness and (semi) quiet so that we could all regroup. I only had to put
the letter on the board once and the problem got much better. I would love
to tell you it vanished, but that would not be true. After that, if I just
reminded that group about "copying the letter," we had enough peace to get
through our 35 minute library time. Having that group the last hour of the
day is just a little extra jolt for you, you lucky girl! I hope that you
find something that helps you. A second approach might be to have some
simple centers set up to keep them occupied. Some folder games, some jig
saw puzzles and some coloring/ drawing projects might keep them busy enough
to work instead of disrupt. ( other classes can use the centers, too, that
way you can set them up for a whole day, not just one hour.) Best of luck!
I hope you get some ideas from other people, too.
Our district uses a behavior system from Safe and Civil Schools. It's
called CHAMPS. When the kids come into the library as well as each
transition I give them the CHAMPS expectations.
Either a 0 which is no talking or a 1 which is talking quietly
How to ask for help: raise their hand or come ask
A- the activity
Are they slowed to move about if so where and how
Basically I say 100%
S- is success: if they follow the CHAMP then they are successful.
I give them frequent reminders such as we should be at a conversation level
of a 0, etc
I also have consequences after so many warnings as well as incentives for
It's too bad that the school as a whole doesn't have a handle on
discipline. And those are huge classes. Does the school have any kind of
behavior habits they try to promote? If so, I'd start there. Is it possible
for you to talk with the class about behavior expectations and rules? Let
them come up with what behaviors are acceptable and perhaps what the
consequences should be for not following those rules?
Have you been able to reach out to other staff to see if they're having the
Maybe look into restorative justice/discipline?--part of the way I do that
is when students are disrespectful or not doing their work they get a
warning. The next time they have to leave the group and fill out a
reflection sheet about their behavior and their plan to do better next
time. You can always have them bring it home and get it signed. Then they
have to have lunch or recess with you and go over their reflection sheet
and talk about what happened and the plan to do better from now on.
I always tell students that the teacher they get is the teacher they show
me they need. Likewise, what we do is directly related to how they behave.
So if they can't control themselves then I am less fun and less flexible
and they have to do boring things. I've had a group do worksheets before
due to poor behavior. I had tons of them, so every time they finished one,
they just moved on to another for 45 minutes. If they want to do fun things
they have to show me they can handle it.
It's also always better to start "mean" and let up as the year goes on. If
you let it go from the beginning you won't be able to reign them in.
I always find that learning names is key. If you use their names often
while you're teaching or peak at the name on their paper and compliment
them while they're working it makes a huge difference.
When I worked in an elementary school our 4th grade teachers used classdojo
for behavior management. They would project the classes points on the board
and there is a little sound when they earn or lose points. Maybe you can
set it up as a contest and the class with the most points gets to do a fun
activity. Or if you can get teachers on board to use it in their classrooms
they can add you as a person who gives or takes away points.
If you have access try using devices or computers. With my most rowdy 4th
grade class I found that when we used electronics they were a totally
different group of kids. It was scary at first because I wasn't sure how
they would handle it but it worked out great. They were still a little
chatty but the chatter focused on what we were doing.
Have you tried talking to their classroom teachers? Sometimes they're also
having problems or can give you advice about particular students or
This sounds like a very challenging situation. Is it possible to start the
class with an online story (something along the lines of storyline online)?
This way they could have a few moments to get calm. Then u could try and
segue into teaching or introducing your incentive program. I'm sorry I
don't have a suggestion for that one. But I did want to share that I
started library centers b/c of behavior at my new school (last year) and it
really helped. After check out they went to a center. Perhaps u could
create a passport - if they visit all the centers they get a prize...?
Sorry if this makes no sense, it's been a long day. I feel for you and wish
you all the best!
I work in a similar environment and this is what I found has worked.
Create an incentive, I have a progress tracker on a bulletin board (ice
cream cone this year) and every time a class has a good library class they
earn a scoop of ice cream which equals time towards a party/free day in
library class. I tell them they need a certain number of scoops by the end
of the semester and then I reward the classes that have earned it with a
game day. Individually I have already given out tickets to students doing
a great job and then pull a couple of tickets at the end of class. Those
chosen get to choose a prize. On a daily basis you need to nip the
behavior in the bud. This year I have told students that they have 3
strikes and then it is detention, either after school or during lunch in
the library. Our school does not offer detention but I thought I am
willing to stay after school one day a week or sit with them during lunch.
