As a new educator, I recall my greatest fear – out-of-control students. It was a daily struggle to get their attention. I contemplated classroom rules and consequences, trying to figure strategies for different disruptions. I thought if I had well-planned lessons, class interruptions would take care of themselves.
I found myself yelling over students, calling the same names multiple times a day and spending very little time teaching. I became frustrated, drained and overwhelmed. I needed to create a positive classroom environment and culture, but to do that, first needed an effective classroom management plan.
A few months into my first year teaching, I knew I had to go back to square one – I had to set the tone and establish routines, structure and procedures. Students needed to know what to do as soon as they walked into the room – where to sit, how to transition, where to put their things and how to interact positively with their classmates.
I reached out to my former cooperating teacher, whose excellent teaching style I admire dearly. She always seemed to know exactly what advice to give me when things went wrong. I visited her classrooms several times to observe her strategies and classroom management style and every time, I came back into my classroom with new and effective ways of approaching my students. Here are some of the strategies I use to create a successful and effective school year.
Establish Classroom Responsibilities
Developing clear classroom responsibilities forms the groundwork for successful classroom management and culture. Doing so lets students know what is and is not expected in class. Consistency is also key. Whether you’re telling students to expect a call at home or instructing them to stay indoors for lunch, you have to do as you say. Failing to follow through demonstrates there’s no consistency and your credibility suffers.
Teach Routines and Procedures
Practice, practice, practice! Do not expect students to know what to do if you have not yet demonstrated what it is you’d like them to do. The first month and a half of each school year, practice daily classroom routines and procedures with students. Run through things repeatedly, including how to stand and push in their chairs, how to get from one corner of the room to the other, where to go during a lock down, where and how to line up. As simple as these things may sound, students need reinforcement, which ultimately saves time and eliminates disruptions.
Create Attention-Getting Signals
Establish several attention-getting signals to redirect students. Signals also have to be practiced repeatedly before they become systematic and work successfully. You can use a variety of nonverbal signals, such as clapping twice and asking students to respond with two claps to show they’re paying attention. Ring a bell during transition time or to signal work time. Use physical proximity to head off potential disruptions. Find the signal that best works for you and your students, practice it daily and you will see how smoothly your day will go.
After implementing these techniques in my classroom, my class was less disruptive. I got through my lessons without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated.
Don’t be afraid to look to others for answers. Mentors are there for a reason; they’re there to help you. Keep an open communication with your cooperating teacher and other educators for advice and guidance. Do your online research. Study other teachers’ classrooms, their teaching strategies, stay informed of effective new methods and techniques. Observe other successful teachers in your building from whom you can learn.
Use these strategies and you’ll be on your way to developing strong management skills and a positive classroom culture.