I knew nothing about classroom management when I entered the classroom for the first time back in 1975. As you might imagine, I found that my lack of knowledge immediately branded me as a beginner. And, the kids acted accordingly--and horribly.
I'd like to say that I developed a class management system during my very first year of teaching. However, it took me several years of trial and error, as well as several more years of stealing ideas from my fellow teachers, before I felt that I finally had it right.
For me, no single strategy seemed to work the way it should. Rather, a set of strategies that work together proved to be better. What follows is nothing more than a set of strategies for enhancing classroom management that I have found to be effective.
Please, by all means, feel free to take whatever you think best suits your needs.
You may use the following quick links to go directly to what interests you on this page. You may also scroll down the page manually if you choose to do so.
Building a Foundation
Structuring the Instructional Day
Going to the Movies
Structuring the Instructional Week
The CHAMPs Classroom Managment System
The Classroom Agreement
Having clear-cut classroom routines is unquestionably the most important classroom management strategy of all.
Here is additional information on classroom routines.
The second piece of the classroom management foundation is to ensure that all students are focused on a warm-up activity every day when they enter the classroom.
We all know that if kids have extra time on their hands, they will find something to do with that extra time. And, what they find to do, will ALWAYS be what we don't want them to do. We want to manage the class--we do not want the class to manage us.
Providing a short written activity that is visible to kids as soon as they enter the classroom is the best way to get them focused on the upcoming class period. The warm-up activities that I typically use come from a collection called, Warming Up to Language Arts. Each activity, such as the one you see here, takes no more than about seven or eight minutes to complete after the tardy bell has rung.
As a language arts teacher, I provide warm-ups that reinforce writing skills, mechanics, and grammatical rules. I display them on the classroom TV in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. Please see the sample above.
It really doesn't matter what your subject area is, because warm-up activities can be designed for any purpose: a short set of mathematical problems to be solved, a fill-in-the-blanks activity based on what you taught the day before, a brain teaser of some sort, or even a puzzle.
Whatever the warm-up activity is, the most important thing is that your kids have something to accomplish as soon as they enter the classroom.
They are focused on the task at hand instead of focused on getting out of hand.
I stole this classroom management idea from an academic coach who worked with my colleagues and me at Twin Lakes Middle School.
She suggested that dividing the instructional day into four smaller segments is a good way to provide structure for students. The four smaller segments include the opening, the mini lesson, the work time, and the closing.
To communicate this structure to kids, she used the "Going to the Movies" analogy in a brainstorming session that is briefly summarized below.
To start the brainstorming session, she asked students to imagine that they are going to the movies. She asked kids to help her list what they do first when they go.
Responses typically include getting to the theater, purchasing the tickets, getting refreshments, and finding their seat inside the theater.
She explained that the opening of class is very much like that. Students are arriving at class, preparing their materials and tools, and beginning the day's warm-up activity.
Then, she asked kids to explain what they do once they get to their seats in the theater. Although kids like to say that they begin watching the movie, she reminds them that they would normally see several previews of coming attractions.
She explained that the mini lesson is similar to that. The teacher is presenting information during that period of time that will come in useful when they get to the main feature, which in this case would be the work time.
She continued in that manner, drawing parallels between watching the actual movie itself to doing the actual work in the classroom. She pointed out, and the students agreed, that while the movie is showing, everyone is paying attention.
Everyone is seated. No one is running around in the theater.
After all, the movie is the main feature, the main reason why they're there in the first place. So too is the work time in the classroom-- it requires focus and attention.
The closing, she explained, is when you talk about the movie you just watched and discuss it in detail--just like we use the closing of class to discuss or reflect on what we have learned.
Although this brainstorming procedure worked great with middle school students, high school kids would probably find it a bit immature. But the most important point is that structuring the instructional day is a good classroom management tool.
Kids respond and function quite well in a structured environment, which contributes to effective classroom management.
Just as surely as kids benefit from a structured class period, they also benefit from having a structured instructional week.
