Thursday, April 8, 2010

12 Tips for Better Classroom Management

Last night I had a dream that one of my classes was out of control and I was unable to regain order. At about 3am while everyone else in the house slept, I laid awake thinking about this list. I’m no expert, but here are my tips for improving classroom management skills.

1. Know who is the real disruption
If you stop class to yell at a student, you have become a bigger disruption that the student. Are there times when the lesson needs to be put on pause? Absolutely. But if Little Jimmy is sitting in the back corner minding his own business while sticking erasers up his nose, you probably do not need to draw attention to it publicly in front of the class.

2. Choose your battles
You work with kids. By nature they don’t always follow the rules. If you can’t handle the fact that sometimes they are going to come to class without a pencil, then maybe you need to find a job working with adults (who, by the way, are just as likely to come to work unprepared).

3. Don’t make threats you can’t/won’t follow through on
Nothing strips you of authority like a student calling your bluff. Consequences are essential to a good class environment – just make sure they are something you can actually follow through with if the situation arises.

4. Never back a student into the corner
When a student is backed into a corner, his/her basic fight or flight instinct kicks in. If he/she chooses fight, then you have a real problem on your hands. Knowing when to push and when to lay off can be tricky, but is essential to effective management.

5. Clear and Consistent Expectations
I wrote this blog post regarding expectations and consequences. For good classroom management the students need to know where you draw the line in the sand and what happens when they cross it.

6. Don’t Disrespect your Name (AKA nicknames from students are bad!)
If your last name rhymes with dumpster, it isn’t going to be a problem unless you let it. Teachers lose a certain level of respect and authority when students start calling them by nicknames. I knew of one teacher who allowed his students to call him “Mr. Dude.” Let me ask you this – who you respect a guy named Mr. Dude?

7. Seating Charts, Random and Often
Seating charts serve two purposes – they separate troublesome student clusters, and they also force everyone in the class to get to know each other. It makes me sad when students are in classes all day together but don’t even know each other’s names. Building a school community has many, many advantages, but one is that it almost completely eliminates any kind of student conflict in your class. It’s a win-win, especially for classroom management.

8. Rapport
There’s one student currently on our team that can be quite a handful. He’s the boy I trade mix CDs with; the boy who stays after with his friends and plays Risk with me; the boy who comes to school early and does homework in my room before homeroom. Believe it or not, he is never a discipline problem for me during class.

9. Be willing to laugh (At yourself and at each other)
The other day while teaching the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank, we began discussing the brewing romance between Anne Frank and Peter Van Daan and how it affected the overall plot. One boy in the back of the room called out “Anne and Peter hooked up. I’d consider that the rising action.” Hardy har. The class burst out laughing. I could have scolded him for the double entendre, but then a student would have surely asked what he meant, causing another round of laughter. By cracking a smile and rolling my eyes, I was able to move on with minimal disruption.

10. Kill one to warn one hundred
If a student does something that's unacceptable, make sure he/she knows it, as well as every student who witnessed the offense. This is why it's important to deal with issues immediately.

11. Listen
I don’t want to say teachers should eavesdrop on students because they sounds so invasive. Instead, let’s call it aural monitoring. If there’s trouble brewing between two students in your class, the hallways are going to know about it before you do. Keeping an ear out will give you the ability to be proactive to a problem instead of reactive once all hell breaks loose in the middle of your lesson.

12. Raising your voice should be a secret weapon
It happens maybe twice a year – Something goes so horribly awry that I momentarily lose my mind and start hollering. It's kind of brutish, but it gets the students' attention and puts them back in line (and pretty much guarantees that all my other classes will go well – news of a meltdown travels quickly). Why does this work? Because it rarely happens. If a teacher is always yelling, students just tune it out. Save your voice for when you really need it.

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2 Responses:

Rosa said...

Can I copy part of your post in my blog? I really love the way you manage conflicts in ther classroom, in fact, I do share your views and your non-expert approach ;-)

Warm regards from Spain.

John said...

@Rosa - Absolutely! Post a link too so I can take a look at your blog!