Classroom Management Tips
Putting a well-thought-out classroom management plan into place can make the school year go smoothly.
By Jonathan Civitella
With so much to do in anticipation of another never-stressful and always-fun school year, some things might get overlooked, like classroom management. Before I start listing my classroom management tips, let me say that there is no greater classroom management strategy than gaining the trust and respect of your students. However, this article is not about how to successfully gain students' trust and respect, as there isn't one specific thing you can do to achieve this. It’s about using a handful of proactive strategies to create and maintain a healthy and effective learning environment.
Identifying the Function of Behavior
According to behavioral studies, all of the behaviors your students might exhibit in your classroom can be placed into one of four categories.
- self-stimulatory (providing oneself with sensory input—e.g., hand flapping)
- escape/avoidance (escaping or avoiding a demand—e.g., running away)
- attention seeking (e.g., yelling)
- access to tangibles (e.g., toy).
Take for example the question of why a person decides to become a teacher. It could be because it makes him or her feel good (i.e., self-stimulatory), or because they would like to earn money (i.e., access to tangibles). Whatever the behavior, it has a function; the key is being able to identify, and more importantly, react to these behaviors appropriately, especially within the context of the classroom. If you’re able to do this successfully, you can identify and stop potential problems before they happen or escalate.
One of the more exciting aspects of being a teacher, and something that can help with classroom management, is to arrange your classroom with goals in mind. From the decisions you make about what goes on the walls, to the layout of the desks, to who sits next to whom, you’re the boss; and yes, it does matter. The key to arranging your classroom environment is to remove and limit distractions (teachers should do this to be more effective and efficient, not to be mean or oppressive). Some of the environmental factors you should take into consideration include:
- the windows (will the blinds remain open or closed?)
- the desks (who will sit where, how will you arrange the desks, where will your desk be?)
- use of technology (how often will students have access to technology and what safeguards are in place to ensure staying on task?).
This is a suggestion more appropriate for teachers working with students at the elementary level. In the classroom, it is helpful to have visual supports that are visible and easily accessible at all times. This is an effective way to make students aware of the rules, expectations, assignments, daily objectives, etc. You can create visuals the old fashioned way (i.e., cut outs, posters), or the Web 2.0 way (i.e., classroom blog/website).
Expectations and Contingencies
It is imperative that students understand what is expected of them every time they enter your classroom and what they will receive in return (what they receive can either be intangible, like praise, respect, a better chance at getting into college, or tangible, like a special privilege). You can create expectations and contingencies in a variety of ways.
- creating visuals to show classroom routines, rules, etc.
- giving clear directions
- outlining rubrics for assignments or behavior/disposition
- developing a contingency plan (e.g., Token Economy System). A Token Economy system is based on positive reinforcement in which the “subject” receives a token for a positive action/behavior that they can then exchange for something of value (to them—e.g., toy from the class store; “get out of homework” pass).
By developing clear classroom management techniques and goals for the new school year, you can ensure that everything runs smoothly.
For more tips check out our complete Back to School Guide.