The Classroom Management Riddle
Putting It All Together
So what is classroom management anyway? Most people think it's having the ability to keep students from being disruptive. What should be realized, though, is that classroom management is an umbrella that covers that and so much more. For starters, classroom management is exactly what it says - management of the classroom. This includes, yes, the students but it also includes the classroom environment and how it's put together, the culture of the classroom, the code of conduct and the strategic placement of furniture, materials/supplies and learning supports.
One way to look at it is this: You, as the classroom teacher, are the manager of your classroom. Compare that to a store manager. If you think about a store manager, what would you say his role is? You're right if you said keeping the store running smoothly. What does it take to keep a store running smoothly and effectively? Well, it takes someone to manage every aspect of the store. I would go a bit crazy if I went into a department store, looking for something specific and not being able to find it because everything in the store is just placed everywhere with no rhyme or reason. This would cause frustration, anxiety and confusion. How is merchandise displayed? Is it attractive and eye-catching? What about safety measures? What would happen if there was some type of emergency or other incident? Would anyone know what to do? Is there a plan in place for exiting people out of the store? What about inventory? What happens when things run out? What about disgruntled customers? How are they handled? These are some of the questions that must be addressed as a manager of a store. The classroom teacher (manager) has to answer similar questions. However, her questions come in the form of where to place desks, where to hang strategy and anchor charts, what area to designate for the classroom library, what the code of conduct will be, how to address infractions of the code and kinds of rewards, where learning centers should go and how they will operate, how many word walls should be displayed, where will student work folders be located, where to put the schedule of the day and more. It could be daunting for a new teacher and some veterans have yet to master it.
For many teachers, classroom management is a riddle. They have pieces of it but can't solve it. But if managing a classroom is looked at like the store manager's store with the goal of being effective and efficient, classroom management can come together and the teacher as well as the students will live very happy lives in their classrooms.
If You Build It, They Will Come
One thing that I have found to be true in my teaching career is that children want order, they crave structure and they desire to be taught. It is up to you, the classroom teacher, to organize the classroom so children get what they want.
A code of conduct is the life blood of your classroom. So often teachers post the code of conduct or class rules and never ever refer back to them. What a tragedy! This one document, one that the children should have an integral part of devising, can become a living document in the classroom. It can be extremely instrumental in eradicating negative behaviors that take away from valuable instructional time. As a reminder, a code of conduct lists desired behaviors and must be expressed in the positive. For example, instead of stating "Don't leave your seat without permission. State, "Ask permission to leave your seat."
The class is a community and students must know and understand that. It is a place where there are many differences as well as varying needs. Whether students are from other countries, have difficulty speaking the language, a few levels below grade level, simply cannot get the math, students come with diverse needs. These are to be recognized and then supported in some way. Children have to respect each other in any case. Respect is a factor that is key to running a classroom that is both positive and successful. When creating your code of conduct, ensure that one of those has to do with respect for each other, teacher and self.
A warm, nurturing environment is another key aspect of managing a classroom. If your students feel safe and loved in the classroom, they will be eager to learn and would do just about anything for their teacher. How do you create a warm, nurturing environment where your students feel safe and loved? This is easily done by modeling respect, patience and tolerance. Children learn these things quickly when they see it modeled on a daily basis. Ensure that your classroom is bright and colorful with an ample amount of students' work. Having their work posted sends a message that they are doing well and keeps them motivated to continue to do well. Books should be in key locations in your room. For example, there must be a classroom library with a grand selection of books, books that cover all the reading levels in your class. There must be books on various genres as well as author studies that are grade appropriate. Libraries must be inviting. This means well-maintained, colorful bins and baskets, stuffed animals, beans bags or pillows and a sign out book.
There should also be books in the science and social studies center. Preferably, these books should be related to the topics that are being taught at that time. Children must play a role in maintaining the classroom so monitors assigned to various tasks will teach responsibility. Rotate these tasks so that everyone gets a turn to participate. In addition, purposely plan relationship-building activities and games that will sure to encourage positive interactions. Pay attention to the dynamics in the classroom so as to seat your children appropriately. Conduct short class meetings so children can voice concerns or issues that arise during the course of the day and actively address these issues. What may seem like a little thing to us, as adults, may be a huge issue for children in their social circles. Carve time in your schedule to talk to your students to find out their likes, interests, etc. Remember to let your students know about you as well. I used to tell my students stories about things that happened to me in my daily life, for example, my escapades with two dogs and fourteen puppies. You can imagine how this made way for some very interesting and funny discussions. My students looked forward to my short stories and were captivated by them. Shopping trips, the commute to work, celebrations and more all let your students know that their teacher is human. Lastly, having a sense of humor is the icing on the cake. Classroom life can be fun and much more interesting with laughter.
Rituals, Routines and Procedures
The daily events in any classroom are based on the rituals, routines and procedures. These include what teacher and students do on any given day. One such ritual is the teacher greeting her students, by name, in the morning. Children need this display of warmth as it sets the tone for the day and makes them feel like they are a valued member of the class. Wouldn't you feel special if someone routinely greeted you in the morning by saying your name and adding a little something extra. For example, "Good morning Sarah. My, I just love your outfit."
