I often have teachers ask me what is the best approach to classroom management?
As a veteran teacher I have seen far too many teachers fail because of classroom management problems. (Remember, classroom management and student achievement are directly related.)
And, all too often I see teachers resort to all types of crazy classroom management plans trying to get a handle on student behavior.
Unfortunately, many of these classroom management plans involve elaborate systems of rewards and punishment. For example, writing students names on the board with check marks added next to the name for each inappropriate behavior. Not only is this degrading, but the effectiveness of this classroom management plan is short-lived at best. In fact, often times this classroom management plan can have the exact opposite effect on student behavior.
Likewise, rewarding students for behavior that is expected of them sends the absolutely wrong message. Teachers should not reward a student for acting appropriately in class. Rewarding appropriate behavior is not effective classroom management, it is bribery and the students will come to expect it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not speaking about a pizza party or movie after a week in which the students worked well in class. That type of reward is fine as long as it is unexpected. The type of rewards that are bad are the ones in which the teacher promises upfront that if “you behave today, I will give you a piece of candy.” No, the student should behave in class because that is what’s expected. Little Johnny will not throw his pencil across the room, because it disrupts the learning of the other students and can be dangerous, not because he will get candy!
So, if teachers do not give rewards or punishments as a classroom management plan, then how do teachers effectively manage student behavior?
Easy, the key to classroom management is keeping students actively involved in the entire lesson. This is done with just a handful of simple teaching strategies.
Here are five effective classroom management tips you can use in any classroom regardless of subject or content area. These classroom management tips will keep all students actively involved in all classroom lessons. (Remember, keeping students involved in the lesson is the most effective classroom management plan.)
All-Write: Instead of having students raise their hand to respond to a question aloud, have all the students write down an answer to the teacher’s question. Not only will the teacher get much more class participation, but the quality of student responses will also improve.
Pair/Share: Have students pair up with a partner and share their answers before discussing it as a class. This gives the students a chance to respond without the anxiety of speaking in front of the entire class and also allows the teacher to “monitor” the room and talk to various students about their responses. The “pair/share” is great teaching strategy to use right after the “all-write” strategy.
On-the-Clock: Give students specific time limits to complete tasks and make sure you stick to those time limits. By putting students “on-the-clock” the teacher helps the students stay focused. I even use an egg timer to make this teaching strategy even more effective.
Check-for-Understanding: Not understanding the teacher’s directions is a major cause of classroom management issues and student behavior problems. Therefore, no matter what set of directions a teacher gives, the teacher should always “check-for-understanding” by simply asking a couple of students (at random) to repeat the directions back to the class.
Do Now: Effective classroom management starts from the second students walk into the classroom. Therefore, the “do now” is a short assignment that the students are to complete as soon as they enter the classroom. Personally, I put up 1-4 review questions on the board every day as the “do now” assignment. The “do now” gives the students something to do right away and is a great opportunity for review.
Remember, effective classroom management is not about rewards and punishments. Effective classroom management is about the teacher keeping the students actively involved in the entire lesson. By practicing the teaching strategies above, teachers will greatly reduce classroom management problems.
Adam Waxler is a middle school social studies teacher, teacher mentor, and author of “eTeach: A Teacher Resource for Learning the Strategies of Master Teachers”.