Effective Classroom Management Tips
How to Build an Effective Classroom Environment
When thinking through classroom management ideas, you must decide what type of classroom environment works best for you. Consider what sort of structure you can implement to meet the academic and psychological needs of your students.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), the following are important tenets to keep in mind while crafting your classroom climate:
- Intrinsic motivation proves most effective.
- Fostering creativity helps students learn.
- Establishing short- and long-term goals gives students actionable objectives to achieve.
- Emotional well-being impacts a student's learning.
- Classroom management requires communicating high expectations, fostering positive relationships and supporting students whenever possible.
With these principles in mind, let's consider two other ways to create an effective learning environment in the classroom.
Arrange the Physical Space Appropriately
Desk placement strongly influences the physical space in a classroom. Collaborative, group work-based classes lend themselves to four desks facing each other. This setup may not work for classrooms that require a lot of lecturing, since not everyone can face the front.
Higher-level discourse-based classes using the Socratic seminar or book discussions would benefit from a circle because there is no hierarchy. The teacher sits among the students and lets them control the conversation. If you need a slight modification because you use discussion periodically, a large U-shape will work. No matter your setup, you'll want to consider its safety, traffic flow, comfort and accessibility.
Other unique desk arrangement options include:
- Stadium seating
- A double horseshoe
- Multiple U-shapes
- Two groups of 12
Determine the Management Structure
- Authoritative: High control, high involvement
- Authoritarian: High control, low involvement
- Indulgent: Low control, high involvement
- Permissive: Low control, low involvement
Effective Classroom Management Strategies for New Teachers
- What are my community rules? What are your policies on tardiness, or the use of laptops versus notebooks? How about rules for phone use, talking, sleeping and eating? Think about what your policies are, and then consider discussing options with your students. When you allow them to share their thoughts, they feel they have a say in the way you run the classroom.
- How neat do I need my classroom? Is everything neatly organized at all times, or do you tolerate a manageable level of clutter? Are you more focused on creativity than order? Set your expectations early on, so your students understand what is required of them.
- What volume should my classroom level be? Is silence always expected? Can students interrupt you to get your attention if you've turned your back? When working alone, can students listen to music?
- How do I accept work? Make your homework policy clear from the beginning. Do you collect work through email, or do you pick up homework from students' desks at the beginning of class? Should students put assignments in a basket on their way out the door? Do you talk about the homework in class? Is late work accepted, and if so, are there penalties? How should a student turn in work if they're absent?
- How will I explain and administer punishment? As with all your instructions, be clear and specific in setting the guidelines for discipline. For example, explain that if you talk in class three times, you'll receive a detention. Or if you neglect to hand in your homework five times in one semester, you'll lose a letter grade. When students know the consequences before they perform a behavior, they may not engage in that behavior. If they choose a behavior knowing the consequences, they can't claim the punishment is unfair.
- How will I get my student's attention? Do you have a clapping pattern students respond to? Will you stay silent until they stop talking? Whatever you decide, try not to talk over your students. If you actively compete for their attention, you may unintentionally show that listening is optional.
- How will I structure feedback? Will you write down areas of desired improvement on students' tests? Will you schedule meetings with your students to discuss their performance?
- How will I communicate my goals? Will you list goals on the board each day? Do you put goals at the top of students' worksheets? Do you have a bulletin board with semester-long goals? Do students get a syllabus? Make sure your students have a clear understanding of what each day and the semester as a whole will look like, so they know what you expect them to achieve.
- How can I help students take control of their learning? Will you let students take care of some of the simpler tasks like handing out papers? Will you ask students to devise study questions for review sessions? Do you assign open-ended, creative projects?
- Begin at the start of the quarter: Lay out your structure on the first day of school. Give your students a firm foundation of expectations, rules, regulations and an idea of what the rest of the semester will look like. Understanding your expectations can help students avoid unnecessary confusion and stress.
- Give actionable praise and feedback: Craft your recognition more concretely than, "Great job!" Your students need to know what they're doing right and what they can work on. If you give everyone something they did well and something they can work on, the high-performing kids know they can still improve, and the lower-performing kids can feel encouraged to take the next step.
- Make feedback a two-way street: Give students an opportunity to offer you their feedback. A feedback invitation can make students feel empowered to take control of their learning, which can help spur internal motivation.
- Give clear, brief instructions: Not knowing or understanding classroom expectations is frustrating for students. You can save time and encourage participation when you communicate your expectations simply.
- Give S.M.A.R.T goals: Create both long- and short-term goals in the SMART format — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. SMART goals give you and the students clear guidelines to make goals and recognize when they are accomplished.
Tips to Effectively Manage Your Classroom
Whether you've just determined your classroom climate or you're a seasoned professional, consider these tips to maintain effective control in the classroom.
1. Respect Your Students
- Learn names quickly: Show students you see them as individuals — not just another kid at a desk. When you don't learn a student's name, you may not call on them as frequently. When kids aren't called on as often, they may miss out on learning. When applicable, admit you don't recall a student's name and give them a chance to answer and remind you of their name. If you're unfamiliar with a certain name, ask the student to pronounce it on the first day and practice saying it frequently. Write it phonetically on your attendance sheet. If students see you take time to say their name accurately, they may feel more respected in the classroom.
- Give students a chance to explain poor performance: Seeing a child in the classroom for 45 minutes or even a full day gives you a small window into their lives. Maybe they fell asleep in class because they work two jobs to support their family. Or perhaps they're not understanding the material because they have trouble focusing in class. Try to see if there's a way you can equip the student to understand the material and succeed in their unique situation.
- Send positive feedback home: When parents or guardians receive a letter or a call from a teacher, they may assume their student misbehaved or performed poorly in a class. You can subvert this expectation with reports of admirable behavior. If a student excelled on a project or stood up for a bullied student, let their parents know!
2. Model Expected Behavior
- Hold yourself and your desk to the same level of order and cleanliness as you expect from your students.
- Be polite, kind, courteous and patient to model the behavior you expect your students to emulate with you and their peers.
3. Maintain Student Attention
- For younger children: Choose a two-word phrase tied to your subject matter for students to respond to Marco Polo style. For example, an art teacher can say "Pablo," and students can respond with "Picasso," followed by attentive silence.
- For all levels: When giving directions, quiz students on their knowledge by using relevant trivia. For example, ask students wearing shirts that are the color made from blue and red to help pass out papers. Or, ask students whose names start with the first letter of Colombia's capital to lead the line.
4. Administer Punishment
- Display the rules somewhere in the room: A great way to communicate rules clearly is to display them in writing. You could have a board with a list of behavioral expectations and their respective punishments, or you could print rules on the front sheet of students' work packets. Whichever method you use, make sure students are aware of the specific punishment they risk when they choose not to follow class expectations.
- Avoid group punishment: Punishing the whole class for a few students' actions makes behaving students feel like they have no control. This method has the potential to damage your relationship with the behaving students. For the sake of clarity and a sense of personal responsibility, speak directly to misbehaving students.
5. Fulfill Goals and Keep Students on Task
- Do-nows: These are quick assignments you write on the board as students walk in the classroom so they can immediately settle in and do work. Do-nows can help keep students from talking because they have an immediate, tangible goal to fulfill. Then, they can start the class with a sense of accomplishment.
- Exit tickets: In the last few minutes of class, try giving students a prompt to hand in as they leave. This can help keep their attention until the bell and give them an opportunity to show how they interpreted the lesson. If students know they will complete an exit ticket on the lesson, they may be more likely to pay attention so they can complete the assignment.