Classroom Management Tips

Today, I wanted to share with you some classroom management tips that I’ve learned over the years and some tips that friends have shared with me.  It’s not fun to learn lessons the hard way, so hopefully this will help you solve any problems you’ve been having or will help you prevent future problems.

Many of these tips aren’t groundbreaking, but it’s helpful to have a reminder of what we should be doing.  Keep in mind that not everything works for everyone.  A perfect solution for one teacher may not work at all for another teacher.  The most important thing with any classroom management technique is to be fair and consistent.

Do you teach middle or high school?  Check out these classroom management tips and strategies to help curb problem behaviors.  These ideas have helped me so much!

Classroom Management Tips

Everything you do must have a routine or procedure.  If you don’t tell students a particular way to do something, they will likely invent their own way (and you might not like it!).
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Establish your rules, expectations, and procedures on the VERY FIRST DAY! If you want your students to line up outside your classroom prior to entering your room, students need to know this right from the get-go! If you plan to collect homework as they enter, they need to know to have this out and ready. Your students also need to have a clear understanding of how discipline issues, not completing assignments/homework, will be handled. After 3 missed assignments, will you give them lunch detention, call their parents, etc? The most important piece of advice I would give is to make sure students know this right off the bat. The first week of school, go over your rules/expectations/routines repeatedly each day.

Using a classroom behavior chart is common in elementary classrooms but my middle school students liked it, too. One year I started using one and in the beginning, they weren't too keen on it. but he following year, when I had the same students again, they all asked for it! So even a technique that is associated more with little kids can definitely work with older students as well.
Also, because not all the families of my students had Internet access at home, I created a form to let parents and guardians know how their children did during the week. It has space for providing info about behavior, homework, work done in class, and participation. There are English and Spanish versions. I sent it home on Friday and students had to get it signed and return it the following Monday. A few times when I didn't send the form home--because we had a short week--a couple parents who did have Internet access emailed and asked me where the form was! This is the product I created.

Warmups (I call it bellwork) work very well for me.  Once the routine is established, I don’t have to get the class settled down or anything at the beginning of class.  It helps me get organized and prepare for class to start.  You can read a whole post about how Bellwork Keeps Me Sane.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Be organized
Be prepared
Don't take the odd comment / remark too seriously.
Have a good sense of humor. 
Breath in... breath out... count to a 100... 

I put a timer on my front board (smartboard), so students know exactly how long they have left for their activity.
Use warm ups!
I (usually) have my students remain in a seat (doesn't have to be their seat) until the bell if we finish early.

Incorporate acceptable movement into your lessons.  Students could stomp their feet if they agree with an answer, hold up a card to answer, use thumbs up and thumbs down, move to stations, whatever.  Students are given an acceptable outlet to fidget to move or get energy out and you are still able to teach the lesson.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Talk softer when students get louder...or stop talking all together. Wait, wait for the silence. Don't let students think it's okay to talk while you're talking.

I build all the classroom rules with students -- and I teach tone so that students can relate good tone to their own brainpower - and to their own success in my classes. They love to monitor their own tone and I created a product so they keep track (of what becomes their participation grades). 

I like to interrupt myself when students start talking.  It works best if I raise my volume a tiny bit and then stop in the middle of a word.  Whenever another student begins to talk again, I interrupt myself again.  Except for interrupting myself, I have no other reaction to what’s going on.  If this continues more than twice, it starts to really annoy the rest of the class.  I’ve found that their classmates will ask the talkers to be quiet.  Success!
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Allow the students to move around and/or sit on the floor. They get to be more comfortable, and it helps their brains focus.

Be fair and consistent
Don't cave to whining--if it works, the whining continues
Use a no-hands policy to keep everyone engaged
If your students present you with a good argument for something (switching a due date, doing an assignment differently), listen and consider. They will respect you more if they know you listen.
Be yourself--they will respect you more if you're real

This year when my students came in on the board it had what they needed for the day. They would take out what they need and then put their backpacks and everything else in the back of the room. This cut down on students putting their stuff away with three or more minutes left of class and students being on their phones trying to hide it. 
I also greet each student with a handshake at the door. It helps welcome the students and sets the tone for the class.
For lab days or group work each student is assigned a role and has a job to do. This helps make everyone accountable for the group task. 

