Effective classroom management is essential to the learning, productivity and well-being of your students. After all, the rules and routines that govern your classroom help to keep students on task, focused and engaged in their learning. While classroom management strategies will vary by grade level, course type and teacher personality, the goal of every strategy is to help you manage the behavior, participation and expectations of your students.
Rules of Conduct
Before the students arrive on the first day of school, establish a set of classroom rules and post them in an obvious spot in your classroom. The list should be short and direct, with no more than five to ten rules, depending on grade level. Rules could include such directives as “Raise your hand before speaking,” “Treat each other with respect,” and “No chewing gum.” Alternatively, during the first few days of school you could work with your students to create a list of classroom rules by asking for their individual input. This can help students feel a sense of ownership over the rules, making them more likely to adhere to them.
Once you have the rules of conduct established, the next question is what you do if one of your students chooses to break a rule. Students should understand that there will be set consequences for their transgressions. Therefore, when you introduce your code of conduct, you must also discuss the consequences of breaking a rule and then adhere to those consequences without fail. For instance, you may want to create a “three-strikes-you’re-out” series of consequences. The first strike is a warning; the second strike is a call home to mom and dad; and the third strike results in formal disciplinary action. The key is to remain consistent. Issue a pass for one kid and you’ve set the precedent that the rules can be bent or broken without fear of consequence, leading to a chaotic, uncontrolled learning environment.
As the saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” In other words, if you don’t give your students enough work to fill a class period, they’ll find something to do to fill the time -- and it likely won’t be in line with your instructional goals. From early in the year, set the expectation that students will be learning the entire time they are in your classroom. To set expectations, present them with a “bell ringer” activity, which they are expected to complete within the first five minutes of class. This will help them to settle in their seats while giving you a few minutes to take attendance and perform other administrative tasks. You also must ensure that your lesson plans are thorough enough to fill up a full class period. If students are working independently on an assignment, have extra assignments available for those who finish their work early. These assignments can be something as simple as a coloring page for younger children or brain teasers related to your lesson topic for older students.
The way you physically arrange the desks and tables in your classroom also directly affects your classroom management. The right seating arrangement can not only help you control student behavior but it can also help you monitor student work by allowing you to move freely about the room. Use common sense to guide your classroom arrangement: seat students where their attention will be directed toward the teacher, make sure students are clearly able to see the chalk boards and screens and keep aisles or pathways between desks free of congestion. Your seating arrangement should also be flexible and allow students to easily switch gears from one activity to the next.
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