Developing Classroom Management Plans for Elementary School, Part 1
Simple Steps to Creating an Effective System, part 1
When Alexis was a little girl, she dreamt of becoming an elementary school teacher. She imagined how her classroom would be arranged. She even set her stuffed animals and dolls on her bed with books in front of them and pretended to teach lessons.
Alexis went to college and absorbed everything her professors said. She did not want to forget anything. She really enjoyed creating her own classroom management plan. Even though she was sure her students would never have behavior issues, Alexis figured it was a good idea to have a plan…just in case
Her first year of teaching could have been described as trial by fire. Alexis encountered a number of students who caused her to question her teacher training program. She realized that the plan she created didn’t make much sense because it wasn’t based in reality. Alexis knew nothing about teaching when she created her classroom management plan. She discovered that she needed another system based on her current situation - a plan that would actually work.
Though the above scenario is completely contrived, it is true for many practicing educators. Whether they are in the midst of their first year of teaching or their twenty-first year, teachers are realizing the need for effective classroom management systems that do more than curb inappropriate student behavior.
Teachers who find themselves in a situation similar to that of Alexis – desperately needing to create an effective classroom management system – could greatly reduce their stress by following the simple steps listed below:
1. Establish a Quiet Signal
Since the average elementary classroom can become semi-chaotic and quite noisy as students actively engage in their learning, establishing a quiet signal is the first and most important step in developing an effective classroom management system.
By definition, a quiet signal is precisely what the term implies: a signal the teacher uses in order to get her students to be quiet. It can also be described as something the teacher does in order to gain the attention of her students. Quiet signals can be as creative and unique as the teachers who use them. The following are common examples of quiet signals:
· Silent signals: the teacher captures students’ attention without saying a word, i.e. a teacher raises her hand and quietly waits for students to do the same.
· Auditory call and response signals: the teacher utters a phrase; the students respond in unison; then they are silent, i.e. a teacher says, “One, two, three; all eyes on me”; and students reply, “One, two; all eyes on you.”
· Kinesthetic call and response signals: the teacher tells students to perform an action; they are silent after doing so, i.e. a teacher says, “If you can hear me, clap once”; and students comply with the request.
2. List Expectations, Rather than Rules
Imagine a job seeker applying for a new position, but instead of finding a job description, he sees a long list of what not to do. Chances are that position would remain vacant. Most applicants would hesitate to apply for the job because they would not have a clear picture of what success looked like in that position.
Posting a list of rules is equivalent to the scenario mentioned above. In general, students get into trouble because they have been given a list of what they shouldn’t do (rules), and they are not sure what they are supposed to do (expectations).
It is usually best to have three to five expectations and carefully outline what each expectation looks like in a given area. Expectations should also be spoken of in terms of what the teacher wants the students to do, rather than what the students are not supposed to do.
For example, a teacher can have the following expectations of her students:
- Be Respectful
- Be Responsible
- Be Safe
- Be Successful
That teacher can further explain each expectation by developing a behavior matrix. A behavior matrix allows students to know precisely what each expectation means in any given area of the classroom and at any point in time of the day.
3. Develop Classroom Procedures
In terms of classroom management systems, developing a set of procedures is necessary in order for a classroom to run efficiently and effectively. A procedure, as defined by the Oxford American Dictionary, is “a series of actions done or appointed to be done in order to accomplish something, a way of conducting business”. Procedures exist so people know how to function appropriately in society. Since a classroom is a type of society, every classroom should have a set of procedures
There are a number of procedures teachers should develop as part of their classroom management system, including but not limited to handing out papers, sharpening pencils, asking questions, and throwing things away. These procedures should be followed whether the regular classroom teacher is present or absent. The most effective classroom management systems are those in which a teacher not only develops detailed classroom procedures but also takes the time to teach those procedures to her students.
Some classroom procedures are as follows:
· Entering the Classroom: When students approach the classroom door, voices should be lowered. They should enter the classroom quietly and in an orderly fashion. Once they step through the door, TAPS is in effect (Talking And Playing Stops).
· When there is a Visitor or Guest: If a visitor/guest walks in the classroom or is already in the room when students arrive, students should be on their best behavior. They are not to entertain the individual or speak to him/her, unless instructed to do so.
· When Someone (a Non-Classmate) Enters the Room or Interrupts Instruction: If someone comes to the door to speak with the teacher and students are working quietly at their desks, they should continue to work quietly. If the teacher is in front of the room providing instruction when the interruption occurs, students should remain quiet until she is able to return. If the interruption is a message over the intercom, students should stop what they are doing and listen as the message may pertain to one of them.
4. Create a Token Economy
Another vital part of an effective classroom management system is a token economy, that rewards students for behaving appropriately. If students meet the expectations of the teacher, they are given a little token of appreciation.
The tokens – whether they are stickers, classroom cash, or tickets – can be cashed in for goods or services at a time and place determined by the teacher. The goods or services don’t have to cost anything. A teacher could easily offer costless rewards, such as homework passes, the chance to be the teacher’s assistant for the day, or the opportunity to sit at the teacher’s desk while she is teaching. If a teacher wishes to create a class store, she could purchase small items from the dollar store and/or collect prizes from kids’ meals for students to “purchase”.
Many teachers strongly oppose the idea of a token economy in the classroom. Some believe that students should do what is expected of them simply because it is the right thing to do. Others think that a token economy sends students the wrong message because they see it as a form of bribery. What those teachers fail to realize is that modern society is one large token economy. If people do their work, they are “rewarded” with a paycheck. Depending on the field, those who do exceptionally well, receive raises, bonuses and promotions. If adults can be prevailed upon to work harder because of the possibility of a prize or gift, it should be no surprise that students operate the same way.
Students appreciate receiving rewards for hard work. Being rewarded even encourages some students to work harder and smarter. However, it should be noted that students are not to be rewarded for following classroom procedures since procedures are a necessary part of the classroom. Rewarding students for following classroom procedures is like rewarding a teacher for grading papers or creating lesson plans.
A teacher who follows the steps as outlined will soon discover that it is possible to have a harmonious classroom. Each step in creating an effective classroom management system has been successfully implemented in every grade from kindergarten to sixth. On occasion, certain steps will have to be tweaked in order for younger students to grasp the concepts.
It is crucial for a teacher to include her administrators in the creation of a new classroom management system since the worst thing a teacher could do is make promises to students that can not be fulfilled. A teacher should present her plan to her principal or assistant principal prior to implementation. A great principal would never turn down an effective, well-thought out classroom management system that is good for kids.
• See "Classroom Management Strategies" in order to discover the remaining steps.
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