Implementing effective classroom management strategies into your classroom can be a challenge, especially at the beginning of your career. But with a little practice, you can develop techniques to keep your students engaged, attentive, and respectful to you and to their classmates.
I use the following "macro" strategies—ideas you can use to organize and plan class activities—in my class regularly. These techniques can be very useful, especially if you start implementing them right from the start of the school year.
Set the Right Tone
Veteran teachers sometimes tell new teachers, "Don't smile until Christmas!" But I think that would make for a long, grim fall! Plus, is that really the tone you want to set in your classroom? Instead of giving kids a long list of rules at the beginning of the year, set a positive classroom tone by modeling an attitude that's friendly, respectful, and has a touch of humor. I've found that most kids will try to meet expectations if they know what they are.
Stand at your door and greet students as they enter with a smile. You can also have students sit in alphabetical order at the beginning of the year so you can quickly learn everyone's name. Greeting students by name and smiling helps establish rapport, and sitting in alphabetical order is especially helpful if you teach middle or high school and have to learn as many as 100 names in a very short time. Once you've done that, you may decide to allow your class to choose their own seats as long as everyone stays on task.
To show that you value your time together, make sure you start class on time. Many teachers like having a quick activity on the board for students to do as soon as they enter the room. Maybe it's a math problem, a handful of sentences that need to be corrected, or a short paragraph about a current event with a discussion question. These quick activities help students focus on the day's lesson, and you can start class by asking everyone to share their answers.
Have a Clear Plan for Learning Activities
When it comes to lesson plans, if you don't know where you're going, it's likely that you won't get there. Your learning goals for each class period should be clear, and so should your plan for the day. Here are some effective classroom management strategies you can use with students to achieve your learning goals:
- Tell students what the goals are for the day's lesson. If you can build on yesterday's lesson, that's even better. For example, you might say, "Remember when we talked about topic sentences yesterday? Who remembers what a topic sentence is? Today we're going to talk about whether the topic sentence actually has to be stated or whether it can be implied. Let's look at some examples and see what you think."
- Move around the room as the lesson unfolds to keep everyone involved.
- Engage as many students as possible in discussion. Don't only call on students who raise their hand. If a student doesn't know the answer to a question, move on. After a student answers a question, ask another student whether he or she agrees with the answer.
- Wrap up direct instruction 5 to 10 minutes before the end of the period for review or closure.
Save Time for a Strong Finish
The worst way for a class to end is if you're in the middle of a sentence and the bell rings. Students jump out of their seats, and you're left yelling something like, "Don't forget the test on Friday!" as they race out the door. This behavior appears to be disrespectful, but it really just shows that your students don't know what your expectations are. What can you do to ensure that the last minutes of class are as strong as the rest?
- Teach your students that the period is over when you dismiss them, not when the bell rings.
- Plan your time wisely so that you don't run late and make kids tardy for their next class.
- Spend the last minutes of class time wrapping up the day's work and reviewing the major points covered. Make sure students are fully aware of tomorrow's assignment, future tests, or project deadlines before the bell rings.
- A word of praise is a good way to end the class period. Simply say something like, "Good discussion" or "Nice job, guys!" My favorite way to send my students off, though, is with a gentle reminder: "OK, see you tomorrow, and don't forget to write!"
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Clearly, all of these suggestions are just a partial list of effective classroom management strategies. Most teachers develop lots of management strategies but tend to rely on those they are comfortable with and have used with success. Try some of these out and see what works for you.