Classroom management isn’t just for new teachers or new classes. Even veteran teachers may need to learn and implement different classroom management strategies to properly set expectations for student behavior.
Any teacher will tell you that student misbehavior will happen at some point — whether daily or weekly — and if there aren’t clear classroom management expectations set up from the start, it’ll feel a lot like a dog chasing its tail when you try to deal with each isolated incident.
That’s why it’s important to discover effective classroom management strategies that can prevent behavior problems before they occur and before they become an ongoing issue.
Below we will discuss some top classroom management strategies and ideas, as covered in Classroom Management From the Ground Up by Todd Whitaker, Madeline Whitaker Good and Katherine Whitaker.
Building classroom management strategies and techniques isn’t just a way to create a learning-focused, positive atmosphere within your classroom; it’s also a way for teachers to invest in their own teaching success.
Burnout is a real problem for teachers, especially since it can be a demanding job. Yet, with proper classroom management, teachers can feel less drained from having to corral groups of students and more fulfilled by the knowledge that students are learning effectively. When teachers are more effective at teaching, they can also enjoy the process instead of having to redirect their energy toward solving disruptive behavior.
Effective classroom management systems also increase student success across all age groups. Since students are learning in an environment where expectations are clear, with little to no interruptions, they’re able to focus on lessons while also improving their behavior skills. For younger students, this is a great practice that helps them develop both socially and emotionally.
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Top classroom management strategies
The key to successful classroom management strategies is planning.
Although classroom management can include in-the-moment teaching disruptions, the foundation of good strategy is preventative. Below are some helpful ways to implement effective classroom management:
A great start for teachers is to consider what organizational methods you have in place and if there are any that can be added for improvement. An easy way to approach this is to address organization within two distinct categories: physical and lesson.
Physical organization refers to the actual setup of your classroom, including the arrangement of furniture and materials. Some important questions to consider before you arrange your class include:
● How many students are there?
● How many desks and chairs?
● What arrangement is best for your teaching style?
● What materials will students need to access?
● How will they access those materials?
Designing how your classroom is arranged, based on your answers to these questions, will help you start the year off on the right foot; students will be less likely to disrupt lessons due to confusion or awkward seating setups.
Important reminder: As you arrange your desks, chairs and materials in the classroom, make sure there are no “hidden” spots. This means avoiding any arrangement where a desk or chair may cause a student to be partially obstructed from view. This can prevent potential issues in the long run.
Not all teachers have the same lesson plan — obviously — but good lesson organization should be applied to any classroom, regardless of subject, size and age. There are two techniques that affect lesson organization:
Prioritizing the first five minutes
This technique revolves around how a teacher starts the first five minutes of their lesson. Many times, this is a key moment that can lead the lesson astray or detract from valuable class time. To ensure your class starts off right, consider an opening activity that is efficient, productive and academic in nature. This activity should be personalized to fit the subject of the class. For example, an English class may instruct students to read independently when they first get to their desks. Meanwhile, a History teacher may have students share and discuss current events.
By sharing a specific activity for students to do when they enter the classroom, teachers can set a routine that encourages students to behave and focus right from the start.
Another opportunity for students to start testing boundaries is when there is an unstructured time block during class, such as when some students finish an assignment early while others are still working.
To avoid this in-between moment for students, plan your lesson thoroughly. Similarly, set clear expectations of activities that students should do when faced with unplanned breaks. This could mean working on another assignment or engaging in independent reading.
Prioritize engagement when teaching
Your instruction is only as effective as your level of student engagement. This doesn’t mean your lessons need to be meticulously designed and entertaining like a one-man show — that would just increase teacher burnout.
Instead, reframe your lesson plans to include active student participation. Ask yourself these three questions:
● Is there a way for students to actively participate?
● Are students able to pay attention for the full lesson?
● Are your lessons and assignments easy to understand?
Take the time to answer these questions and adjust accordingly. This will help prevent disruptions or misbehaviors, which can occur when students feel confused or lost during a lesson.
Tweak your lessons, as needed
One classroom management strategy might work wonders for one class, but miss the mark for another. Similarly, you may find some strategies need fine-tuning to effectively enact change in student behavior.
If this is the case, consider how your plans align with these three critical concepts: organization, clarity and engagement.
If a strategy is missing an element from one or more of these concepts, a good corrective action is to make changes that fill any of those gaps.
How to set classroom expectations for students
When students start the school year it's safe to assume most of them want to follow the rules — they don’t aim to be disruptive or actively misbehave. With this in mind, it’s the teacher’s job to make the classroom expectations as clear as possible so students can learn and understand them fully.
For this to happen, teachers should first make sure their own expectations are clear to themselves. Once that’s achieved, it’ll be much easier to share these guidelines and hold students accountable for them. As you set expectations, it’s also important to distinguish them between two subsets: rules and procedures.
These are your non-negotiable expectations for students. Rules can be outlined before the first day to be shared in class, created with students during introductions or reiterations of school-wide rules. No matter what type of rules they are, make sure they are clear to yourself and your students.
You can ensure your rules meet your expectations by answering the following questions:
● Do your rules create your desired classroom environment?
● Are your rules reasonable?
● Can you enforce them consistently for a variety of situations?
If your answer isn’t a yes for any of these questions, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and rework them.
These are the day-to-day routines that you ask your students to follow. For example, when a student needs to use the bathroom, how should they let you know and what steps should they take?
These are the foundation of preventative classroom management. They dictate how your class will run through a variety of common situations. To build an easy framework of behavior for your students to follow, make a list of any and all situations that could disrupt your class daily. This could include:
● Taking attendance
● Students asking questions
● Eating or drinking in the classroom
● Going to the bathroom
● Late work
● And more
After you build this list, detail how you want students to approach these situations.
Share your expectations with students
Once you’ve figured out what rules and procedures you want to be upheld in your classroom, follow these steps to teach them to students:
1. Explain the task
2. Physically and verbally show how it’s done
3. Ask students to show how’s it’s done
4. Have small groups complete the task
5. Have the whole class attempt the task
Depending on the class’s grade level, teachers can choose how many steps they wish to complete and how many times.
Classroom management resources
For more resources on classroom management tips, techniques and ideas, explore the following literature options:
● Classroom Management From the Ground Up
● Motivational Interviewing for Effective Classroom Management
● The ABC's of Classroom Management
● Win Your First Year of Teaching Middle School