My students are messy. How can I get them to clean up?


My class is so messy!  They leave trash everywhere and it takes them forever to clean up after centers, or art time or snack!  How do you get kids to clean up?   They will eventually clean it up because I keep telling them over and over, but I need some ideas!!


I try to approach it in this way in my primary class…

When I ring our chimes to get their attention at a clean up time, I typically make some positive reference to the activity which will directly follow. For instance, I might say….

  • Who’s interested to see what’s been brought for Show and Tell today?
  • Here’s the book we’re going to read today.  I can’t wait to share it with you; it’s just so funny!
  • Who’s hungry and is looking forward to snack time?
  • Who would like to be ready to go home as soon as the bell rings today?
  • Who can’t wait to do their calendar job?
  • Who’s interested in learning something new in Math today?

Once, they’re nodding their heads in agreement, I say something to the effect that I’m keen too. Then I quickly remind them that the fastest route to getting to the next activity is to do a good job of quickly cleaning up. I encourage them further by saying, “Can I count on you to get right to work?” or I say, “If you finish your own area early, you might want to operate on a very high level and offer to help somewhere else in the room.”

The ideas I have learned from Discipline without Stress (phrasing things positively, asking reflective questions instead of “telling” or nagging, creating a desire to cooperate through reference to the highest level of the Hierarchy) have always served me well in situations like this.