Teachers’ Top Classroom Management Tips


Updated 10/23/21

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No matter how well-prepared you are to teach each day, your teaching won’t be effective if your students are too disruptive. We rounded up these teacher-tested hacks to help you find classroom management strategies that will work for you.

Teachers' Top Classroom Management Tips
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by Emily Graham

There’s a lot of agreement about the elements of effective classroom management—like setting clear expectations and building relationships—but it’s not always easy to find strategies that will work for your own students.  

Whether you’re a new teacher developing classroom management strategies for the first time or a veteran just looking for a few fresh ideas, you’ll find something you can use in this collection of hacks from TeacherLists readers and from other experienced teachers.

 

Clear Expectations

At the start of the school year, it’s hard to overdo going over class rules and procedures, like the proper way to line up for recess and how to behave when walking from class to the library. Spend time going over school rules and the rules you have made for your classroom, and post a sign about rules if your students need reminders.

In more than 25 years as a paraprofessional, Missey B. has noted that the best managed classrooms had clear expectations. “Teachers taught and retaught expectations predominantly for (at) least the first two weeks of school and refreshed rules and expectations after a long break.”

Kindergarten teacher @onesharpbunch reads the David Shannon book “David Goes to School” to students at the start of the school year to start a discussion about what is and is not allowed at school.

 


The start of the school year is also a good time to set a positive and cooperative tone for the classroom. For lower grades, story books like “Our Class Is a Family” and “A Letter From Your Teacher: On the First Day of School,” both by Shannon Olsen and Sandie Sonke, can help build a sense of belonging and teamwork in the classroom.

On her Instagram account @lifebetweensummers, Olsen shares ideas for activities that can tie into her books, like this yarn game where students give a compliment to a classmate. She also offers free downloadable bookmarks to accompany “Our Class is a Family” on her website.

 

 

Consistent Routines

Teach students routines to follow for activities they’ll do repeatedly, like turning in homework, using stations, or filling free time. Spending extra time reinforcing routines at the start of the school year can pay off all year long.

Good routines are the best classroom management for me,” Kim B. writes. “Students knowing my expectations and the rules of the class keeps a lot of nonsense from going on.

There’s a lot to consider when setting up classroom routines. The Classroom Check-Up provides tools for documenting expectations and teaching them to students and Scholastic shares 30 class procedures that can help prevent behavior problems in preK-8th grade classrooms.

Many teachers provide choices of activities students can do if they finish their work before others. Allowing students to pick from a list of activities gives them a sense of agency, too. Instagram user @acupcakefortheteacher, who teaches first grade in New Jersey, developed an “I’m Done” board with squares listing activities students can do quietly, like writing a poem or organizing their desk.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Teri (@acupcakefortheteacher)

 

Class Meetings

Morning meetings are an opportunity to check in with students and remind them about classroom routines that need improvement. TeacherLists reader Jo Ann H. recommends having a morning or community meeting at least three times a week.

Not sure how to structure a morning class meeting? Instagram user @themessylittleclassroom shared her tips. A first grade teacher, she also offers a classroom management workshop.

 

While morning meetings are typically used to strengthen bonds and set a positive tone for the day, you may want to have less frequent classroom meetings to discuss problems or issues in the class. In her classroom, Ronda P. has a discussion box where students can anonymously submit notes to her about their feelings or concerns or issues at school. This issues that students write about may be discussed at weekly meetings. 

“I check the box multiple times during the week in case there are mental health issues that need more immediate response. We might need a midweek meeting or it can be incorporated into morning meetings.” – Ronda P.

 

A Sense of Ownership

When students are invested in school, they are less likely to have problem behaviors in class. Teachers can help give their students a sense of ownership by having the class work together to create rules or a social contract. 

Ask students to list things that can distract them from learning, and take votes if needed to cut down the list to a manageable set of rules. Make sure students understand the consequences of breaking the rules, and remind them if needed after school breaks.

For a social contract, focus on how students will behave, including how they will treat people at school. Elementary teacher @myclassbloom developed this classroom agreement with her students. It doubles as classroom décor, with student signatures serving as rays of sunshine.

 


Michele B. assigns a daily or weekly job to each student in class. “This turns the classroom into a classroom for everyone and gives them ownership of their space,” she writes.

Fifth grade teacher @educandoit made this smartphone-inspired bulletin board display to show which classroom jobs students have each day. Students help with tasks like taking attendance and passing out papers. There’s even a spot for days a student is “on vacation” from having a classroom job.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Ms. Fiorello (@educandoit)

 

Keep Noise Levels Down

Many a teacher has developed a sore throat from raising their voice to be heard over a noisy classroom. Start out the school year by using signals, countdowns, or nonverbal cues to let students know it’s time to settle down without straining your voice.

Amanda B. offers this advice: “NEVER raise your voice because lowering your voice is soooo much more effective.” 

One popular system of managing noise in the classroom is to have a signal that lets students know they what type of talk is allowed. The third grade teachers behind @colormekindteachers plan to use this system with colored LED lights this school year.

 

Another option is to use a website like bouncyballs.org, which shows bouncing balls that represent the noise level in a room and gives an alert when it gets too high. Teachers can adjust the sensitivity of the noise meter and choose a beeping or shushing sound for the alert.

PreK teacher Jeanna Ganas found a creative way to remind her young students to use an inside voice. She attaches a “whisper water” sticker to a spray bottle and mists water around the room to bring down the noise level.

 

First grade teacher Samantha Henry uses a simpler method, pushing a button to make a doorbell chime when she wants to get students’ attention.

 

Another method is to equip students to make common requests without talking. Teach Starter shared hand signals students can use to let their teacher know when they have a question or comment, a bathroom break, and more.

 

 

Reward Good Behavior

Many teachers speak to the power of positively reinforcing good behavior with small rewards. You could let students pick a small prize or earn a special privilege, like being the line leader. What matters is letting students know that you caught them doing something good.

TeacherLists reader Ronda P. shared how she rewards students for good behavior in her class. “We have classroom money that they earn and can use to buy things from our classroom store.  We shop biweekly.”

In her middle school classroom, Marie H. has paid students fake class money to reward good behavior and has given salaries for doing weekly class jobs. One year she paid students in fake bills that had her photo on it. Students use the “cash” to buy a treat on Friday and to buy things in a class auction at the end of each grading period.

“My kids become so focused on their own success, because the rewards are aplenty, that they don’t even have time to make bad choices,” Marie H. says.

Any type of item that is affordable, popular with students, and permitted by administration can be used as a student reward. Stickers that can be placed on water bottles have been a popular reward with fifth grade teacher Molly Maloy’s students.

 

Some elementary teachers capitalize on their students’ love of pets by having desk pets as rewards. The pets may be small toys or novelty erasers that students can earn and keep with good behavior.

Kindergarten teacher Lexe Roberts, who created this crafty desk pet adoption center, says she has kept track of good behavior points in her class by using punch cards or logging them in the Class Dojo app.

 

Click here for more ideas or to join the conversation about classroom management on Facebook.


Classroom Management Resources

TeacherLists readers suggest these books and tools to help with classroom management strategies.

Capturing Kids Hearts trainings

Conscious Discipline online courses and tools

“The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child” by Ron Clark

“The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher” by Rosemary T. Wong and Harry Wong

Love & Logic Education books and webinars

Responsive Classroom books and professional development

Teach Like a Champion online resources and books by Doug Lemov

Whole Brain Teaching books and seminars


Originally posted 2021




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