Before any teaching can take place, you must to demonstrate to the students how the classroom will run. These are procedures that include how to line up, how to clean up desk areas, how to move to the closet to put belongings away, how to transition from one area to the next, what happens during our lessons, where to put lunch bags, etc. These are the normal procedures of any classroom but each one must be modeled for the students, more than once if necessary (and more than once may be necessary) until students "get it". Whatever it is that you want from your class, you must model it and expect it. The key here is consistency. It will never work if you model today, tomorrow and the next day but then grow complacent and let other behaviors set in. For example, what do you want your students to do once they enter the room? Whatever your expectation, you must inform them from the beginning so they can begin following through. You may want them to go directly to their desks, unpack their bags then put their belongings in their cubbies or closet. Or you may want them to unpack then wait for you to call their tables before going to the closet. Whatever your preference is, it is up to you to make it known to your children, model for them then hold them accountable for the remainder of the school year. In being consistent, the next day, you let the students have a run on it on their own. Of course, you will be observing them and commenting as appropriate. You must keep this up until the children can do it without your watchful eye. If someone forgets, quickly remind them. Do not let anything slip by. This consistent, daily practice is critical in the efficient running of your classroom.
Once in school, children are always in transition. You must teach transitions because your entire day, day after day, is based upon transitions. Children are always going somewhere whether to the carpet or to the library or back to their desks or the lunchroom, bathroom, another class. Yes, children are on the move and being on the move without a structure can translate into chaos and confusion, thus taking away from valuable instructional time. This is a procedure that is definitely significant in a smooth-running classroom. How do you get children to move from the carpet back to their desks or from their desks to line up or from the library to the carpet? You use signals such as "1 get ready, 2 stand and push your chairs and 3 move quietly to the carpet." Another method is to call each table, one by one. You can also use non-verbal cues such as hold your fingers up and count down or clapping. And there are so many more. Whichever you decide to use, remember consistency is key to running a smooth and orderly classroom. Once you teach the procedure, it then becomes a routine.
The meat of your day is, of course, your instructional time. This time is sacred time and should be regarded as such by both you and your students. Again, it is your responsibility to impress upon your students what is expected of them during this sacred time. Each lesson must follow a format and this format must be known to your students. As the days progress, they will know what to expect in a lesson as well as know what you expect when delivering a lesson. It's all up to you. Do you want your students to give 100% attention to what you are saying and showing them? Do you want them to participate fully in the activities associated with the lesson? What about getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom? What are your expectations for those? We all know that, in many cases, children use bathroom and water as a convenient excuse for leaving the lesson. Whatever the reason, children getting up, leaving the room and returning is a disruption you don't want to become a habit during instructional time. Not only is the child who is leaving missing part of the lesson, but the children who remain are being distracted by the noise and movement. Whatever your expectations are, make them public and hold your children accountable. Children come to school to learn and the only way this can be accomplished is with uninterrupted instructional time.
Other routines, rituals and procedures include the distribution of books and materials, a sign in/out book for leaving the room, using and maintaining the classroom library, test-taking, reviewing/collection of homework and the use of centers.
Remember, anything that is done on a daily basis is a routine or ritual. Theprocedures must be modeled and then expected. Running a smooth, efficient and happy classroom depends on it.
You've heard it all before. You must plan quality lessons for your students. One of the main reasons why students display disruptive behavior is because the lesson was not planned thoroughly. Ensure that you cover all bases including making connections to previously taught work, anticipating questions students might have, designing activities based on what was taught, allowing students ample time to complete the work, check the work, share what was done. Remember to infuse technology in everything you do.
How Important Is Management, You Ask?
This cute clip really shows what it's like without order in the classroom. It's important for children to know what your expectations are. Otherwise, chaos and confusion.
It's important to connect with kids as this teacher did at the end.
These magazine holders are handy items to help children organize their classwork, tests or books. They can be stored in the center of student desk areas or on book shelves, tables or windows.
These storage bins are a neat way to store paper, manipulatives, books or art supplies. A plus for classroom organization.
Pocket charts can be used in a variety of ways. The class daily schedule, word walls and class monitors and assignments are some of the many ways pocket charts can add order to the classroom.
Students keep track of their books and materials when their names are displayed on their desks. This is most useful for primary grades.
A good way to store/collect test papers, homework or special projects.
New Teacher Survival Guide
This video can be helpful to new teachers as well as not so new teachers who are struggling with classroom management. Having feedback from an expert can go a long way in mastering management techniques.
Great Reads for Classroom Management Ideas
Good practical advice from someone who has walked the walk.
Full of classroom management strategies, techniques and activities.
A wonderful resource that teaches strategies resulting in smooth-running classrooms.
Provides skills needed to effectively manage a classroom.
Offers strategies that both maximize classroom learning time and bring joy back into teaching.