You spend a lot of time planning meaningful instruction. So, when a rowdy student upends a lesson, it can be frustrating.
Classroom management is one of the trickier parts of teaching. It’s something you learn on the job; the average teacher training program devotes just about 8 hours to the topic.
The good news is that it’s never too late to establish rules and routines. Whether you’re a veteran educator or a new teacher, here are some behavior management tips to take charge of your class.
Tip #1: Set up conditions so that misbehavior is less likely.
Give your students the greatest chance for success by creating an environment that encourages best behavior.
- Greet students at the door and by name. This sets a positive tone and connects with them at the start.
- Set up the physical flow in the classroom so there are no bottlenecks or potential areas of conflict. A well-organized classroom makes a difference.
- Give students a choice in their seating but move them if they are unable to behave or get their work done.
- Add creative areas such as bean bags, couches and rugs as choices for students.
- Use calming background music or quiet zones to set the mood during independent work.
- Schedule brain breaks between lessons. This will help to prevent “learning burnout” when misbehavior may occur.
- Build relationships with your students to understand their individual stress points. Give them a safe mental space to learn.
- Incorporate lessons on social-emotional learning (SEL) to help students develop the skills that will help with behavior.
Tip #2: Practice rules and procedures.
Set expectations with your students so that they know the standards for behavior in your classroom.
- Make sure your classroom rules state the desired behavior and not what students shouldn’t do. For example, use “Speak in an inside voice” rather than “Don’t yell.”
- Keep your list of rules short – no more than five if possible. Develop the rules together with the students so that they are invested in them.
- Procedures are different from rules. Procedures are how students line up, transition from one activity to another, move around the room, hand in homework, etc. Make sure you have a clear idea of your procedures, then teach those to your students.
- Make sure directions are clear and easy to follow.
- Notice where your current class tends to “fall apart” in following procedures. List the steps needed and give students a chance to practice. Incorporate plenty of praise.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Students know when teachers are inconsistent and can take advantage of those opportunities.
Tip #3: Prepare for disruptions.
Interruptions and transitions offer opportunities for student misbehavior. Being prepared is your best defense.
- Students aren’t the only ones distracted during transitions. Teachers are too, as we prepare for the next part of the lesson. Take time to observe your students’ transition before you organize your own. This will allow you to intervene if needed.
- Provide a five-minute warning for a transition.
- Students move at different speeds. The ones who arrive first to the carpet look for something to amuse themselves, such as pulling hair, etc. Make sure they know what is allowed during that “downtime.”
- Similarly, provide specific ideas for early finishers so they’re not just sitting at their desks, wandering around the room, or bored.
Tip #4: Use creative techniques to get attention.
Make sure that you have the attention of the full class before giving instructions. There are many ways to get students attention. Choose one main way, but you can vary it depending on the situation or just to create interest.
- Use sound: ring a small bell or bring in wind chimes or a rain stick. The more unusual sounds might pique student interest.
- Use visual cues: flick the lights or use a hand signal such as the peace sign. Hold your fingers up and, as students notice, they stop talking and hold their hands up too.
- Clap out a pattern that the class then has to duplicate.
- Try the call and response method:
- Teacher: (in a singsong voice) “Oh class.” / Class: “Oh yes?”
- Teacher: “1, 2, 3, eyes on me.” / Class: “1, 2, eyes on you.”
- Teacher: “Hocus pocus.” / Class: “Everybody focus.”
- Teacher: “Macaroni and cheese.” / Class: “Everybody freeze.”
Tip #5: Set Up Rewards and Consequences.
Rewards for good behavior and consequences for bad behavior are effective. Remember to focus on the behavior and not the student.
- Catch students being good and praise the positive behavior to the class. “I really like that Emma is raising her hand.”
- Give out raffle tickets during a lesson to students who are actively listening and exhibiting the behavior you want. Then, host a weekly drawing for prizes.
- Reward a well-behaved class with a special snack or extra recess time or a chance at the classroom prize jar.
- Reward individual students with a homework pass, a chance to play a non-academic computer game, stickers, or a note of praise to the child’s parents. Be creative. Giving your student a chance to sit in the teacher’s chair or to go first all day are both coveted rewards that won’t cost anything.
- Use low-key responses first to get a misbehaving student’s attention. Look at them and pause. Stand near them. Say the student’s name and nothing else.
- Request the student to stop, using minimal words.
- Remove the object that is causing the behavior, if there is one.
- Don’t get angry. Count to 5. Then deliver a logical consequence. Be brief. When students are agitated, they are unable to process. Do not give them any chance for debate or negotiation.
- Have a buddy class where you can send a student who misbehaves. Set it up ahead of time with the other teacher.
- Avoid punishing the class for the actions of one student.
- Create an individual behavior plan for students with repeated negative behaviors.
Tip #6: Consider high-tech help for behavior management
There are technology tools on the market that can be used in classroom management. Here are some popular ones, many of which are free or include free elements.
- Stop-Go! – Using a traffic light, this free app is a timer. It works with your iPad or iPhone.
- ClassDojo – Students are assigned monster avatars in this free program. Their monsters get points for following class values set by the teacher. Teachers also can post photos and messages to parents.
- Too Noisy – This app comes in a free online version. It monitors the noise level in the classroom with a noise meter and changing graphics if the class is too noisy.
- The Great Behavior Game – You teach as usual, but assign timeouts or freeze students from earning points if they are disruptive. This game is designed for grades K-5.
- Classcraft – Classcraft gamifies behavior management with student avatars that earn special powers for making good choices. There are free and paid versions of this program.
Tip #7: Ask for help.
Remember that you don’t have to do this alone. You have great resources within shouting distance.
- Ask an experienced teacher to mentor you in behavior management.
- Start a support group for classroom management at your school and share challenges and ideas.
- Consider peer teaching. Another adult in the room can help.
- Remember that classroom management takes time and practice. Adjust your expectations and give yourself some grace.
Do you have a classroom management tip that isn’t on this list? We’d love to hear it. Share it with us and other Educators in the comments.
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