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Classroom management for kids yoga teachers is hard, Just as it can be challenging for Specialist teachers, small group educators, or folks who see different kids frequently.
Classroom management is hard for public school teachers, it’s hard in a studio with kids, it’s hard in camp settings. Managing large groups of kids is just tough.
When I first started teaching yoga to kids, I had NO experience teaching in a general public school classroom environment.
I was thrown into a public charter school with some BIG behaviors. I’m talking: throwing chairs, abusive swearing, chucking yoga mats out the window, fist fights, you name it.
I was terrified at times, and I lost my cool many times, but I stuck to it, I learned as much as I could from other teachers and professional development.
I tried Googling “classroom management for specialist yoga teachers” 5 years ago and found NOTHING useful.
But I kept trying.
Five years later it’s still not a walk in the park every day but it is SO much better. I am the veteran Specialist teacher at my school (the others teach Music, PE, Spanish ,and Art) and they come to me for advice frequently.
My kids come in silently, they do almost all the poses all the time, they discuss the benefits of yoga with each other in respectful debate, they lead the Yoga Flow, the create their own poses and make sequences.
They clean up after themselves and help each other. They challenge themselves and talk about bodies in a positive way. It took me a while to get here, but it sure feels like success.
So, I decided to write out some advice for you here in case you have been needing some tips and advice as well!
Tips for general classroom management in kids yoga classes
1. Set rules from the very beginning and STICK TO THEM.
Have a consequence for rule-breakers after the second reminder and be consistent.
Examples of rules for kids yoga classes:
- Raise your hand to talk
- Stay in your own spot
- Be kind
- Try your best
After you’ve talked about the rules and why they are important, let kids know what might happen if they don’t follow the rule.
Someone might get hurt, they might not be able to learn, class will be less fun..
ALSO. What are the consequences? Take a break? Step away from the group? Lose a privilege?
Decide on the consequence and tell them so they know.
Here’s a good idea of what might happen if a kid doesn’t raise their hand:
- The first time breaking the raise your hand rule, the student gets ignored and sent a private reminder.
- (Raise your own hand to show the example, point to a visual of someone raising their hand, or just approach the child and whisper the rule).
- The second time breaking the rule is a consequence. They can take a break away from their mat or lose a turn at the game.
Having clear rules and consequences helps kids a lot.
It lets them know the boundaries, it helps give them a sense of order and keeps them safe. Sticking to rules and having clear redirections and reminders helps keep 85% of the class on task and doing what they need to.
There will be times when kids can get more than one reminder or a different consequence of course. It’s good to point this out from the beginning so they aren’t shocked. Just let them know that you try to meet everyone’s needs since we are all different. Classroom management, especially in a kids yoga class, needs to be adaptable and respectful to all.
- Some kids need more than 2 reminders
- Or, they need a one on one conversation of why what they are doing is harmful to the class or themselves (this may be best done to the whole class if it is happening with several kids)
- They may need a longer time away from the team
- Other kids may need some motivation to join in with encouragement or a small incentive
- Relationship building and time spent with the kids individually helps lots of situations
- Time practicing rule following or situational examples is also a great way to remind everyone of the rules
2. Set routines so kids know what to expect
Get a class routine down. Set up expectations so kids know how to do all things and you don’t have to keep making these decisions every time. This sets you up for success with classroom management in many different scenarios.
All kids should know:
- how to come into the class
- if their voice should be off or on when they enter
- how do they ask a question
- where to sit and how to get there
- when can they ask to use the bathroom, and how
- what happens if they need a kleenex… etc!
If there is a problem or something goes awry, you can probably figure out a routine for that problem for next time. This will get easier with practice, and with consistency.
Start each class with a reminder of the rules.
Take time to set up the rules and routines for the first day or two.
Then, every day, make sure you go through them again quickly. Just name them at the start, or have a kid read them.
Have visuals up with the rules written to refer back to them when necessary. Kids have a good memory but it can also be short. It’s helpful to have positive ways to remind them of the rules at the start of every class
3. Keep things fast-paced
Don’t linger over rules too long every day. Yes, name them, but then get started fast and keep the pace up.
Sometimes during teaching, you can pause for “wait time” to catch their attention. Definitely, pause to make sure kids aren’t talking over you (that’s a terribly hard habit to break!!!!). BUT keep going quickly and match their energy more often than not.
