Looking for ideas for classroom management? Take five steps to get started. First, figure out what you want (and how you’ll get it). Second, set clear rules. Third, establish authority. Fourth, plan routines. Finally, try using signals.
Ms. Sneed Learns About Classroom Management
As a new teacher, Ms. Sneed relied on her mentor, to help her with ideas for classroom management. Before school even started, Mrs. Brown coached her. “Some teachers will tell you it takes three years to get it down. Others will say five or seven,” her mentor said. “I disagree on two counts. One: I’ve been teaching for decades and still have lots to learn about classroom management. Two: Just because you’re new, you don’t need to be miserable. With a few strategies, even first-year teachers can manage classrooms just fine.” Mrs. Brown pulled out a list with five points written on it and set it in the middle of the table.
1. Determine What You Want and How You’ll Get It
“The first step to classroom management,” said Ms. Sneed’s mentor, “is figuring out what you want. Envision the perfect classroom. Are the kids sitting neatly and quietly in rows? Or maybe they’re collaborating at tables. Consider the ultimate learning environment. And then figure out how to get it.
“There’s no right or wrong. Instead, you match your classroom to your preferences. Here’s a little survey to get you started. It will get you thinking about strategies you will use.”
2. Set Broad Rules to Ensure Learning and Safety
Mrs. Brown continued, “Then, of course, you’ll need to make classroom rules. Choose rules that are clear and universal. Whether you select them yourself or collaborate with your students, rules should guarantee that everyone is safe and can learn. Less is more. Combine like rules to create a simple, overarching set. Here, for example, are my class rules from last year.” She handed Ms. Sneed a paper with just four rules typed on it.
“Remember to state rules in positive terms instead of negative. (Don’t say don’t ________.) Set immediate, appropriate consequences for breaking rules. Consider setting positive consequences as well. For example, whenever all in my class are doing what’s expected, they get a point toward an extra recess.
“If you need more ideas for classroom management and rule-setting, you can read this article, Creating Classroom Rules Together, from the Scholastic.
“At our next meeting, we’ll also discuss how to use your seating chart for classroom management.”
3. Establish Authority
Mrs. Brown leaned back and looked at Ms. Sneed intently. “Some people say that a teacher should not smile until fall break – or some nonsense like that. Now I don’t believe that. Being friendly helps build relationships with students. But there’s one thing I don’t want you to forget: You are the boss.
“Speak with authority. Be consistent. If you reflect on each decision you make and can rationally back it up, no one should question you.
“Furthermore, when you plan and prepare, things go more smoothly, and fewer problems arise.
“In a few weeks, the parents will come in for open house. It’s really important to prepare for that night. That way, you can confidently explain how your classroom will run. When you present ideas for classroom management, parents will trust you.”
4. Plan Routines
Mrs. Brown picked up her coffee cup and took a sip. Then she continued. “Kids like to know what to expect. And they like to know what to do. If you organize your classroom, you’ll all be happier. So this weekend, I want you to think about routines you’ll establish at the beginning of the year. They don’t have to be perfect – it’s okay to change them if they’re not working. But it’s better to start with something.”
She slid another paper across the table. “Here are a few ideas for classroom management to get you thinking. You can see that this goes hand in hand with the survey I gave you earlier.” Ms. Sneed read the list.
- Starting the day
- Asking to go to the bathroom
- Turning in assignments
- Turning in tests
- Working independently
- Going to the coat room or lockers
- Using the Chromebooks
5. Use Signals
“I like using signals,” Mrs. Brown continued. “For example, when someone needs to use the bathroom, they can just hold up their hand like this. That way, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of learning. I just nod my head, and off they go.
“Other subtle signals – turning off the lights, standing in a certain place – help establish routines as well.”
Mrs. Brown pushed a list of ideas for classroom management with signals to Ms. Sneed. Then they went over the list together.
- Clapping – Clap a rhythm. The kids will learn to clap back and get ready to listen for directions.
- Call and Response – Similarly, teach your kids to respond to your calls. For example, you say, “peanut butter!” and they respond, “jelly!”
- Put Your Hand on Your Head – Quietly say, “If you can see my nose, put your hand on your head,” Repeat what you said (quietly) until everyone is ready to listen.
- Teaching Zone – Tell the students they’ll know that you’re ready to teach when in the teaching zone. It can be an area or chair.
- I Like the Way . . . – Even bigger kids like to be praised for their good behavior. If you ask them to clear their desks, for example, you can say, “I like the way Krystal has her desk cleared.”
- Soft Talk – When you talk loudly, the students talk loudly. Conversely, when you talk softly, so do they.
- Counting – There must be some universal unspoken rule about counting to five. They know that when the teacher gives instructions, then slowly starts counting, they better be doing what was asked by five.
- Turning Off the Lights – Turning off the lights and standing quietly with your hand on the switch will really quiet down a noisy room.
Build a Community of Learners
“When you put learning first, kids notice,” Mrs. Brown said. “But it doesn’t hurt to say it too. My students hear me say, ‘Learning is #1,’ over and over.”
Ms. Sneed had been thinking about all that her mentor had told her. “It seems like all of the classroom management strategies build a community of learners,” she said. “If kids know what to expect and how to interact, it encourages community.”
“You’re right,” said Mrs. Brown. “Rules and routines do help build communities. Just think about the town where we live, or even our nation.”
The Importance of Consistent Classroom Management
“More than anything,” said Mrs. Brown, “keep consistent. Do what you say. Say what you do. Don’t back down. Keep it the same for everyone.
“It’s easier said than done. However, a consistent teacher generally has much better control of the classroom than an inconsistent one.”
More Ideas for Classroom Management
Mrs. Brown took a deep breath. “Well, that’s enough to think about for one day. It all boils down to this: To enjoy teaching, you need a big bag of classroom management tricks.
“Next week, we’ll discuss a few specific strategies for dealing with difficult students. For example, if a student is underachieving, you might draw up a three-way contract. Or, if a child is experiencing chronic behavior problems, a checklist can help you document them.”
As they wrapped up the meeting, Mrs. Brown slid a few papers toward her mentee. “Hopefully, these pages will get you started.”