Are you a beginning teacher struggling with managing your class? Or are you a parent of a threenager who pushes every.single.button? Read on to find out 5 classroom management strategies.
Before I went back to the classroom this year, I had an interesting conversation with my best friend’s dad. He was Deputy Principal through various primary schools all through my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.
He retired a while ago, and recently I chatted with him at a family BBQ. I was explaining that I was so glad I was a teacher before having kids because you learn so much that applies to parenting from teaching.
I was about to head back to the classroom…
I was about to return to work after an extended leave to be at home with my babies and toddlers. I had been out of the classroom for about seven years, but I was feeling okay about returning because parenting was so similar to teaching.
It requires huge amounts of patience and love. You have to pick your battles. You have to work with what you’ve got. And you’re working with little or younger people who have many ideas and so much enthusiasm, but not much experience of the world.
One of the gems that my best friend’s dad mentioned was that to be a good teacher and a good parent, you need to be consistent, insistent, and persistent.
I thought that this was such great advice…
And of course, my English-teaching heart loved that it followed the rule of three. (I mean, I’d take tall, dark, and handsome any day over consistent, insistent, and persistent, but that’s another story).
It’s not easy to be all three of those. It’s hard to be consistent day in and day out. We all have good days and we all have bad days where we might not feel up to enforcing the rules. But if we keep consistent, we don’t have to work as hard the rest of the time.
It’s hard to insist that students (and our kids) follow the rules every time. Especially if you are someone who likes to avoid confrontation. But if you don’t insist, students will know that they can walk all over you and you won’t do anything about it. Insisting that everyone follows the rules and then following through when they don’t is key to guiding students’ behaviors in your classroom.
Persistence is key too. You need to have the fortitude to keep going. For me, I think this comes down to the why of why you teach.
Do you believe that learning and education is a basic right? Do you think that education gives people the ability to change not just their own life, but the lives of entire families? Do you think that helping students grasp opportunities to better themselves is important?
If you do, you persist. You keep going. Even when you feel unappreciated. Even when *that* kid gets under your skin. Even when you’d rather clean the toilet than face down period four on a Friday afternoon.
With consistency, insistence, and persistence in mind, here are another five classroom management strategies that help you manage your classroom effectively without losing your mind.
One of the most important classroom management strategies is to set boundaries. Let me say that just one more time – set boundaries.
In my first year of teaching, I learned this one the hard way. I set my boundaries at the limit of what I would tolerate.
And obviously kiddos (teens and toddlers in particular) LOVE to push boundaries.
I spent my whole first year teaching frustrated that students were constantly pushing my buttons.
In my second year, like many beginning teachers, I had learned my lesson. I set tighter boundaries. I was stricter so that when students did something ‘wrong’ I didn’t actually care that much because it was usually minor in the scheme of things.
By having strict boundaries I prevented bigger problems because kiddos knew what I would and would not tolerate.
It also helped me feel far more positive in my classroom because my interactions became much more positive and I spent less time managing poor behavior.
Use your face
And not just as a resting place for your palm.
I have this wrinkle that is slowly deepening above my left eyebrow. It’s a single line that runs halfway across my forehead. Want to know how I got it? Teaching. And parenting.
Which leads us to another one of our classroom management strategies: use your non-verbal communication, especially your facial expressions.
You don’t always have to say something for kiddos to understand. One of my favorite non-verbal ways to communicate that a kiddo (or my toddler) is doing something I don’t want them to do is to raise my eyebrows.
That’s where that wrinkle comes from. Raising my eyebrows a zillion times a day to tell students (or my kiddos) to cut.it.out.
I don’t have to shout, I don’t have to reprimand, I don’t have to draw attention to the undesirable behavior.
I can often just raise my eyebrows, give them *the look, and *usually* the undesirable behaviors stop. And because I aim to be consistent, insistent, and persistent, my kiddos know that if they get *the look* and don’t cut it out, consequences will follow.
Another one of my favorite classroom management strategies for teachers is to walk away. But first, explain your expectations.
I HATE toddler (and teen) tantrums. My threenager wants to rule the roost, but obviously Mum needs to be the boss.
So, how do we negotiate her (legitimate) desire for independence and decision-making, and my (necessary) need to be in charge? Explain expectations and then give her time to make a choice. It works in the classroom too!
One of my favorite lines, whispered quietly to a student who was doing the wrong thing in the classroom, was “Sally/Stacey/Sam, I have asked you to do X (usually, do the class work), you need to do it. I’m going to walk away and give you five minutes to choose what to do. If you choose not to do X, there will be further consequences.”
