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Classroom Management Plan Success Pillars

October 13, 2020
Kelly L
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When you walk into your classroom, how do you feel? Overwhelmed… Stressed to the max… High anxiety… If any of those feelings ring true, then an effective classroom management plan is going to be your saving grace. As a teacher myself, I think we can all admit that managing a classroom is the hardest part of the job. Our plates are overflowing with responsibilities: from new curriculum, to grading & testing, to crosswalk duty, etc… the list goes on-and-on. It’s so easy to let “make a classroom management plan” slip to the bottom of the to-do list as you are trying to make it through the week. Listen up, because I’m here to tell you that when you move making that plan to the number one priority, everything else becomes easier and allows you to focus on and enjoy the most important part of teaching: Teaching!

Examples in this guide are primarily geared toward elementary teachers, but these classroom management plan success pillars apply for all ages, from kindergarten, to middle school, to high school. Modify accordingly.

When to Make a Classroom Management Plan

Every teacher is different and every class comes with its own unique and surprising challenges. Because of this, you’ll be tempted to wait to get a feel for a class before making a plan. This is a HUGE mistake. You need to have the plan first and then as you go through the school year you can take a step back to see what works and what needs to be fixed and implemented to have an even more well-managed classroom. Trust me on this one.

Although it works best to make it well before the school year starts, it’s never too late to make a plan. So if you’re already well into the year and feeling desperate for answers, I’m here to help. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it and by the end of this article you will have everything you need to create a solid plan that (with some dedication and consistency) will work wonders for you.

The Foundation of a Classroom Management Plan

The foundation of effective classroom management requires patience, awareness, good timing, instinct and enforcing boundaries - trust me on the boundaries part! These skills get better with time and as you stay true to your plan. Be prepared to make mistakes. There’s nothing easy about conducting a classroom of students who are easily distracted, have different personalities and don’t forget about different skill levels. Embrace the mistakes you make, because they will help you build these foundational skills and give insight on how to refine your management plan.

The 6 Pillars of a Successful Classroom Management Plan

There’s no one-size-fits-all classroom management plan, but for every plan it’s critical that you think about every detail that could arise around these 6 pillars.

  • Classroom Set-Up and Organization
  • Classroom Expectations, Rules & Procedures
  • Classroom Rewards and Consequences
  • Teacher Self-Care
  • Reflect & Adapt
  • Include Social & Emotional Learning

Pillar 1: Classroom Set-up and Organization

First and foremost your room must be functional. Of course you want to have a fun and inviting classroom, but don’t let your mind go there until you plan out all of the areas of your classroom. The room should have a good pattern flow. A good flow allows you to see your students no matter where you are in your classroom. Also think about how your desks will be laid out, taking into account you will need to be able to easily reach each student individually when you need to speak 1:1 with them.

Don’t forget to think about where your students will put their belongings. Where will all your items be? You will want them out of the way and easily accessible. Something that can work really well is to choose a designated area for each core subject. That way the students will know where to place the items when they are finished with them.

Pillar 2: Classroom Expectations, Rules & Procedures

Students thrive on routine, rules and knowing what is expected of them. Chaos will only make more chaos and you will want to rip your hair out (been there, done that).

Setting Expectations

If you’re not sure where to start with expectations, then sit down and think about how your students will do every little thing throughout the day. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What does your ideal classroom look like?
  • What will it sound like?
  • What rules will help my students maintain this classroom ideal?
  • Where will the students likely have the most trouble? Hint: Be sure to think about transitions.

All of these questions will help form the ideal vision of what you expect to happen in your classroom. You need to answer and vividly imagine them all in order to move forward with a successful classroom management plan because it sets your expectation standard.