So far this year I told a select few in front of the class that they have
a strike and they have stopped the negative behavior
One thing that has really worked for me is picking a student of the day.
The best behaved student gets a coupon to check out an extra book. I
thought the little ones would be excited about it but it turned out my face
older kids really are motivated by it. If things start to get rowdy I just
remind them I am looking for a wonderful wildcat and they straighten up.
I totally sympathize. My suggestion is find your “best” class, whichever
grade that is, and do something REALLY fun with them. Promote it before
and after and then when the “seniors on campus” ask why they didn’t get to
do it, be very frank and blunt with them. If they are just testing you,
they should get better, if they don’t care then you learned that also. If
they aren’t reachable, do what you have to do to survive them and focus
your energies on teaching library manners to the younger groups. Hopefully
that will carry forward.
Not that I am the best with classroom management but I'll offer a few tips.
- Consider Class Dojo (online behavior management program with monster
- First and foremost - See what motivates them. Candy? Maybe coloring
sheets - that's all the rage right now).
* I "flood" the class with Skittles and state out loud the positive
behavior I saw.
- Consider a special area party at the end of each quarter. We started this
last year. We run a check system. First quarter 3 checks keeps you from the
party. Rest of the year 2 checks keep you from going. Get any checks and
you loose one of the items at the party. Here is what we've done.
- Popcorn party with movie (1 check...no popcorn but you still see the
- Ice cream party
- In the Spring we did extra recess with popsicles
Chances are you aren't the only one having issues and at least you and the
other special area teachers can work together to come up with some rules
I let my rowdy classes only check out one table at a time. The rest sit
their quietly. Those up checking out have 3 minutes. The rowdiest students
get called last and "oh darn, we're out of time!"
- My counselor once suggested having table competitions. So they are
competing against each other.
- High interest topics with library skills.
* My kids eat up the This or That series of books and I use it to teach
* Last year I read Share a Scare and taught parts of a scary story. The
students did an outline for their own scary story. We ran out of time but a
lot took the initative to write their own story on their own time and they
brought them to me to read.
Keep being nice...😉
Ok I suggest think about what you want them to do next...
What kinds of activities..etc
When they come in do they sit at tables with assigned seats..
Maybe give paper to make name tents that can be used every week..after
they use crayon ask them to help fill out a big chart..on chart in front of
class ..what other supplies do we need for names like stickers, please be
specific..."I will call on the quietest student"
Hopefully they will say holiday stickers..glitter..maybe goo goo eyes...
Tell them you will need their help to get stuff...bring in oriental trading
catalogs and have quiet table circle stickers etc...
Then think about your procedures...
1. Put books on cart, sit at tables
2. Point out new books, displays,etc
3. "I am calling on the table that is ready to get books first..
4. Institute a library helper sign up...let kids check books in and check
books out...they love to help...at circ desk..scan book s etc...
Could have another helper stamp boo k s..
5. Kids who forgot books can write note and then help put returned books
away on end of appropriate shelves..
I think wait time is helpful...I often just stand quietly till things
settle quiet down
Also maybe have some easy fun activities..pop up bookmark..comic
drawing..that can be done when books are checked out...I have a clear.
plastic shoe box in center of table..Put pencils paper etc. In each...
Finally since these are the oldest class I would get them to help with the
checkout of kinder and first grade class's books as a service helper
...also help put up bulletin boards displays...etc...
I ran monthly contests ...with free books as prizes (first books) 1 winner
Oct create a scary acoustic poem...had info on hallway wall outside of
library and posted winners in hall too..left up all year..
Perhaps changing tactics and introducing sustained silent reading for those
classes might help. After a couple of weeks maybe you could then try
mini-lessons followed by reading. Oh, and have designated spots throughout
the library where students can sit where they won’t be completely hidden.
I once cut-out and laminated yellow circles and wrote the word SPOT on it
to designate the places (I taped them to the shelves and such). Make more
than you need so if you need to move someone there will be a place.
Have you used Class Dojo? I’ve used this with a K-5 school I work with. I
started making a big deal of good behavior. Pretty soon they all follow, be
patient but consistent.
5 pt. Get to change monster
10 pt. Prize from the bag
15 pt. Librarian for the Day
I also have a competition between class points as a whole. The class with
the most points at the end of the quarter get to break the piñata. Let me
know if you have questions.
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