By Susan Jerrell, TOFT Founder
Classroom management strategies can make or break your success as a teacher. Oftentimes education classes deal with the theoretical rather than the practical, and that is especially true when it comes to classroom management.
Learning to manage your classroom comes with experience. But wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the years of trial and error as a new teacher?
12 strategies to help teachers experience more effective classroom management
1. Greet your students every day.
Stand at the door and greet students by name. Get to know them so you can ask about their play rehearsal, band contest, or sporting event.
It is such a simple, easy thing to do, but it makes a world of difference for students. You never know what kind of situation they had at home that morning, so your friendly or compassionate greeting can improve their outlook tremendously. When kids know you care, they are much more cooperative.
2. Be Consistent.
This means your classroom rules have to be consistent all day, every day. Your enforcement of those rules has to be consistent regardless of who breaks them or what kind of mood you are in. Students realize immediately if you play favorites. If you do that, your credibility is gone.
3. Create a routine.
When students know what to expect, they behave better. Maybe you start class with music playing, a bell ringer, students returning papers. I liked to have a quote of the day visible when students entered the classroom that we could discuss during attendance taking time.
A routine makes many students feel more comfortable. They find comfort in knowing what to expect.
4. Verbalize and post your written expectations/rules.
Someone once complained to me that their students didn’t push in their chairs when they left the classroom. I asked if she had explained her expectation, and she said, “No, I think they should know that is an expectation.”
Because students come from diverse backgrounds with different expectations at home and they also have different expectations from one classroom to the next, they need to be told what you expect.
Make your expectations clear and you increase the likelihood that they will be met.
5. Keep your rules short and simple.
The more rules you have, the harder they are to enforce. My classroom expectation consisted of two words: Show Respect.
The first week of school we discussed what that meant. They brainstormed ideas, and we created a list of examples that I then made into a laminated class poster on the wall.
We discussed how I would be respectful of them, their ideas, their property, and their time. We discussed how they could do the same to show respect for their classmates, their teacher, themselves, others property, etc.
Most often if someone was out of line, all I had to say to them was, “Is that showing respect? What could you do instead?” and the problem was corrected. Students even called each other out by saying, “Is that showing respect?”
It’s simple to remember and it works for nearly every classroom situation that arises.
6. Realize that silence is viewed as consent.
If you see a behavior that you do not want in your classroom, you need to address it immediately. If Show Respect is your rule and a student back talks or makes a rude comment to another classmate, that has to be taken care of right then.
Soon students know what is expected and more importantly, know you will not allow that behavior to happen. If you do not say anything, you send a signal to the entire class that you will allow that behavior.
7. Move around the classroom.
Teachers who stand in front of the classroom tend to have more discipline issues than those who move around. Here’s why: a moving target keeps the students alert and lets them know you are everywhere and know what is going on.
If a poor behavior is happening, you can walk toward the problem and stop it with a look, a shake of the head, or just your proximity. It is subtle, does not disrupt class, but your point gets across very quickly.
8. Plan a full class period of activity.
You have heard the expression “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Well idle students are just asking for trouble. Avoid giving students “free days,” even if they beg. My students would ask for a free day, and I would tell them I didn’t get paid to not teach.
While this was true, in reality, I could not stand the babysitting involved in dealing with bored kids. You may think they like it, but I heard complaints for three decades about the classes that had down time because students felt like it was wasting their time.
When you stick a movie in so you can grade, or you allow students to sit and work on other work, play cards, or do nothing so you can take a break, word gets out quickly and you do not want to be “that” teacher.
9. Use your inside voice.
Don’t yell at your students. Too many kids are yelled at on a regular basis, and it has no effect. When you feel the need to raise your voice, try silence instead. Stand in front of the room, stare at your students, and do not say a word.
Very soon, some students will notice and they will start shushing the others. In a classroom that promotes respect, there is no room for yelling. If you would not tolerate students yelling at you, do not yell at them.
Teachers who resort to yelling, actually have more behavior issues than those who do not. Remember that your students are watching what you do and will model your behavior.
10. Deal with problems in private.
Poor behavior should be dealt with in private. Keep a student after class or take them out to the hall if you have a behavior issue to deal with.
Do not start a verbal confrontation in front of other students. It will quickly escalate. Some students like an audience or will act out just for the attention. Also, in this day of social media, someone may be recording your disagreement and you are then plastered on social media.
When you do talk to the student, be the adult, stay calm, be direct, and take the time to listen to them as well. Sometimes just being heard can make a world of difference to a student. (Obviously, if it is a big problem or a dangerous situation, get an administrator and do not wait until after class.)
11. Don’t threaten.
When students are not behaving according to your rules, do not threaten them. Go back to Tip 1: be consistent. Students have heard threats their entire lives that usually end in no consequence.
Threats, to them, are more of a dare. And please, do not threaten them with homework. Homework should be assigned when it will increase learning, not when it is a punishment.
12. Don’t punish a group for the actions of a few.
It is extremely rare for an entire classroom to misbehave. Unfortunately, it is not rare for an entire classroom to be punished.
If you are walking around the classroom and keeping students engaged throughout the class period, it should be obvious which students are misbehaving.
When a teacher punishes the whole class, you have just lost your allies. You have created a me vs. them mentality that is very hard to overcome. You definitely do not want an entire class working against you.
Will following all of those classroom management strategies guarantee a problem-free classroom? No, you may still have a few students who challenge you, maybe even daily. Some students have a pattern of misbehavior and a reputation to live up to or perhaps it is their only way to be recognized.
Those students are your challenges, but with these strategies the rest of the class will be well managed, giving you the time and patience to deal with the students who need you most.
Finally, keep a sense of humor and just be kind. Students are human, and just like us, they respond to kindness and laughter.
Most students, when they know you care about them and want what is best for them, will do almost anything for you.
Be the type of person you would want to be around. Create a classroom where laughter, smiles and kindness are fostered and you will see discipline problems decrease.