Setting Rules

Classroom Rules Poster Example

Establish clear rules and expectations and reinforce them daily. Maintain respect and don’t plan on being their friend. When students know what is expected of them, there will be little room for power struggles with students or parents. Make sure parent communication is on point. Send home your expectations and let the parents know you will be meeting with the students to decide the classroom rules on the first day of school. Always have the rules posted in your classroom throughout the year and refer back to them often. Plan to have a consequence list ready when the students don’t follow the rules. Place this in your parent packet at open house, send it through an email and place it in your newsletter. This way there are no questions when consequences need to be used. If you're looking for ideas, the Sproutbrite Store on Amazon has lots of classroom posters from rules, to growth mindset, to kindness, and more.

Prepare for rules and expectations to be tested. When you get strapped into a rollercoaster, what’s the first thing you do? You probably push on the restraint to make sure it’s really locked and you’re not going to go flying out when the ride starts. You probably do it without thinking about it. Students are the same when it comes to class rules. Be ready for them to test the rules. So in the beginning, be ready to spend extra time and energy enforcing the boundaries to keep the rules locked into place. Soon enough the students will know you mean business and you can all enjoy the year-long ride together.

Design Procedures

Procedures are the ways in which you will have the students work throughout the day. Design procedures that will work for you and your students. Start with morning procedures, transitions and the end-of-day procedures. First you will explain to the students what and how they will do the procedure and then model it for them. If you find something isn’t working (which I’m sure you will), go back and change it. Students are resilient.

When teaching procedures in the classroom, it helps to think about it in the structure of a lesson: I do, We do, You do.

  • I do - Once you explain and model the procedure to the students, check for understanding.
  • We do - Pick a student to explain to the class what they are doing. Choose a couple of students to model it again.
  • You do - Have the whole class do it.

Emergencies can be especially frantic in the moment, so don’t forget to teach emergency procedures. The school typically has planned fire drills, but I recommend doing drills of your own and to take them seriously. In a real emergency, these are times when your students' anxiety is high and are most likely to “freak out.” That’s why it’s so important to explain the procedures, model and practice them before they take place for real. When you have a practice drill, or heaven forbid a real emergency arrives, the students will be more likely to stay calm and know exactly what to do.

Pillar 3: Classroom Rewards and Consequences

Conscious Discipline Book by Becky Bailey

When it comes to handling students behaviors in the classroom, positive reinforcement is the way to go. However, when you have students who don’t follow the rules, you need to have a plan. I have been using Conscious Discipline in my classroom and it is like a breath of fresh air. “Conscious Discipline’s foundation of safety, connection and problem-solving is leading a revolution of the heart as concepts initially applied in the classroom extend to every facet of our lives.” Once you learn it you will never go back to the strict ways you have given consequences in the past.

There are seven skills for discipline in Conscious Discipline: Composure, Encouragement, Assertiveness, Choices, Empathy, Positive Intent & Consequences as outlined in the table below.

Conscious Discipline Table

Through the book you will learn the strategies month to month. This way you can concentrate and introduce them to the classroom one skill at a time.

With using Conscious Discipline you will have a “safe spot” instead of a time out. This is an area in your classroom where the students will learn how to calm themselves down instead of stewing over what they did wrong. It is a fantastic program that works and builds a positive community within your classroom. When using Conscious Discipline, even the hardest of students will come around within a few months as you continue to build your relationships with them.

Next, take a seat and think about rewards you can give your students for doing what is right in your classroom. Even though you don’t want the students to always expect a reward, it sure makes it easier to get them to “buy in” to your rules and expectations. I am sure you, yourself, love getting a reward for a good job and so will your students.

Whole Class rewards don’t have to be monetary. You can praise them, give them a dance party or maybe a popsicle at recess. I give my students a choice between two rewards they can achieve and then they vote to tell me what they would like. When they earn 10 stars they get their reward. To earn a star the entire class has to be “caught” doing their procedures correctly. The students love it!

Whole Class rewards don’t have to be monetary. You can praise them, give them a dance party or maybe a popsicle at recess. I give my students a choice between two rewards they can achieve and then they vote to tell me what they would like. When they earn 10 stars they get their reward. To earn a star the entire class has to be “caught” doing their procedures correctly. The students love it!

