I remember an embarrassing event from my very first year of teaching. The Assistant Superintendent of Schools came in to observe my classroom one month into the school year. On the day that she came in, I had 29 first graders, no teaching assistant, and no classroom management skills. During the half hour she was in my extremely loud classroom, I had a couple of kids break out in tears, a few fooling around under their desks, one hiding in a closet, and a boy who wet his pants and was being teased. The look of horror on her face is something I will never forget. As she left my class, she said, "Mr. Harrison, you have got to gain control of your classroom!" Ah . . . the joys of being a first-year teacher!
Tips for Gaining Control of Your Classroom
After her visit, I realized that she was right. I did have to get my class under control. The only problem was, I didn't quite know how to do it! The graduate program I went through to earn my teaching credential was fabulous, but it was lacking in one thing - there were no classes on how to manage a classroom! What a huge oversight! I asked my principal what I should do, and he suggested that I go and observe veteran teachers who had compiled a "bag of tricks" regarding classroom management.
During those observations, I learned five extremely valuable principles that I immediately incorporated into my classroom, and have continued to use as the years have gone by.
- The calmer and quieter you are, the calmer and quieter your students will be. - The teachers who were composed and used a quiet voice had the best-behaved classes. The ones who were on edge and used a loud voice in an attempt to keep class under control had the worst-behaved classes. Your pupils will mirror your behavior. Staying calm will keep your kids calm.
- Catch kids being good as often as you can, and publicly praise them for it. - Your pupils all crave your attention. If you're giving it primarily to the kids who are misbehaving, guess what's going to happen? When your students realize that your attention is going to be on the kids who are behaving, even your troublemakers will begin to exhibit proper behavior.
- Run a tight ship in the beginning of the year, and don't loosen the reigns too soon. - After one of my observations, a of the teachers told me, "I don't even smile in the classroom until Thanksgiving." She was kidding, of course, but her point was clear. You can always loosen the reigns, but once you do, it's extremely difficult to tighten them again. A good rule of thumb is to wait until right around spring break before you begin to lighten things up.
- Be consistent. Don't accept certain behaviors on one day, but not on the next. - Your learners need to know what their boundaries are, and they need to see that you are consistent with what you will tolerate and what you won't. It's also vitally important to expect everyone in the class to follow the rules, and to suffer the consequences if they don't. If your pupils see that you're "playing favorites" trouble will follow.
- Develop some kind of classroom management plan that makes your students want to behave. - Let's face it . . . many of our pupils will choose to misbehave unless they are motivated to choose good behavior. All of the teachers I observed had developed some kind of system that helped to motivate their learners to behave well.
In my next article, I will share two of the systems that I developed that worked extremely well for me. In the meantime, I hope you will peruse the following lesson plans on classroom management.
Classroom Management Lesson Plans:
This innovative resource is geared toward third through fifth graders. The class has many discussions about the topic of respect, and how they can actively show respect toward their peers and the adults they come into contact with at school. Pupils work together to earn a popcorn party when enough examples of respectful behavior have been recorded. A delicious idea!
Middle school learners experience a variety of stresses that are unique to their age group. A clever lesson has them discuss and document things that cause stress for them at school, and guides them to work together to find ways to reduce those stresses. The less stressed they are, the better your class will behave.
This is a high school version of the "Money and the Classroom Store" lesson. Pupils earn pretend cash for good behavior, being on time, participating in class, and performing well on a quiz or test. However, they can lose some of their money if they misbehave. Additionally, pupils get to choose what reward they will receive when they cash in their money. It could be a homework-free night, a locker pass, choosing where they sit in class, or a 5% bonus for an upcoming quiz or test. Some very fine ideas for high school kids.