If they have too much wait time they will find other things to do to distract them, and those things are not usually in your plan!
My favorite way to teach a fast paced class is to start with a Yoga Flow. Check out this article here:
Tips for getting and keeping kids’ attention in a kids yoga class
1. Meet them at their level, energetically.
Take a visual scan of the class when enter your space (or when you enter theirs).
I can often sense right away if they just came from a dramatic previous lesson. They are tense, or nervous, they feel bad for a kid who got majorly in trouble, or a couple girls are crying over a “look” someone gave someone else.
It’s important to know how they are feeling to figure out how best to teach them. If it’s absolutely necessary, take a moment to dive in and ask what happened, have a talk session, or a calm down mindful moment from whatever happened before.
Then move along and get right into your normal routine.
2. Use a system to quickly ask how they are doing
I have a “fist to five” system that I use frequently.
You can use this instead of asking “how are you doing” and getting tons of answers shouted or grumbled in your direction.
Instead, ask them to show on their hands: Fist to Five.
- A fist is “0,” meaning they are very tired or sleepy or grumpy
- 3 fingers up is: feeling fine, ready to learn
- 5 is: too much energy, anxiety, or pent-up emotions
After glancing at their numbers shown you can still continue with your planned class. But, it’s nice to rationalize what you see to them verbally by saying something like, “Ok, based on what I’m seeing you are feeling, we are going to try ______ today to help us feel _______.”
It will probably be the exact same class plan you already had in mind. However, it helps them get on board with it when they think that you are catering it to them specifically.
They like feeling that there is a purpose to the lesson if it is specific to them.
3. Start class in a way that meets their needs
I almost always start class in the same way with each of my 15 different classes. It took practice, though, to know what worked best for that group of kids and at that specific time of day.
Classroom management in a kids yoga class means you fit the structure of the class to the age, abilities, and general emotional state of the kids in your group.
Here are some options for how to start the first 5 minutes:
- P.E.-like warm-ups that a particular student will call out (especially good on testing days)
- Breathing exercises with the breathing ball (great for a class with some really high energy kids and some really low energy kids)
- A short picture book (good for very tired out brains or little ones)
- A Go Noodle video (good for when you are tired from teaching 5 classes already)
- Everybody in child’s pose and I walk around and gently rub their backs (if they consent)
4. Be aware of your tone of voice
Make sure you are using a calm tone, engaging your kiddos, and not exacerbating them.
Speak with energy and enthusiasm and use lots of ups and downs in your voice levels.
I hate fake teaching. I really don’t like pretending to be all bubbly and energized with a high pitched voice when that’s not who I am.
So try to find a nice middle ground.
Talk with a little more emphasis and melody in your voice. Speak a bit more slowly, use pauses for emphasis, and generally vary your tone quite a bit.
If you really do love Yoga and Mindfulness, it helps get the kiddos interested in it too when you are at least showing them how much you enjoy it.
Have fun and show them you are passionate about it!
Also, if you vary your tone, volume, and pitch you can quickly catch the attention of kids who are drifting off or not quite with you.
5. Be flexible, and adaptable
I know, I know, I said it’s imperative to be consistent. It is.
But it’s also important to be able to adapt in little ways to the needs of your kids or students. Yes, they need routine and they need to know what to expect. But life is constantly changing, and so are they.
Notice when they are having big changes or feelings, take it into account, and change little things if you think it will benefit everyone.
Have a backup lesson plan.
Let them talk about whatever was said at the lunch table for 3 minutes if it helps them release their emotions and be able to focus again.
Then get back into it. Notice life, take it into account, and keep going where you can.
Demonstrating this type of empathy, adaptability, and resilience will be a huge way to teach your kids a little about life in the most real way.
Ready for more tips on classroom management for kids’ yoga classes?
If you want videos on classroom management, tons of tips on mindful language, more examples of routines, rules, and dealing with big behaviors, check out my Ultimate Kids Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Training!
It has 3 modules on classroom management for kids’ yoga classes, TONS of lessons, videos, printables, and so much more!
My graduates say that it is the ONLY kids yoga teacher training that they have taken with actually useful advice on managing behaviors in a kids yoga class.
“I absolutely LOVE this course. You have really provided so much information and so many valuable resources. It’s put together in such an easy to understand format. It blows away the other kid’s training I took by leaps and bounds and I wish my 200hr training was half as organized. Well worth every penny spent!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You are truly an inspiration!!”