“SIT DOWN!” you yell. Students are out of their seats running around, throwing papers, talking to their friends and completely ignoring you. Sound familiar? In that moment you suddenly flashback to your days in college when you couldn’t wait to get into a classroom full of attentive students hanging on to your every word. Now, you are in the midst of it and think “How did I get here… and how do I handle THIS?!
I’ve been there and know EXACTLY how helpless you feel in those moments. Over my years in the classroom, I’ve tried a lot of techniques and found that some work well while others don’t work at all. So, I’ve boiled it down to eight best classroom management strategies that actually work … and work really well to help you have success in the classroom. Take notes because these techniques were a real Mary Poppins for me and can be for you too.
Classroom management is the process of running a classroom so that lessons go off without a hitch and give your students the best opportunity to learn. This can feel daunting, but it really is a process. Which means you don’t need any special skills to do this effectively. It’s all about actively managing your classroom, rather than reactively responding to misbehavior.
Even with a process, good classroom management comes with time and a bit of patience as you learn life lessons. So don’t give up, because managing your classroom is a BIG deal. Poor classroom management causes stress, anxiety and is ultimately the primary reason for teachers leaving the profession.
In college, no one teaches us how to handle a classroom well. That’s why I can’t urge you enough to find a good mentor. A mentor can make a HUGE difference, but for those of us who don’t have that available to us, we have to figure it out for ourselves. Studies show that only 55 out of 100 teachers feel they have good strategies for classroom management according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That leaves 45% of us who need help. I’m one of the few survivors of that 45%, so trust me here. These techniques have taken me a lot of time to figure out and are the shortcut to success that I wish I would have had when I struggled with sanity in the classroom.
Did you know that in an average week, 144 minutes of instructional time are lost due to poor classroom management? It makes me sick to think about all the wasted instructional time. Let’s fix it with these 8 strategies so you can enjoy being a teacher again.
It sounds simple, but the door greeting is your chance to start your students on a positive note and set the tone for the day. There are lots of fun ways to do this. Check out some great ideas on this poster:
Whatever you choose, make sure they “buy-in” to it.
You’ll know they’ve “bought-in” as you catch sight of their eyes light up when they come through the door excited to greet you.
You need a routine for everything that you do in your class, because routines lead to habits. With consistency, your students will form good behavior habits that they do without even thinking (it’s pure magic). But in order for the magic to happen, you MUST be consistent. I can’t stress this enough.
We all have schedules, but very few teachers step outside the box and think of how the student will do anything and everything in your classroom during that schedule. This is a classroom management goldmine!
For example, let’s go beyond the initial door greeting and decide how they will walk into the classroom. What will they do first? Choose a lunch or put folders away. Will there be music playing in the background with no talking or will you allow the students to talk to their friends? What will they get started on when they are at their desk or will you do morning bins? How will that look and sound? Imagine all of the tiniest of details. This is your model, and it needs to be done first so you can provide the consistency to create good behavior habits.
Stay consistent. Practice everything until the students get it right. Transitions are the hardest times for students to do what is right. Be prepared to rehearse your transitions everytime and everyday until they are unconsciously doing what is expected of them (the habits are locked in). It’s a grind and can be exhausting, but the saying is true ‘practice makes perfect’ and soon you will reap the benefits of working so hard in the beginning. Stick with your guns on everything you want them to do because if you give and inch, they will take a mile!
Work with your students to establish classroom expectations and guidelines or rules. You can lead them to what you want by asking questions of what they would like to see and how they would like to feel in the classroom. “Hmmm class, how do we get there?” Make sure to write your expectations out with the students and post it up in the classroom. Refer back to it often to remind the students of what they decided their expectation was in the classroom.
In the Lego Movie, I always get a kick watching the interaction between Good Cop/Bad Cop. It can be so easy to give in and let Bad Cop take over. You need to fight this tendency because we need to keep the classroom environment as positive as possible. Keep negative consequences to a minimum. Also, don’t punish the class for a select few who can’t seem to handle themselves. These are the students you will need to get to know better and truly help them. This will build them up and they will want to do the right thing for you in the classroom.
Have you heard of the ripple effect? We all know that the ripple effect spirals into a tornado of chaos with bad behavior in a blink of an eye, but few teachers realize it works for positive behavior too! The only difference is the person who throws the pebble (you!). Hand out praise generously and be very specific on what you see. “Wow, excellent work putting your folders away quickly and quietly!”
Create certain signals for sharpening the pencil, going to the bathroom, needing a tissue and so forth. This will make a huge difference in the amount of times you are interrupted when teaching. Keep the signals posted in your classroom so students can quickly glance at them when they need something and you have a nonverbal signal for it.
These Non-Verbal Signal Magnets by Fun Express on Amazon are excellent!
Keep leaning into positivity and praise with phone calls and text messages. Really, who doesn’t love being praised for something they did? Now take it a step further and call the parents to let them know how awesome Susie did today helping a friend do her math. Parents aren’t used to positive phone calls. Usually the only times they hear from a teacher is when their child did something wrong and we need to change that. Trust me when I say taking three to five minutes out of your day to make a handful of phone calls is the epitome of an ounce of effort bringing a landslide of positive change into your classroom. Aim for contacting three to five student families a day.
Now that you have solid strategies for classroom management, it’s time to get started. Take out a pen and paper and write down exactly how you want your day to run and any additional inspirations that came to you while reading this. Know that it will be hard work. It will take time. You will feel exhausted and worn out, BUT within a few weeks, if you are consistent and positive during the process, you will have an amazing class that is well managed. These strategies will work with any grade level and all ages. Give it a try! You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
PS - Positive notes are also a good idea. For some student a kind note will be something they cherish for a lifetime.