In my case, as a language arts teacher, Readers Workshop fell on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Writers Workshop was on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The benefit here is that when students know what type of workshop is scheduled for that day, they are in a better position to prepare for the task at hand.
For example, students know that for Readers Workshop they will need their independent reading books and their reading journals. On a Writers Workshop day, they will know that they need their writing journals and the textbook. As a result, they are prepared to proceed with class.
Structuring the week in a specific way is conducive to any type of class. Perhaps in a math class, students could focus on word problems Mondays, fractions on Tuesdays, and so forth.
Once again, structure is an important part of any classroom management strategy.
After drilling and quizzing my kids about my classroom routines and the instructional structure, I focus on my expectations for them in my class.
I use PowerPoint to display and discuss The Course Overview. This overview contains our most important academic objectives and/or performance standards. At Twin Lakes, for example, all students are expected to read 25 books in the school year. I make it clear to them that the reading expectation is a school-wide expectation, not just something that I want them to do in my class.
I also inform them that as students in a language arts class, I expect them to give their best efforts toward preparing for those all-important standardized exams. I try my best to explain to them why getting good scores on those exams benefits them as well as their school.
My promise to them in return for their efforts is that I will be there for them throughout the year. If I do not know the answer to any of their questions at any time, I pledge to find the answers for them. I stress that my entire purpose for being with them in my class is to ensure that everyone is successful.
I tell them that being in the business of success, is a full-time job. I remind them that they cannot be successful in life without putting forth the effort. I mention that people enter a race to win. No one enters a race with the goal of losing.
I assure them that I am here to help them win.
Establishing expectations and sincerely expressing my intentions go a long way toward enhancing classroom management. So too is using plenty of positive reinforcement with as many students as possible.
Additionally, here are some important strategies for motivating students that I have found to be highly effective.
Twin Lakes as well as several other schools in our district use the CHAMPs Classroom Management System.
For those who may not be familiar with it, this is a visual way of structuring the instructional day and establishing expectations based on specific classroom initiatives.
When I was first introduced to the CHAMPs classroom management system, my first thought was that it was just another set of “classroom rules.” I soon found how wrong I was.
If you’d like a proven way to enhance your classroom management system without a load of mind-numbing “training,” CHAMPs may be just what you’ve been looking for.
And, it works like a charm for any subject area at any grade level—barring, of course, those little folks who have not yet learned how to read. Here is additional information on the CHAMPs Classroom Management System.
You may download 10 free CHAMPs Classroom Signs or the entire collection of 100 by following this link or the one in the sample of signs image above.
Another important tool you may want to consider is 125 Classroom Signs for Structure and Organization. Signs included in this collection are…
Additionally, 68 of these signs will accept your own typing, insuring that what you post on your walls and whiteboards reflects your own unique circumstances.
See complete details, download the Free 12-Sign Sampler, or purchase 125 Classroom Signs for Structure and Organization from this page.
After establishing my classroom management strategy, I give each student a copy of The Classroom Agreement.
My classroom agreement is in the form of a colorful brochure that I designed using Microsoft Publisher. It contains information about classroom routines, the daily and weekly class schedule, report card grading components, and a parental involvement section that clearly spells out how parents can reach me either on the telephone or online.
I include in that brochure my business card that I also designed In Microsoft Publisher for the convenience of parents. Here is the brochure. Please steal, um, uh, lift from it, anything that you might find useful.
I ask students to take the brochures home with them. Once the parents have reviewed them and gone over the contents with their kids, both parents and students sign and date the agreement. When the student returns it to me, he/she gets extra credit.
My classroom management strategy is now complete.
You, the individual classroom teacher, know better than anyone else what works best for you and your kids. And, as they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
But if it IS broke or it's nearing the breaking point, please consider using some of the strategies outlined above as tools for effective classroom management.
That will certainly be a daunting challenge if you're in the middle of a school year, but next year will arrive quickly.
And you will be prepared to make the most of it.