Class management is arguably the most important element to master as a teacher. Effective classroom management promotes learning, creates a safe environment, and reduces the number of disciplinary interventions.
Today, teachers are entering an education system where exchanges, collaboration, and flexible accommodation are encouraged. Without strong classroom management, these initiatives that are supposed to enrich the learning environment are undermined.
As such, the importance of establishing clear routines and rules with your students from the start is essential. Here are 10 key tips and strategies for effective classroom management I have found very effective:
1. Create a positive bond with your students
Whether it's greeting them at the door when they enter your classroom, showing interest in their interests, or letting them personalize their workspace, show your students that they are important and that they are respected.
I like to ask students to decorate my bulletin board at the beginning of the year and I also post pictures of my groups on it. They feel at home in my room.
Starting the class by welcoming them (Good morning! Good afternoon!), and asking them if they are doing well creates a caring environment.
A student who feels welcomed, listened to, and respected will be more motivated to respect the way you operate and your rules in the classroom.
2. Walk around the class room
We were taught this strategy in training when I took up my post in 2007. And how precious it is! Proximity has proven very effective in resolving many disciplinary problems.
Walking around the room while you talk or give instructions keeps students alert. They will turn their heads or even the whole body to follow you with their eyes.
While working at headquarters (alone or in a team), moving around between the desks allows you to see if the students are on task and will ensure that the most talkative will force themselves to at least appear to be working when you will arrive nearby.
If a student is disturbing, approaching him or standing next to his chair to give your instructions will often be enough for him to stop ... without you even saying his name.
3. Insist on the right to speak
When you develop your rules of conduct at the start, be sure to address the right to speak. A teacher who has the right to speak should not be interrupted by a student.
If a student chooses to speak when they are not allowed to speak, I stop; look at them and ask them the following question: Who has the right to speak? Usually, this is enough for him to shut up.
I also use non-verbal cues to show a student that s/he speaks without having the right to speak. For example, students sometime like to ask questions without raising their hands. If a student speaks to me without raising their hand, I look at them, without saying anything, and I raise my hand (to indicate that they should raise their hand before speaking). I then turn my attention to another student who has his hand up, only to come back to the first student if s/he understands they needs to raise his hand.
A teacher during my first teaching internship demonstrated to me the importance of not responding to free comments from students (if a student speaks without raising their hand or at an inappropriate time). I had seen how often I responded to students who were not allowed to speak, especially those who commented or asked questions about the work. It only confirmed to others that the right to speak was not important and that anyone could speak when they wanted. By making this awareness, I was able to adjust my way of doing things and I saw positive results.
4. Limit students moving about in class
I have a clear rule in class: you remain seated in your place during the instructions and during the teaching capsules. If a student has to stand up during this time, he or she should raise their hand and ask permission.
During working hours at headquarters, I allow students to get up to blow their nose, sharpen their pencils, get a resource or ask me a question.
On the other hand, in a more turbulent group or on a more hectic day, my rule changes a bit and the students must ask for permission to circulate even during these times. If the teacher walks the class, he can easily answer students' questions without them having to find them, removing the need to stand up.
With my pre-teens, a classroom can easily become a zoo if we don't restrict travel. A crowd in front of the pencil sharpener, a choir of noses blowing their noses near the trash can, a battle of textbooks near the shelves, a dropped computer on the ground ... Keep in mind that I teach 60-minute lessons after which my students have a 7-minute break to socialize and get to their next class.
I still allow them to move around during transitions (between work), sometimes a small group at a time depending on the students. Also, if I feel my students more restless than normal on a day, I put on a good song and they can get up, stretch, and (for the brave ones) dance.
5. Be consistent
The student must understand the rules. Refer to them often (post them!). They must also understand what consequence is attached to bad choices.
Talk about it and be consistent. Every bad choice has its consequence and it is applied consistently, regardless of the student, every time it occurs.
It takes a lot of focus and energy on your part, especially at the start of the year, but it will be worth it once your classroom management is established. You will congratulate yourself in February when your students are still orderly and respectful.