Stack of Ready-to-Go Teacher Notes

Individual rewards for students work amazingly well too. Have a plan to look for different students each day to “catch” them doing something correctly. You can write a sweet note and place it on their desk. They will cherish it forever! Having a stack of ready-to-go cards makes it all the easier.

As you learn to focus on the positive, the negative will slowly fade away and it will be a joy to walk into your classroom each day. Here are some ideas for classroom rewards that won’t break the bank.

Fidget Toys

Sensory Fidget Toy Reward Examples

Treasure Box Toys

Examples of Toy Rewards for a Classroom

Pillar 4: Teacher Self-Care

Even though this is pillar #4, this is by far the most important pillar of them all. If this pillar crumbles, then everything else comes down too. I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn to focus on your personal self-care throughout this process. If you don’t have the energy and are not mindfully present, you will let things slide and the students will take control of your class. Take steps to take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Eat right and make sure to exercise.

Exercise tip: If you plan to exercise after school, make a conscious decision that you are not allowed to sit down at home until you've moved your body. Because once you sit, you usually don’t get back up. Check out my 12 tips for teacher self care. Remember, you need to take care of yourself first before you can effectively take care of your students.

Pillar 5: Reflect & Adapt

In order to have an effective classroom management plan throughout the year, you will need to regularly reflect and adapt - especially if you find yourself losing the battle. All you need to do is take a step back and try again. Throughout the year, reflect and take notice of what is working well and what needs to be changed in your classroom management plan. Try again and again until you are happy with the way your classroom is managed. Your pride can take a beating to try, fall on your face and try again… But in the end we are doing what is right for the students. Just like the students are alway learning, so are we. Conscious Discipline is a great program to help teachers know what your students need in order to feel safe in your classroom. As you try and refine, it’s easy to focus solely on the curriculum and forget about social and emotional learning. That's why it has a pillar of its own.

Pillar 6: Include Social & Emotional Learning

Be sure to keep this in mind as you reflect on and improve your management plan. Building the children’s social and emotional capacity is, dare I say, more important than the curricular. Including this in your plan will be an integral part of the school day for students to be successful throughout the day and in life.

If this concept is new to you, “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Make sure to take the time to introduce, model, and practice SEL activities with your students throughout the year. As you build your plan you’ll notice that there are already many elements that fall into this category. As you reflect on and refine your classroom management plan, you’ll be inspired in what areas individual students and the whole class can benefit from this. It can make a big difference in your students’ behavior and life success.

Getting Started

Now that you have all the elements for crafting a sure-fire classroom management plan, it’s time to get started. It’s going to take some time so I don’t recommend doing it all in one sitting. Set aside 20-50 minutes a day to work on it and you’ll have a solid plan before you know it! The daily breaks between working on it often prove very useful because thoughts and ideas will spontaneously come to you throughout the day and even while you sleep. Begin by visualizing your day from the door greeting to every transition and write in detail how you want the day to run. Then go through and detail out every pillar. The final step is to take it all and craft it into an action plan where you prioritize your self-care first. Once your classroom management plan is in place you will see a beautiful classroom community blossom right in front of your eyes.

Teacher Kelly
Kelly L
Whether you're a teacher or a parent, the strategies that I share are the ones that actually work for helping you manage kids in the classroom or the home. They took me years of trial, error and refinement. This is the resource that I wish I would have had as a new teacher. Nothing would make me happier than helping you have a blissful experience in your classroom day after day. Cheers!
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About Kelly
Teacher Kelly
Kelly here (that's me on the right), I'm the teacher behind Classroom Bliss. My hope is that no one has to go through the years of struggle I had as a teacher before finding the strategies that actually work for managing a classroom and enjoying teaching. This site is a true shortcut to success for teaching and running a classroom. Nothing would bring me more joy than helping you make your classroom a true bliss... one where you're excited to go to work each day!
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