Then I would WALK AWAY. That’s right, walk away.
I would give them a few minutes and then circle back to see if they have done what I asked. If they had, I would praise them, and if not I would follow through with the normal consequence for that behaviour.
Works for toddlers and teens alike. Even better, it gives you a script to follow to take the emotion out of the equation. And the more that you use it, the easier it becomes to follow the script and use it as an automatic reaction.
This is one of my favorite classroom management strategies for difficult students because…
It helps avoid public confrontations in front of the whole class. You just say the lines and walk away. And when *those* students try to create a scene, you repeat your lines and walk away.
You are giving a choice and making it clear that it is the student’s choice. They are choosing their behavior and they are choosing the consequence of that behavior.
The best part? It works for your threenager too. Although, you will likely end up carrying your threenager to their room more often than dealing out detention to your middle and high schoolers. Lucky you don’t have to carry those teenagers to their rooms.
Classroom management strategy number four: warn kiddos about activity transitions.
Transitions between activities can be hard, even for adults with (somewhat) more developed prefrontal cortexes that (supposedly) enable them to make complex decisions, moderate their behaviour to conform to social norms, and anticipate the consequences of their actions.
Whenever you are about to transition between activities – for example, change from listening to writing in the classroom, or go from the park to the car with your kiddo, GIVE WARNING.
This gives the kiddo (pupil or progeny alike) time to think, oh, ok, we’re gonna do this soon, no problems.
If you don’t give a warning, you’ll end up standing on the street with your kiddo shouting, “But I don’t NEED to do a POO!” and stomping their feet. Or whatever the teenager equivalent is. Just saying.
Easy lines to do this include
- You have five minutes to finish this up before we …
- I’m going to give you ten minutes to do this activity, and then we will…
- You have used up ten of your fifteen minutes. In five minutes we will…
- When the clock says X time, we are going to…
By having easy lines to tell students a time limit for an activity, and then giving a warning before the activity will switch, you help students to manage their time more effectively and to anticipate when an activity change is coming.
Show that you care
The last of our classroom management strategies for today is to show that you care. This tip is all about positive classroom management.
Positive behavior support seeks to eliminate the need for punishment. And while it’s likely unrealistic to think you won’t ever have to mete out punishment, effective classroom management often means you are using punishment as your most frequent tool in the teacher toolbox.
That’s why you often see experienced teachers sitting and eating their lunch at lunchtime instead of sitting with students in detention. They have more effective tools in their toolbox and have had loads of experience managing student behavior to create a classroom where students generally do the right thing.
Kiddos need to know you care. And while it’s frowned upon to hug your teenage students, you can let them know you care in other ways. Some of my favorite classroom management strategies examples to show that you care are to
- Call home to say they’ve handed in their homework three weeks in a row.
- Put stickers on their notebooks when they’ve completed challenging tasks.
- Ask about their weekend.
- Offer help if you think they are struggling.
- Send home a positive praise postcard.
- Have running jokes about trivial things in your classroom.
- Listen to their stories and explanations.
- Give them prizes as rewards.
- Send an email to their parents explaining how well they are doing in class.
All of these types of interactions show students that you care and put money in your relationship bank with them.
But your kids, give them a hug. Physical affection is one of the BEST ways that you can show your kids that you love them, that you’re proud of them, and that you care.
We’ve all had those classes that just cannot be quiet. Sometimes you get to the point where you’re so frustrated by their chatting that you lose your cool and shout at them.
And while that works once or twice, it’s not a strategy that keeps working and you likely don’t want to use it all the time.
One of my favorite classroom management strategies to take control of noisy students is to use the three-strikes rule.
When students are talking too much, or too loudly, I say that they are on strike one. Then I draw an X on the whiteboard. At three strikes they have a set time of silent working, and anyone that speaks during that time gets detention.
This seems to be a useful way of managing student behavior during times when they are working on less structured tasks such as drafting assignments or doing some kind of extended writing.
That’s it for today…
Hopefully, this list has shown you new classroom management strategies to use in your classroom. (Or reminded you of old favorites, classroom management strategy examples that you’ve forgotten in the hustle and bustle of #teacherlife).
Even better is if this post has given you ways to avoid public declarations of defecation and helped you manage your middle and high schoolers more effectively.
Like this post and want more?
- Motivation and self-care tips for tired teachers
- Using videos in the classroom – how to use videos guilt-free at school
- 1 easy, effective classroom reward for high school students
- 5 time management tips for tired teachers
- Positive praise: the best reward for students
Last updated 28/8/23