Classroom management can be a struggle for most new teachers and some veteran teachers. In the sea of methodology courses, very little attention is brought to the general mannerisms that happen in a successful classroom. Small adjustments in the classroom will help to form the heartbeat of the classroom.
Gain attention. Before beginning a lesson, look for the eyes and ears of each student. Attempting to speak over small classroom discussions and disruptions will only leave room for the common phrases such as “I never heard you say that”, “We never talked about this”, and “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.” If needed, wait 3-5 seconds before proceeding with activities. A small voice will speak volumes over a teacher who shouts constantly. The use of attention-getters, such as chants, claps, or bells, can quickly draw the attention back to you.
Vary instruction methods. Just as you learned concepts slightly different from your colleagues, the same holds true for your students. With a variety of learners in one class, try new teaching methods throughout a unit. Lecture as the only point of reference will lead to a disruptive class that waits to sleep at desks. Using the time to break up lessons into 5-15 minute activities will prove more effective than 45-90 minute straight sessions. Effective teaching methods can alter the course of learning throughout the school year.
Teacher movement leads to a more attentive class. The old saying “you never know when big brother is watching” proves quite effective in the classroom. Walking through the student desks and looking at their work allows a teacher time to answer questions, redirect off-topic students, and provide individualized tutoring for students that are struggling. It is debatable if a teacher should make announcements periodically, such as “please check if you have placed your name on your paper”, but issues should be addressed regardless. Teacher movement in the classroom, whether methodical or random, can quickly put the class on the correct path.
The teacher is the model for correct behavior, nonverbally and verbally. The age-old saying, “do as I say and not as I do” opens the door to frustration, outbursts and revolt in the classroom. A teacher should be professionally dressed, well groomed, “courteous, prompt, enthusiastic, in control, patient and organized” according to the 11 Techniques for Better Classroom Discipline. Using neutral yet poised body language, softer and direct speech, and a smile will help to relax students and focus on the material at hand.
Design a learner-friendly classroom. A room adorned with word walls, student work, educational posters, and positive statements help students feel comfortable in a classroom. Be sure not to over-decorate as to provide a distraction from coursework, but also feel free to include aromatherapy scents to calm nerves, family photos to let them know more about you as a person, and make sure that your bulletin boards are up-to-date.
Provide student-directed interventions. Fixing ill behavior begins with the teacher-student relationship. If an offense does not require administrative action, try to talk to the student outside of class time or pull the student into the hall to discuss the matter. Stern speech versus a soft direct voice depends on the severity of the situation at hand. Remember that you are the adult and the student needs to be respected as a human being as well. Being able to handle disruptions without distracting the rest of the class, such as parent letters, student conferences, and non-verbal cues in class.
Use a good mix of praise and discipline. For each bad behavior, try to find something positive to say with it as well. Example, “Johnny, I would like you to remain in your seat for the majority of the class, but I do appreciate your enthusiasm for the topic.” As seen in psychological research, a purely negative response to a particular student will cause mental distress and disruption. Finding good things to point out will help guide the student towards positive behaviors and limit, if not eliminate, bad ones.
Focus on positive discipline. Students may not always remember what you have taught them in class years later. Ultimately, the people they become later on in life can be directly related to their interactions with their teachers. If you would like to correct a behavior, focus on the correct one with statements such as “I want you to …”, “I would like …”, and “I expect …”. Leave the “no” out of statements with “please leave your gum in your locker”, “personal arguments should be discussed and settle appropriately outside of class time”, and “walk in the hallways with respect and pride.” Using ample praise and consistent reinforcement of the rules will build respectful members of the community later on in life.
Over-plan for each day. Sometimes students will understand material quicker than other topics covered. Be prepared for the unexpected by having enrichment activities, practice opportunities, and other items ready “just in case”.
Maintain parent contact. In the primary grades, parents are involved in their student’s learning and school activities. As the student matures, parents become more involved in outside obligations, such as work, while the student may not divulge into the detail about school as seen in previous years. For the vast majority, parents can be great allies in student behavior. If a student is falling behind, displaying poor behavior, or has a sudden change in personality, the parent needs to be contact right away. Don’t forget to document with whom you spoke with, when, what was discussed and how it is to be resolved. Document even if an attempt was made but no contact was achieved.