Instead of always punishing students for their bad choices, reward them for their good deeds. I use a reinforcement system since 2008 which has been working wonderfully with my students. You know, the more boring they are, the more they need positive reinforcement (and love). Praise them when they have a good shot.
6. Communicate openly with parents
Open communication between school and home is essential. Make the first contact as soon as possible, whether at an information evening or in a welcome letter. Contact them when there is a problem or when you have concerns.
In my opinion, a parent should be notified if their child is disrespectful in class or if they are struggling to complete their assignments. Do you know what is my thing with difficult students? I communicate with parents on a regular basis, making an effort to highlight good moves.
I have a student in mind, to whom I taught a few years ago who was quite problematic. By congratulating him and sending positive emails to his parents when they were having a good day, I had become his best ally. Try it, you will see the difference!
7. Use a timer
To stay engaged and on task, students need to know the following two things:
- What do I need to do?
- And, how long do I have to do it?
Once your instructions have been given and written on the board, display a timer on the screen or use an hourglass to define the working time. This stuff is great for teamwork.
Students are more likely to have a final product if they have been given a time constraint. Unconstrained, they risk socializing and your work, as interesting as it is, will take a back seat.
I sometimes measure the working time in songs instead of minutes: You have two songs to correct your dictation. On the other hand, with my groups more agitated or more easily distracted, I avoid doing it too often. Music for some is a distraction that also increases the volume of noise in the room.
8. Arrange the classroom according to your teaching style and needs
A new teacher, in my opinion, should first establish solid classroom management before venturing into the flexible arrangements. There is nothing wrong with placing desks in a more traditional way while you get to know your students.
Desks glued together in pairs or even placed in rows will help students avoid distractions, pay more attention during instructions, and stay focused during individual tasks. Furniture can easily be moved temporarily for a group activity. The layout of the classroom does not prevent the educational activities that may take place there.
Managing the classroom when students are seated in groups of four, or when they don't all have desks, is a big challenge, even for seasoned teachers. Think about it. Perhaps opt for a more flexible arrangement after the new year break when students gain a better understanding of your operating standards or during special activities throughout the year. To each his own style. Find out yours before you venture into big projects.
It is also a good idea to assign places. These can change every month if you want. However, a sociable preteen must understand that choosing their workspace is a privilege. The primary purpose of the classroom is learning. It is the teacher's role to choose a class plan that will facilitate concentration and promote learning for his students. Sitting down with your friend is probably not the best choice.
By having assigned places, you will also ensure better follow-up with your substitutes during an absence. You can also use the choice of place as a reward during the year (special days, end of the month, team activities, etc.).
9. Planning the start and end of lessons
When a student enters my class, they know what they will be doing during the period thanks to the daily menu. The student also knows what to do at the sound of the bell since I write an instruction on the board under a big picture of a bell. This instruction is quite simple, asking students to take out a sheet, go get their computer, or even continue a work already started. Choose what works best for you.
One thing is certain, this practice ensures that the lesson begins on its own, without you having to ask your students to shut up. To reinforce this routine at the start of class, I use my reward system. Students get used to it during the first few weeks of school.
Also, have activities for your students when they finish a job, otherwise, some will be happy to disturb others. I have an activity book (crosswords, sudoku, drawing, puzzles, etc.), magazines, and mini-novels for this purpose.
I also encourage students to go ahead with their homework or do some personal reading. I often indicate the end of class activity on the board, following my instructions for a job. This strategy is especially important during an evaluation, to ensure that the faster ones are busy and quiet until the end of the allotted time.
10. Adapt to each group and to changes in the school system.
Finally, we all have different styles of teaching. As a young teacher at the start of my career, it was my organization, my steadfastness, and my consistency that allowed me to survive. I was not perfect and I am far from being so today. I adapt to each group and to changes in the school system.
Some days I am less patient, others I am less consistent (especially if I have looked after a sick child most of the night). However, students will be more stable and benefit less from me on these days if they already know and meet my operating standards.
Because, basically, that's what we're trying to establish in our classroom: respect - thanks to a winning class management.