How Can I Improve My Classroom Management?

Classroom management refers to the actions teachers take to prevent, stop, and de-escalate distractions or disruptive behaviors and to encourage productive cooperative behaviors. Students need to feel safe and welcome in their classroom in order for them to focus and learn. There are many things you can do to show the students that you are a “warm demander”, or someone who upholds high expectations for students because they care about the students’ well-being, education, and future.

This article will provide suggestions that are great for substitutes, which can help you in-the-moment.  Here are some additional great resources that can help you frame your overall understanding of classroom management.

Mindset Shift

Many educators make the mistake of assuming that students know what they need to be doing to be successful.  When student behavior does not meet expectations, teachers may feel disrespected or may assume that the student doesn’t want to follow rules or do well in school. That assumption often leads to frustrated students and teachers who both feel like failures.  The most productive assumption is to believe that all students want to do well in school, but they don’t know how to. Below are some tips on how to adapt this student-positive mindset into actions that will result in a decrease in undesirable behaviors.

Always Give Explicit Directions

Explicit is defined as “stating clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.”

Classroom Management

Establish Expectations and a Sense of Urgency

  • Start the class on time and follow all tardy procedures
  • Have students complete a “Do Now,” which is an activity students start working on as soon as they come into the room.  Directions should be easily visible to students and should involve accessing previous knowledge or experiences so all students can participate.
  • Verbally state classroom rules/expectations and consequences and also have it written someplace that is always visible
  • Develop one “Attention Getter,” or a protocol for getting students’ attention. Practice it with the students at the beginning of class.  Do not speak or give directions until no one else is speaking and you have most eyes on you.
  • Verbally countdown as time passes to help students manage their time.  Use a visual timer if it is available to you.
  • Circulate around the classroom and go to the student if they raise their hand. When assisting students, look up often to survey the classroom.
  • Follow the school’s student bathroom/drink procedures, and only let one student out of the class at a time so you know exactly who is and isn’t in the classroom

Upholding Expectations

  • Utilize non-verbal redirection first.  Avoid calling attention to undesired behavior
    • Proximity:  Try standing near students who have trouble focusing when giving directions
    • Develop a “Teacher Look
  • Pick your battles:  Choose two to five non-negotiable behaviors that are needed to keep the class safe and productive and consistently focus on those.  It is ok to ignore some behaviors if they don’t ultimately affect the rest of the class
    • Here are common non-negotiables
      • One mic  - do not talk when the teacher is addressing class
      • 6-inch /inside voices - during group work time students should only be talking loud of enough for the person next to them to hear
      • Stay in seats - ask permission to get up
      • Treat each other with respect - don't allow students to bully each other 
  • Follow the school’s or teacher’s consequence chain for not meeting behavior expectations, if none is provided, develop your own.  Refer back to your classroom expectations often.
  • Think of yourself as a warm demander when addressing undesirable student behaviors
    • Go up to the student and address behavior discreetly
    • Try to position yourself so you are on the student's level and not hovering over them
    • Maintain a supportive, kind, but firm tone that is only loud enough for that student to hear and state the following 
      • name the undesirable behavior
      • remind them of the expectation they are not meeting (that you have already set for students)
      • give them a choice: meet expectations or receive the next consequence in your management plan
    • Walk away immediately after resetting expectations, and do not engage in an argument, negotiation, or back and forth with the student.
    • Write detailed notes for the teacher that state the student, behavior, your actions, and how the student reacted
    • Look for opportunities to acknowledge struggling students for appropriate behavior
  • Be consistent about which behaviors you address and follow through with your consequence chain.  Students are quick to call out when they think something is unfair
    • Do not engage in compromise with students
    • If one of the consequences involves a student going to the office, do not hesitate to execute.
    • It is ok to call the office for support.
      • Take notes to demonstrate that you went through the consequence chain.
  • Seek Additional Resources and Support

Show You Care

  • Individually greet each student as they enter the classroom.
  • Introduce yourself and write your name someplace visible.  Share an interesting fact about yourself
  • If possible (if students have something to work on), instead of calling student’s names aloud for attendance, go around and ask each student to say their name
  • Utilize any positive behavior reward system the school uses.  
  • Constantly look for opportunities for positive narrations or to praise students, especially for students who are struggling to meet expectations.  It can be something as little as “Mary has her pencil in her hand” 
  • If possible, ask students who are behaviorally challenging to help assist you with classroom duties such as passing out papers.  It helps you build a relationship with the student and gives them something positive to focus on.

Things To Avoid

  • Avoid addressing behaviors publicly, in front of the class.  This corners the student into a power struggle. Students care about what their peers think, so they may act defiantly because they know everyone is watching them.
  • Avoid embarrassing or humiliating students.  
  • Do not make threats or promises you cannot keep
  • Avoid showing frustration or anger
  • Avoid raising your voice when addressing the class, the lower your voice, the quieter students need to be to hear you.  
  • Avoid asking rhetorical questions or using sarcasm, some students may not understand it or misinterpret it
  • Don’t punish the entire class for the action of one or few students, instead use peer influence to encourage positive behavior by rewarding the whole class for the improvement of a few
  • Don’t try to physically move a student away from others; if the student is not responding, ask other students to move away from the distracting student

Additional Resources