Stacking Chairs… A very basic Primary classroom management approach

Now you maybe think I have gone crazy here by writing about stacking chairs…well perhaps a little bit ! But hey who cares !

How is this relevant to anything involved in teaching or classroom organisation or the school – good question…so listen up !

Let me tell the  setting and how this came about – it was in a school that I was working and the usual end of the day procedure was that we put all the stuff away – tidied the desks and looked for rubbish on the floor. Ok straight forward enough and we had our little routine all sorted….no problems.

However to throw a spanner in the works came the order from above that the chairs now had to be stacked at the end of the day. This of course caused confusion – should they be put on desks or stacked separately…this had to be planned !

I can hear you laughing as I write this….its a simple task Charles why are you making so much of it??

Ok so clarification sought we had to stack all the chairs in piles of 6 at the front of the class…..we needed to be organised. Just think of it – 32 children all “armed” with chairs…chairs legs protruding forward like knights jousting and rushing towards the front. It had the possibility of complete carnage!!

If we simplify this we can then get table by table to bring their chairs out and stack them at the front….(legs carried downwards – which my class had already been taught in order to move chairs to the hall at certain times….nothing worse than getting stabbed in the back from the person behind you)

Of course then there is the problem of the noise…..the valued members of my class would love nothing better than to throw their chairs on top of each other causing as much noise as possible….why wouldn’t you??

And lastly how much time at the end of the day do we allocate to this…5 minutes…10 minutes…..we had to get organised – and we did!

I think we started off by allowing 3 minutes to stack these chairs and to be back standing behind our desks – and all done in silence!

I can hear you shout “impossible”….and unless you have the accompanying criteria it will be and here is the place where you have to look behind the activity to the foundations of what was going on.

A large clock was placed on my desk at the front to time the 3 minutes…..I was “big ben” effectively and called the times at 30 second intervals.

The chairs had to be stacked in silence….well very quietly indeed. Any clattering meant that the clock was stopped and all the chairs handed back out to everybody who returned to their desks and sat down again- we now had less time to stack those chairs as the clock was not reset.

Any talking had to be quiet….no calling out

And the final “piece de resistance” was that if the clock time ran out and the chairs were not stacked then chair stacking would be practiced 2 or 3 times in the next days morning playtime.

If they were stacked correctly then we all went home…happy days!

All very specific – all laid out expectations.

What happened was this :-

The first couple of times we failed miserably ….too much clattering or people getting in each others way and shouting out or we simply ran out of time because we had to restart 2 or 3 times.

But – then what. The class (without my help) started to get organised.

Instead of everybody stacking their own chairs they had nominated stackers for each pile…you just passed him or her your chair which was stacked quietly…at the top of the pile 2 people may stack to avoid noise. Groups had their own routes to the front so as  not to cross other groups and the children talked and co-operated together.

Getting the picture….what had the potential to be a noisy and disorganised event at the end of each day became a well organised quiet and to be quite honest  a pretty slick happening!

Given the task – given the expectations from the teacher and being made aware of what happens if these are not met then the children organised themselves and matched the challenge…even helping the recognised weaker members of the class.

Its a simple example but look at the foundations and apply these basic principles across other activities and within your classroom organisation ….. Its formula for success.

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