By Dave Foley
Effective teachers are passionate about educating their students. They want to spend their time teaching, not dealing with classroom disruptions.
Here are some classroom management tips to help teachers settle problems, or prevent them from occurring, so that they can spend more of the classroom hour on teaching and learning.
1. Take Charge of Your Class
Get everyone’s attention before beginning class. That means the lesson won’t be started, the lecture won’t begin, and nothing will be written on the overhead until everyone is in his or her seat paying attention. It doesn’t take a shout of “Let’s be quiet” or “I won’t start until everyone is ready” to get them to focus on you. It can be just as effective to walk to the front of the room and engage them with something interesting to them such as “My thermometer said it was zero this morning. It must have been freezing out there waiting for the bus” or “How many of you saw the Hunger Games?” Open with couple attention getting comments and continue until everyone is with you. Remember, don’t start teaching until all eyes are on you and everyone is in their seat.
2. Focus on the Disruptive Students
If students aren’t paying attention or busy doing other things, get them focused by using nonverbal signals of disapproval. If they are talking, pause and look toward them. If in front of the class, continue with the lesson but walk toward the problem students and stop near their seats, while still teaching. Having you so near usually shuts off the unwanted activity as the rest of the class’s attention is directed toward the misbehaving students. If there is a discussion going, direct a question to the student who is not paying attention or misbehaving. For example, say “Kevin, would you agree that the Battle of New Orleans was the turning point of the War of 1812?” Hearing his name will snap Kevin back to the class activity having the same effect without embarrassing him as if you had said, “Kevin, pay attention!” Remember to use his name when you begin to speak, otherwise he may not hear the question. Calling on a person by name brings almost anyone out of his or her reverie.
If non-verbal cues are disregarded, the next step will be imposing discipline measures within the classroom such as having them stay a few minutes after class or changing their seat.
3. Let Students Choose Their Seats
At the beginning of the school year, let students sit where they want for a few days. Then about the third day tell them that the next class period they should find a seat that they will keep permanently all year. When students choose their seats, they have “ownership” in those seats and tend to behave well in order to avoid being moved.
4. Give Incentives to Do Their Best on Assignments
If an assignment will not be collected and graded individually, students may feel they have no reason to make an effort to do a good job on the no-credit assignment. For instance, a teacher will often do an ungraded warm-up exercise to begin the class hour.
Here’s a strategy to elicit better performance on an ungraded assignment: Tell students you will randomly collect one person’s warm-up assignment and correct it. If that paper has no mistakes, then the whole class will have a shorter (or no) warm-up the next day. If a randomly selected paper is perfect, that student instantly is the class hero.
If the student has not made a real effort, then that student will be given a short homework assignment, due the next day. He or she will be penalized if it is not done. (This homework cannot be done during class time.) In most cases, students will work for peer approval by doing the assignment.
Another strategy to motivate students to stay on task would be to have students who have not stayed on task remain after class for a minute. If there is no penalty for not working, they have no reason to work.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Students
Class goes so much better when you can see your students. Turn your back on them and you may get surprised. Position your so that most, if not all of the class is visible. Watch out for shelves, computer equipment or class supplies that can block your view. When teaching, try to be facing students as much as possible.
As you work with a student at his or her desk, place yourself so you can see most of the class. As you move around the classroom, don’t follow the same pattern. By varying your routine, it becomes harder for students to be disruptive if they don’t know where you will be.
6. Establish Consequences for Misbehaving
Good classroom management starts the first day of school. Once students learn there will be consequences for misbehavior, they usually come around.
Here are three steps to help you set up consequences:
- Determine what consequences will be effective with your students. Ask yourself what students don’t want to have happen—for example, adolescent students hate staying after class, being moved from a seat they’ve chosen, or receive the disapproval of their peers. Make those your consequences. (The reverse is also true,” Find out what students want to have happen and make that a possibility.” Classroom management doesn’t have to be negative.)
- Tell students that there will be consequences for misbehavior. First, you will put their name on the board. Tell them that how long they stay after class depends on how the rest of the hour goes. They now control their own destiny. If they behave, they will stay perhaps only a minute. If they continue to cause problems, they will stay longer. Tell them if they become a “model citizen,” you might even erase their name.
- Follow through with consequences for misbehavior. Show students that you are serious and they will take you seriously.
Classroom management, especially with elementary and junior high age students, never ends. It is an ongoing process, but once the foundation is laid, it only takes occasional reminders.