In college, our next generation of teachers learn many essential skills: Test assessment, for example. Recordkeeping. How to teach! Yet none of these matters more than classroom management.
Below are five proven classroom management techniques. By adding them to your skill set, you’ll set yourself — and your students — up for success every day.
- Expect the best. Children have a remarkable ability to meet our highest expectations of them. If you expect that most of your students want to do their best, most of the time, that’s likely what you’ll see. Make this expectation clear by announcing your goals for the day every morning: “We’re going to learn so much today!” “I’m so glad we’re all going to get along.”Make this expectation clear even when you’re correcting your students’ behavior. Keep a calm, friendly tone and use phrases such as, “You may not remember our rule about …” Or, “I know you didn’t mean to disrupt the class, but …” Giving your students the benefit of the doubt allows them to change their behavior without feeling picked on or judged.
- Make it clear. Teachers have different teaching styles. Some are laid back and don’t mind kids who move around the classroom or ask their friends for help with an assignment. Others want a more formal classroom setting: no talking or getting up without permission. The point here is, kids can’t always be expected to know what’s expected of them. Make your rules clear, from the start. Spell them out on the first day of school. Display them prominently at the front of the room. Younger students will benefit from a “rule review” at the start of each day, especially early in the school year. When kids know the rules, they’re much more likely to follow them.
- Be Consistent. Once your rules are defined, it may be tempting to bend them a little or even overlook the smaller infractions, especially while you and your students are still getting acquainted or when you’re simply feeling beat at the end of the school day. However, kids are smart. They’re watching all the time to see what their environment expects of them and how to react to it. If they notice smaller rules being bent or ignored, they will quickly start testing the bigger ones. While there is a time and place for rules to be laid aside, be sure you’re doing it deliberately and on a case-by-case basis — when a student is sick, for instance, or struggling with a problem at home.
- Plan your day. As surely as people dislike traffic, kids dislike boredom — and will quickly look for ways to relieve it. What’s more, when bored students find a way to entertain themselves, it usually spells trouble. By creating interesting, hands-on lesson plans ahead of time, class time will be full of activity and your students will likely be engaged and learning, instead of looking for ways to get into trouble. Incorporating preplanned “movement breaks” into your lessons is a good way to keep kids focused and learning, too.
- Accentuate the positive. Kids get used to being corrected throughout the school day. “Don’t run.” “Quit talking.” “Keep your hands to yourself!” After a while, their teacher’s voice starts to sound like the one in “Charlie Brown” — noise with no meaning. Keep your kids focused on what you have to say by letting them know when they’re doing something right. It can be the big tasks, such as acing a concept they were struggling with, or something as simple as holding the door for a classmate. Once you start noticing the positive — and praising it — don’t be surprised if you see more and more of it every day.
Remember, if a classroom is in chaos, a teacher can’t teach, and his or her students can’t learn. Consider implementing the five suggestions above, and see how they can help improve the classroom experience for everyone involved.