Classroom Management

What is classroom management?

Edglossary.org, defines Classroom management as the wide variety of skills and techniques that teachers use to keep students organized, orderly, focused, attentive, on task, and academically productive during a class. When classroom-management strategies are executed effectively, teachers minimize the behaviors that impede learning for both individual students and groups of students, while maximizing the behaviors that facilitate or enhance learning.

What are its components?

A consistent class routine

A routine helps you and the students stay organized.  A routine also builds predictability in your class, and students are less likely to not know what’s going on when they are in classes that have a built in routine.  When students don’t know what’s going on or what’s expected of them, they begin to exhibit disruptive behaviors.  Consider that these behaviors are a sign that the student is stressed and and feels anxious. Predictability and alleviate these feeling, improving their attitude towards class and assignments.

A routine can include the types of assignments you give and/or when they are given. For example, every week students go on the Bb discussion board to complete a collaborative assignment.  A routine can include some things that you will do every time the class meets. For example, you can spend the first 15 minutes of every class taking care of housekeeping, i.e. clearing up misunderstandings, going over due dates, organizing groups.  A routine can include the kinds of activities you do in a class. For example, every time the class meets, the students will complete some kind of group assignment or there will be a formative assessment at the end of the class.  Consider writing the agenda for the day on the board.  It adds to the predictability of the class.

Excellent lesson planning

An excellent lesson plan allows you to communicate clearly to the students what it is they will do that day (or for that assignment) and what you want them to learn.  Great planning makes making adjustments and responding to students’ difficulties easier.  Excellent lesson planning allows you to remain and appear organized, and it enhances student learning.

A great lesson plan breaks lessons down into their smallest components.  For example, break an essay up into pre-writing, writing, and post-writing activities.  Consider giving students a list or a breakdown of the steps they’ll take to reach their end goal.  Include in your lessons as many learner centered activities as you can.  Learner centered activities require the student to work and engage in the content.  This website has a lot of great ideas for LCI.

An excellent lesson plan builds in differentiated instruction and choice.  Differentiated instruction has more to do with keeping in mind that your students come to class with different abilities and skill levels. You can present content via different modes of instruction to accommodate students who learn differently.  For example, you can ask students to read about a topic and show them a video on the topic. Another way to differentiate instruction is to ask a poorly performing student to focus more on the basics while asking an exemplary student to focus on more advanced tasks.  For example, in a writing class, a poor performing student might be asked to work on sentence and paragraph structure while an exemplary student might be asked to work on incorporating more scholarly sources into his/her writing.  The key here is to challenge the exemplary student without punishing the struggling student, so each student might receive a different rubric or receive different kinds of feedback in the comments section. Offering choices gives students a chance to choose what they will do.  This allows students to meet course goals within their comfort zone.  For example, in a class that requires a presentation, you might have a student that is terrified of speaking publicly.  You could allow that student to record their presentation that is then played in class or allow them to give their presentation to a smaller group in order to help them become more comfortable with presenting.  Another way to add choice is to allow students to pick a speech or research topic from a list.

As you create your lesson plan, establish clear learning goals and objectives. This includes telling students what is it you want them learn or be able to do.  You can communicate course or assignment goals through rubrics, a demonstration or example of what you want them to do or produce, or a description of what you want them to do or produce. Every time a student is expected to produce something that is evaluated, establish goals for that assignment and communicate those goals and grading guidelines to the students.

A behavior management plan

Having a behavior management plan means that you and your students know exactly how you will react to certain classroom distractions.  It allows you to remain calm and to react consistently to issues that may arise.

Developing relationships with students might not seem like it’s a part of a behavior management plan, but students exhibit fewer disruptive behaviors in classrooms where they feel connected to the instructor and the class. You don’t have to be their friend, but you do need to show them that you care. You can do this by quickly learning each student’s name and remembering a detail in each person’s life. For example, you can find out what kinds of hobbies each student has and find ways to work those activities into the classroom.  You can work those things in by creating examples or allow students to do research in their areas of interest.

Depending of the severity of the disruption, start by using positive reinforcement to correct student behavior. You can do this by telling students what it is they are doing correctly instead of what they are doing incorrectly.  For example, in a situation where some students are following directions and other are not, publicly thank the students that are following directions.  Or you can also ask the students who are not if they are unclear as to what they should be doing instead of assuming that they just don’t want to do what is being asked of them.

When creating a plan for how you will respond to disruptive behavior, establish clear expectations and consequences for not exhibiting proper student behaviors. Do this early in the quarter. Outline for students what you will do in response to students not meeting your expectations. Try not to list each infraction you can think of.  Come up with a small general list that includes cell phone use, being off task, and being disruptive.  You can also very generally tell students that any off task behavior is considered disruptive and will be addressed in some way. Some ways to respond to disruptive behavior is to refocus the student on the task, ask students to stop, or ask students to leave. Consider physical proximity as an intervention technique. This simply means be close to your students. Students are less likely to display disruptive behavior if you are physically close by.  You can accomplish this by walking around the room as students work on an assignment.  You might also find that students will stop you and ask questions while you’re walking around.  You can also stand near a student who is being disruptive.

Allow your classroom management plan to be flexible enough for you to differentiate responses to students who act out.  What this means is if you have a student who consistently acts out, try something new with them.  Behavior management works best when we remember that what works with one person won’t work with the next.  However, we don’t want our classroom management plan to appear to be under negotiation with the students, so when you start to differentiate, bring that student into your office for a meeting and develop the new intervention plan together.

Additional resources

Video: New teacher’s survival guide

Ed Leadership: The key to classroom management

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