Most teachers agree that the first few weeks of school set the tone for the rest of the school year. Having effective classroom management strategies in place is critical to running an efficient and productive classroom. On the first day of school, I like to get things started on the right foot. I think effective classroom management needs to begin immediately in order to build a foundation of mutual respect between the teacher and the students. Here are a few things I like to do to get things started moving in a positive direction.
*If effective classroom management is already a strength of yours, skip ahead to the end of this post to download the “Put your best foot forward...” bulletin board template and the “special student stationery” templates.
1. Effective classroom management starts with having class rules
Make the rules together – Have in mind what you think the class rules should be and guide the students towards those rules.
Keep the rules clear and short – Stick to phrases rather than sentences when posting rules.
Limit the number of rules – I never have more than five rules.
After the class has agreed on the rules, post them in your classroom – I like to have my upper elementary students put their signature on the rules poster; for my lower elementary students I have them put a thumb or handprint next to their name.
You need to know what you expect from your students and clearly communicate that to them. Possible expectations include following the class rules, following your classroom library checkout system, etc.
It is essential to take the necessary time at the beginning of the year to establish good routines. Clearly model where the students should put finished work, when and how to write down homework assignments, etc.
Set the bar high! It always amazes me to see what my students are capable of achieving when they are given encouragement and opportunity.
Be firm, but do let your students know you care. Both as a teacher and as a parent, I walk a fine line between having my kids respect me, while at the same time enjoying learning with me. Tip: Do not cross the line to being viewed as a “friend.” It is very hard, if not impossible, to go back to being viewed as a respected authority figure.
3. Effective classroom management can include incentives
Most schools nowadays have their own incentive programs because many districts require schools to include social and emotional learning as part of their curriculum. If your school has a strong program with good incentives, that may be all you need to use in your classroom.
Over the years, I have used a variety of incentives with my students, including individual, small group and whole group rewards.
For individuals, you can simply put the students' names in a hat when you see them going “above and beyond” what is required; pull a name out of the hat at the end of the week to receive a small prize. I have a bag filled with stickers, pencils, erasers, etc., as well as coupons for lunch with me or a homework pass. Most students catch on quickly that the more times their name is in the hat the better their chances are of getting it pulled.
I always have my students sit in small groups (this is their team); I keep a chart posted in the classroom where teams can earn points for good behavior, helping their peers, etc.. At the end of the week, the team with the most points wins. I find this method extremely effective because there is lots of peer pressure to behave well so your teammates can earn points. The winning team gets to pick from the prize bag.
A good whole-class incentive is a compliment chain; you simply add a link to the chain every time the class receives a compliment; when the chain stretches from the floor to ceiling the class earns an award. You can buy plastic chains at teacher supply stores, but I make my chains out of construction paper.
Available for download is the Put Your Best Foot Forward Activity. Have every student decorate a sneaker with colors and artwork that represent their likes and interests. Then have students use the Put Your Best Foot Forwardstationary to write down how he or she will put his or her best foot forward. This makes a great bulletin board, but also serves as a reminder for the students to put their best foot forward.
Part of the reason why I believe that my classroom management techniques are effective is because I focus on the positive. I point out what the students are doing well and acknowledge any extra effort they are making. One way I keep things positive is by writing a brief individual note or compliment to each of my students every month. This note can be as simple as “Great job on the math test! I can tell you are really working hard!” Available for download are my Special Student Monthly Stationary templates for you to use with your students.