Whether you’re a brand new teacher, a veteran, or somewhere in between, you’ve probably encountered a challenging student or two in the classroom. I know I have. It’s important to create an environment that is welcoming, but also one where learning can take place. Here are some classroom management tips to help you maintain that balance.
CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT TIPS FOR TEACHERS
One of the first things I learned about teaching was to always be prepared. That means making sure to plan lessons carefully. As a new teacher, it can be difficult to estimate how long each lesson component might take. I recommend making notes in your lesson plan book at the end of the day or at the end of the week. Be sure to note certain aspects that took either more or less time than expected as well as lessons that will need additional student accommodations next time.
I think it’s also important to have a back-up plan. I often referred to this as my teacher bag of tricks. This would include 5-10 minute activities that I could use at a moment’s notice. Sometimes it included a paper and pencil activity, other times it would be a book, ice breaker, or brain break activity. You never know when your technology will fail or when there might be a delay while waiting for specialists to begin.
SET CLEAR EXPECTATIONS
Before the school year begins, you should have an idea of what your rules and expectations will be. You can also involve your students in this process. Think about how you want your students to do things (enter the classroom, sharpen pencils, get a drink of water, ask to use the restroom, etc.). Make a list of these procedures and model how you want them done. Then practice, practice, practice until your students can do them correctly. One of the hardest for my students was transitioning from one activity to the next quickly, quietly, and safely. Don’t be afraid to revisit and practice these expectations throughout the year – especially after long weekends and holidays. Your kids will need it!
ESTABLISH A SYSTEM OF REWARDS AND CONSEQUENCES
Once you have set your expectations, it’s time to establish a system of rewards and consequences. How will your students be recognized for making good choices and following directions? What are the steps that will happen when students do not follow the rules? The first thing you need to do is look into your schoolwide expectations and policies and make sure you are following protocol.
My school had a building-wide system of recognizing positive behavior choices with blue slips. Students would submit these into a school-wide drawing for small prizes. In the classroom, I helped my students set classroom goals. When they met a goal, we would have a small celebration before setting a new goal. I also used classroom money and reward coupons.
As for consequences, these were really dependent on the behavior or choices. For most instances, consequences took place directly in the classroom (loss of free choice or recess, think time, behavior note home, etc.). For students who were unsafe or a danger to others, I was in direct contact with our school counselor, instructional specialist, and principal.
Once you have set clear expectations and have established a system in your classroom, you need to follow through and be consistent. I used classroom goals with my students. We didn’t just set a goal, put the goal tracker on the wall, and then expect the magic to happen. We would actively make it part of our day. That means talking about it, practicing, monitoring progress, complimenting students, problem solving, and holding students accountable when things don’t go as planned.
For example, if your classroom goal is for students to line up quickly and quietly to leave the classroom, then that’s what needs to happen every single time. When it doesn’t, students need to return to their seats and try it again. Sometimes it might take more than once to get it right and that’s okay. It can be frustrating and exhausting, but the extra time you put into it will pay off in the long run.
DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS
Relationships with students are key! If you want students to engage with learning, they need to feel welcome, safe, and that they are an important and respected part of the classroom. At the beginning of the year, the best way to get to know your students is through interest surveys and conversations. I loved greeting each of my students at the door each morning. It was a great way to determine their mood for the day. I also would say goodbye to each student at the end of the day. They could choose a high 5, handshake, or hug goodbye. These little things help make your students feel seen while building trust.
MAKE TIME FOR MOVEMENT
Kids need to move! Research shows that adding movement into your school day helps students increase their focus and ability to stay on task, which opens the door to learning. Some easy ways to do this are by adding brain breaks (GoNoodle and Cosmic Kids are great options) to your day. I have also found success with using centers and rotations as part of my reading and math block to get students up and moving around the classroom.
FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
Teaching is not easy and there will be many challenging days ahead. Negative behaviors can easily draw your attention away from the students who are doing the right thing. That’s why it’s important to focus on the positive. Here are some of my favorite ways to recognize students for making good choices:
- postcard or sticky note on the desk
- phone call or email home
- letting the principal help with recognition
- classroom reward coupons
- classroom money
Most of these ideas are free or low-cost options, but will require a little extra thought and time.
TAKE TIME TO REFLECT
Every group of students is different. That means what works one year might be a disaster the next. It’s important to constantly reflect on what is and what isn’t working. If there are small issues, have a class meeting to discuss and brainstorm solutions. If it is a larger issue, it might be time to reflect upon and reset your expectations or system.
Whether you are a new teacher, a veteran, or somewhere in between, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes an outside perspective is just what is needed to solve your classroom management issue. When teachers work together, it helps everyone.
I hope these tips are helpful. Looking for more classroom management tips? Take a look at these posts:
- Classroom Goals: Part One | Part Two
- Using a Classroom Economy
- Classroom Rewards That Won’t Break the Bank
- More Classroom Management Tips