Classroom management can definitely be a challenge in any regular classroom. When you throw in the excitement of a science lab, it can become even more challenging! Sometimes students don’t always look at this time as academic and off-task behavior can occur. When it comes to managing science labs, how can we make sure students are learning?
Managing Science Labs in Upper Elementary
1.) First, you want to make sure that you have excellent classroom management that can carry over into your science labs. Students need to be taught the procedures and routines so that they know exactly what is expected of them. With proper classroom management, your class can manage itself!
2.) Another key component to managing science labs is to be prepared ahead of time. This means that you have performed the lab yourself and are aware of what to expect during it. If you are a science person, try to think like a non-science person to imagine what students may think and wonder during the lab.
3.) Choose to organize. You may wish to gather all your materials in bins and have a “material collector” pick up just one bin for his/her group, or you may wish to layout your lab materials in a cafeteria-style fashion.
In a cafeteria-style fashion, the “material collector” moves in a line down through several groups of materials and picks up one of each item needed. A list of needed items is displayed on the board and a model of a complete set of materials is displayed by a doc cam or near the materials.
4.) Plan ahead. Often when planning science labs, students have to work in groups. Plan ahead and decide which students will work together. Try to include a variety of students in each group so that it is balanced. I mention 8 different ways you can group students in this blog post.
5.) Give a lab grade. Consider giving a lab grade, even if it’s just points for participation. Provide students with a rubric (such as the one below) that they can glue into their notebooks. Explain and even model what good behavior looks like. Then during the lab, walk around with a class roster and anytime a student is off task or misbehaves, place a minus sign in a column next to their name. If they are doing something exceptionally well, give them a plus. Students who have a minus lose points, whereas a student with a plus earn points.
6.) Talk about safety. It’s critical that before each lab you remind students about any potential dangers of that lab. It’s also important to remind students of any safety materials they need to use. This is when I use my Science Tools Interactive Toolkit. Always have zero-tolerance to misbehaving when it comes to safety!
7.) Reward students. Occasionally, without warning, just provide a group with a reward of some sort when they demonstrate your lab expectations, whether it be they are all working well together or are all on task. This will definitely perk up the ears of the other students and their behavior!
8.) Clean up! The last and just as important part of managing science labs is the cleanup process. Always keep an eye on the clock and save some time toward the end for students to clean up both their desks and the materials. Students or your “material collector” should return them where they belong. At the end of the lab, everything should look the same as it began. If it doesn’t, then the consequence has to be that they can’t move on until it’s taken care of, or they can’t have future labs.
When it comes to managing science labs, it can be easy as pie with these 8 tips! It definitely doesn’t have to be a struggle.
You can download the Science Lab Rubric FREE by clicking here!
May your science labs run smoothly all year–
We are so excited to get this school year rolling and helping you focus on easy classroom management! Check out these other classroom management and organization ideas for upper elementary!
Organizational Tips for Reading Conferences // Think Grow Giggle
The Easiest Student-Led Behavior Management Strategy // Tarheelstate Teacher
Classroom Management Ideas for the Science Classroom // Samson’s Shoppe
Managing Your Science Labs // The Owl Teacher
3 Tried & True Tips to Start the Year Off Right // Tried & True Teaching Tools