Know your personality and teaching style and use that to make a seating chart.  It took me a few months to realize that rows just don’t work for me.  Students wasted time finding partner to work with and I felt like students had too many opportunities to visit.  I finally figured out that I work well when students are in partners.  If kids are going to talk, it’s really only convenient to talk to their partner and they don’t have to move around the room as much.  Also, it totally eliminated the “Can you go back?  I didn’t write that down.” because they could just look at their partner’s work next to them.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Speak in very clear, direct commands.  “Put your notebook under your desk.” leaves no room for questions.  Students know exactly what they should do, where to put it, and when to do it (now).  Leave no room for ambiguity in your speech.  For some people, this takes a lot of practice.
Mrs. E Teaches Math

Zip tie a pencil pouch with everything students will need (eraser, glue stick, MECHANICAL pencil, scissors, etc.) for your class to the back of each chair in your room. I say mechanical pencil because those never need to be sharpened and students won't need to leave their seats in order to complete assignments! 
In order for the above tip to work, you need to spend the first couple weeks of school checking pencil pouches right before the end of class to make sure students have put all your supplies away. This sets the tone that they are responsible for the items in their pencil pouch.

1) Follow through with all your rules and expectations!
2) Don't let them think your nervous 

The key is organization, the more complete the better.
For the teacher:
-Know your standards, objectives, and goals both for the day, week, semester and year and plan accordingly. Have at least plans for next week’s lessons ready to go before you leave on Friday afternoon. That includes all the handouts printed for each day.
-Smooth, quick transitions between activities. All papers, books, material set up and ready to use for each period before the start of school. That includes the agenda on the board for each class.
-A specific seating chart, with attendance taken as soon as the bell rings. Late students lose points on their attendance grade.
-A specific due date, late penalties, and a cut-off date for each assignment
-All assignments and tests graded and returned in a timely manner.
-All grades ready to be printed out at a moment’s notice. (Electronic grading books are wonderful.)
-Class sets of books kept in a specific easy to reach location. Students trained to handout and gather books up at the start and end of a lesson.
-Keeping the classroom clean and neat. (Cupboards and shelves are orderly and not jumbled messes.) The floor, chalk /white boards and desks are kept clean. Gum, crumbs, graffiti, and sticky surfaces are not to be tolerated.
For the students:
-A complete heading on each paper, in a specific location.
-Students trained to clean up the class before the bell rings for dismissal.
-Students trained to be ready to start class when the first bell rings. (Pencils out, agenda written down, homework ready to be turned in, books and papers for the lesson on the desk.)
-Students are responsible and held accountable for arriving on time, being respectful, and completing their assignments.

Do you have your own classroom management tip?  Share in the comments!

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  1. Thanks Mrs. E! My own brain based settings are highly enriched with your unique practice of gathering insights from diverse thinkers and then posting these as tips we can all use to benefit students!

    The ways to greatness in any learning setting are typically connected to modeling greatness in that setting. You do that especially well for all of us. Bravo! May your student benefit as we all do from your example of collaboration! Best, Ellen

  2. The variation of strategies to use gives teachers a chance to try several new approaches. For instance, Ellen Weber focuses on tone which makes a difference in a classroom climate.

  3. There are loads of excellent tips here! Thanks for including mine. :-)

    -- Susan
    The ESL Connection

  4. Thanks! I think there is a little something for everyone here.

  5. Thanks for the tips and incorporating strategies from many other teachers as well! I am currently a student, and next semester I will complete my student teaching. Do you have any advice for how to handle classroom management when you take over someone else’s classroom? I have yet to meet my cooperating teacher, but I have heard from one of my peers that she does not have much of a routine when it comes to classroom management. When you come in halfway through the year, how do you establish a classroom management routine that does not undermine the cooperating teacher’s authority over her class?

  6. Alyssa, that is a BIG question! I think it's hard for anyone to take over a class without stepping on toes. When you first her I would ask about her classroom management philosophy. She may have good ideas, but have trouble implementing. If she doesn't seem to have anything in place, you could just ask if you could change things up to "practice what you have learned in school".

  7. These are great ideas! The best one of all--and the most difficult for me to learn--is to wait when a student makes a comment or asks a question. If I wait, and don't immediately jump in, other students will 'help out.' It's especially effective when the comment or question is inappropriate. Generally, at least one other student will take care of the situation, with a "Are you for real, man?" or something like that. Sometimes I have to turn away to hide a laugh or a smile, because their peers do such a great job squashing the trouble-makers.
    Other than that, being over-organized has been the key for the past 36 years. Warm Up problems as they walk in, with some sort of incentive for those in their seats and working when the bell rings (I use homework coupons). Lots of rewards and incentives, with the words "extra credit" creating magical motivation in every learner from elementary through adults. I use a total point system, which balances things out if I have students who will do extra credit over regular assignments.
    My bottom and respect each student where he or she is, and show it! That's easy with some students and quite a challenge with others. I firmly believe each person has been created to have a special purpose in this world. My purpose, I feel, is to provide support and guidance for each one on their journey.


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